"I didn't go places where I could look and be tempted to buy," said Albert, of Oxon Hill, Md.
Returning workers' presence was felt on the roads and rails in the Washington region, where commutes had been less crowded over the past two weeks. The regional transit agency, Metro, reported a 20 percent drop in ridership when the shutdown began and has said it lost a few hundred thousand dollars each day.
Osman Naimyar, a taxi cab driver in Washington, said his business dropped by 15 to 20 percent during the shutdown, and he was pleased to see it end.
"More business. More money," he said.
At the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Md., email servers were slowly grinding back into gear.
Fire protection engineer Dan Madrzykowski had been in the office for about half an hour, and about 800 emails had popped into his inbox, but that covered only back to Oct. 13. The mailbox was still slowly spitting out what were likely thousands more emails that had accumulated since the shutdown began.
Still, Madrzykowski said he was pleased to be back at work. "Nothing good was coming from keeping the government closed," he said.
Workers began filing in well before dawn at the U.S. Geological Survey's campus in Reston, about 20 miles outside Washington.
"Feels kind of strange," said Kathleen Faison of Ashburn, a training specialist at the survey, as she headed into the office. "I kind of wish they would have kept us out until Monday."
Patrice Roberts, who works for the Department of Homeland Security, said she wasn't prepared for the emotional lows of the past 16 days.
"It was very difficult, not just financially but emotionally. It's just frustrating having that kind of control over your life and just having it taken away from me," said Roberts, who is expecting another shutdown in January. "I'll be better prepared next time."