Monday, January 19, 2009

Inauguration: Day 1

So I'm at the inauguration! There's definitely a buzz in this city. On Sunday, we visited the White House briefly, but couldn't see much because the really good view was blocked off in preparation for the parade tomorrow. We walked around a bit, then headed out.

Today we decided to get in to town in the morning, but not too terribly early. So we headed to the train station around 10:30 or so to buy our tickets. The paper tickets they're selling have Obama's face in black and white printed on them, and you can also buy a commemorative hard plastic card (it looks rather like a Back to the Future style to the card) for the metro. We waited in line:All in all, the line was not long at all. We waited not even ten minutes (despite the number of people this looks like, it really wasn't long at all). Plus, they had a metro employee up at the machines helping (and thank goodness, because I probably would've ended up with tickets to Baltimore or something). The line was backed up all the way to the subway turnstiles, so it seemed much denser than it actually ended up being. I don't have a picture, but when we emerged at the end of the day, the line was just as long....except that when you left the station it extended another block or so down the street. Yikes! Am I ever glad I bought my tickets this morning instead of waiting until later on! Looks like everyone stopped by the station tonight to get their tickets for tomorrow morning and ended up stuck in an hour's long line.

When we got to the Mall, there weren't too many people milling around...I was actually surprised, because I expected more. The weather was beautiful. Cold and crisp but not biting like it was yesterday. But that could've had more to do with my nifty sleeping bag jacket than any objective take on the weather. And all the layers I wore to keep warm: exercise pants under jeans, a long sleeve shirt under a thick sweatshirt hoodie and my sleeping bag jacket, gloves, and thermal socks. I had those heat packets (that you use for skiing) on hand in case they should be needed and thankfully today they weren't (actually, not entirely true....they went to a good cause because C forgot her gloves so I put the hand warmers in her pockets). I'm thinking I could set up a brisk business selling the rest of my handwarmers to people at the inauguration tomorrow, there were plenty of vendors doing the same thing today!

You want to know the problem with wearing so many layers? I'll give you a guess with this picture:

And just imagine, there are lines of these EVERYWHERE in the city. It's rather amazing in fact. The Mall is lined with them end to end. There are so many, I really don't envy the people who have to come out and empty them. Because I came across a couple that were already full, and it's not even inauguration day yet!

So then came the vendors. There was everything from the people with a cause (and honestly, they had the best t-shirts out on the Mall, in my opinion), the people with a message (black power, Yes We Can, change is coming, what have you), the people with a fight (P has a great picture which I haven't gotten yet, but there were several ultra-conservative religious types with placards which both promoted Christianity and denounced homosexuality, abortion and sports nuts in the same breath), and the people with a talent (from handmade bags to buttons to hats). It was fascinating looking through the merchandise, and the people buying the merchandise. There were people from every corner of the country. From the students from Utah who were actually able to get inauguration tickets (because how many people are going to want them in such a red state as Utah?) to my friends from France, from the Floridians shivering in the cold to the DC-ites with a slightly shell-shocked glaze in their eyes.

The great thing about this election is that it's brought so many people together, and it's really brought politics to everyone, especially the youth, in a way that it just hasn't been before. Sure, we've had plenty of elections, but this is the first I've seen (and this is the fourth election I've voted in) in which the election really ignited people's passions and emotions more than their sense of civic duty. People here are excited. Any time they see a button or a bag they like, they'll run over and ask you where you got it. In fact, we spent a good amount of time chasing the elusive Pepsi truck...the mysterious truck which was giving away free "Hope" bags and pins, but which always seemed to be beyond the next street. Given just how many people are crushed into the city, I didn't see any tempers flying today. I saw a lot of cooperation and a lot of compassion, a lot of excitement and a lot of hope.


pinkants said...

N and I were actually talking earlier about how nice and polite everyone was. Despite the crowds and jostling (whilst on the metro, viewing merchandise, etc), no tempers were flaring at all. Excitement and hope were definitely in the air! Can't wait until tomorrow! Especially waking up at the arse-crack of dawn part (ha ha!)

Romny said...

I called you this morning and left a message. Have fun, I'm so jealous!

Charlotte said...

This is so exciting! I can't wait to hear your thoughts about the inauguration today:)