1.21.2009

dc - day 4 - tuesday - inauguration - notes in sketch format - concluded

think of one of those apocalyptic movies, a post-modern society where some sort of virus or zombie-race or otherwise horrible event reduces the citizenry into madmen, racing around, against all odds, trying to get the last bus/shuttle/ship out of town into safety. that's sort of what leaving the mall and getting home felt like. after the inaugural we decided - the four of us, m, jerome, jerome's mother, me - to attempt to find something to eat, hopefully somewhere warm. It was almost 1 pm and we had been up since 530am and not had coffee or a proper breakfast. all advisories said that it would be slow going as there would be a delay at metro stations and one would have better luck going to eat somewhere before trying to get on metro. first we exited the 12 ave side headed north and headed down the ramp towards pennsylvania. note that when i say exited i mean moved at a glacial pace in a crowd of tens of thousands. we noticed that pennsylvania ave was all fenced off for the presidential parade. in fact, all northbound exits were blocked off. we turned around, deciding to head to the 'warming center' at one of the smithosonian museums but when we got there - 500 yds in say 15 minutes - we found the teeming throng to get in an unwelcome sticking point. turned around and reentered the mall at 12th. headed west toward the wash monument. people appeared to be moving s bound on 14th. we headed in that direction only to discover, some minutes later, a clog of unmoving people. we couldn't tell if it was fenced or blocked only that no one was moving. we decided to head eastward down the s side of the mall. jerome stopped a cop and asked advice. the answer: all of metro is shut down, all of the surrounding streets were in lockdown. best thing to do would be to sit somewhere for a couple hours and wait for the parade to end. Hmm. When does the parade end? We've just heard that they pushed the starting time back from 230p to 430p. not good. Wind whipped at us. Cold fingers and toes. Full body exhaustion. We found a concession tent and headed to get coffees. All out of coffees but they had hot chocolate. very low grade powder mixed w/ hot water but it was sweet ambrosia and we unanimously claimed it the best hot chocolate we'd ever had in our lives.

Headed toward the wash mon, thinking there would be some exit point to cross north the further west we went. there was not. jerome and his mom both talked to a cop who thought our best hope would be to head southward as far as we could on foot and take a cab and there should be lots of cabs b/c they can't cross north and take the cab to an outlying metro station and - presuming the metro is running again - take the metro home. It should be noted that many cops and law enforcement officers were from out of town, contracted in for the event so while some advice was helpful and generous it was not given w/ full knowledge of the surrounding area. We decided to take part of his advice and head southward. so 45 min after being at the unmoving clog of people we were crossing the intersection, ducking under tree branches, skirting scores of standing people, and stepping onto constitution ave - yes off the mall. at this point we still weren't certain where/what we were going/doing but at least we were moving and at least we were off the mall. walked further, and ended up finding our way back to l'enfant plaza. 2 things became clear as we got closer: the metro must be running again and should we wait in line we would not get on it for several hours as one feeding ribbon of the line looked like this:


we walked onward and it just got worse. there were traffic backups, thousands of people on the street walking in all directions, all trying to get out, get home. a woman in a reflective vest stood w/ a bullhorn on top of a truck, advising those of us who wanted shuttle busses to walk up two blocks and take a left on frontage road. shuttle bus sounded good. we didn't know where it was going but it would be warm and it would be moving. we moved w/ the crowd in this direction and quickly discovered that the shuttle bus would not be an option:


we continued walking, thinking we'd head toward waterfront station, and we hoped some sort of restaurant/bar/establishment where we could, at the very least, sit down. we were now in the zone where we weren't speaking, all reserves of energy spent, just moving zombie-like, hoping for reprieve. there was a small little shuttlebus that had a sign on it 'lost visitors'. jerome knocked on the door and asked and the driver was coming off duty but it just so happened that he was going to rfk stadium (just like all the other shuttle busses) and he was willing to let people come onto his vehicle and it just so happened he was willing to take us. we entered. we sat. we slept.


I'm deliberately leaving out some of the last details but here's the broad strokes: at long last we arrived at rfk. m and i were semi-familiar b/c we had been here the day before for the volunteer thing. we walked, we crossed a parking lot of ice, we ascended a lonely staircase. we received more misinformation. we walked to the rfk stadium metro stop and sweet mother of god it was mercifully operational. m and i were going blue line. jerome and his mom were going orange. we hugged. we parted ways.

3 comments:

Cheryl said...

Wow. That pretty much sounds like hell to me! Our living room was quite the opposite: fresh baked scones, hot coffee and tea, lots of room to roam and a bathroom at hand if it should be needed. But you can say you were there! Yahoo!

Have a fun birthday with Margaret! We can't wait to hear all the stories.

bp said...

given the magnitude of what we saw in person it was minimal. i'd do it all over again in a heartbeat.

lady said...

right before i die, as the moments flash before me, i'll remember obama's swearing in, that hot chocolate and the shuttle bus driver.

and me too, i'd do it all again in a second to be there.