Sunday, November 30, 2008
Like so many of us, I wept with joy when Barak Obama was elected president. Between my conflicted Southern roots, a here-to-fore unsatisfied sense of fairness, and utter respect for the brilliance of the man, I have carried around a level of verklemptitude that no other public event has ever inspired in me. This is so darn incredibly great: Obama will be our full-fledged president in January.
Then, along with the rest of us 500,000 Washingtonians, I started thinking about the inaugural. So did a lot of other people, who did not live in DC. Like about 4 million of them. And like my brethren here in DC, I started to wonder just how this would all work, when 4 million people show up here for the inaugural.
Just to show you what I mean, imagine this:
Consider where you are living right now. Conjure up in your head the population of your city or town. Now, imagine a bunch of people equalling roughly 8 times that population comes to visit for the weekend. That's what will happen here in DC in about a month and a half.
There's no way the roads, metro, trains, buses, planes, hotels, private homes, or park benches will be able to acommodate all the inaugural celebrants, but DC will make this work some way or another. Mostly other. It's not like our infrastructure works seamlessly on a lot of good days, so if you are coming, be forewarned. Here are some tips for any inaugural revelers planning to head this way for the swearing in:
1. Be prepared to walk. Miles. You will not be able to drive up to the Mall and drop off grandma. Bring comfortable shoes, hand and foot warmers, water, snacks, and a lot of patience.
2. Start off early. It is likely to take you hours to get to the Mall for the swearing in. Think post-Thanksgiving shopping on steroids.
3. Expect to leave late. Once 4 million people are on the Mall, it is going to take them a long time to get off the Mall. Don't expect you will make that lunch a half hour after the swearing in.
4. Remain calm, take care of the people around you, and keep moving. For most of us, this will be the largest crowd we will ever stand in. It will be exciting, but can also pose risks. The biggest danger with crowds is panic -- and anything that stops its movement. When the crowd is moving on or off the Mall, do not stop to chat, take a lot of pictures, or otherwise impede its movement. Allow the crowd to move and flow at a measured pace. Watch out for short people and the elderly and help them keep moving. We don't need another Long Island Walmart.
5. Enjoy our city. DC gets a lot of crap for being too buttoned up, too poor, too insider, too, I don't know, federal. But DC is a great city, full of history, beauty, great food, and real hospitality. Not to mention the birthplace of Marvin Gaye. And all those museums? They are free.
So, welcome, you 4 million. Have fun, be kind to our city, and take care of eachother.
And please bring extra Kleenex, because I know we are not done with the joyful crying.