Cold + crowds = inauguration


Those who are claustrophobic or merely uncomfortable with being pressed up against dozens of other people likely hated today’s inauguration. Drawing near-record crowds, depending on whom you ask, the event taxed people’s patience, tolerance for cold and even their needs for personal space bubbles.

A lot had been made of the difficulties guests would have getting to the inauguration, what with practically all of northern Virginia being declared a no-driving zone for personal vehicles. So I was surprised to find the District-bound Blue line Metro at Crystal City nearly empty at 6:30 a.m. and thought I was in for an easy day.

Then came the madness that was L’Enfant. Trains were dumping way more passengers onto the platforms than the farecard turnstiles could accommodate and massive logjams blocked every available exit and escalator. The crowd was generally jolly with random enthusiastics belting out tunes focusing on “only a few more hours of Bush” plus the ubiquitous Obama chant.

When the backlog became too dangerous, Metro staff merely unlocked the turnstiles and let everyone pass through for free, which only mildly relieved the crowding. Tourists could be quickly separated from the residents, as many held up escalators by stopping to turn around to take photos of the crush. I’m curious to see how much money Metro lost after hearing reports of opened turnstiles occurring at other stations.

As for the event itself, many sought refuge before and after the ceremony in the Rayburn House Office Building, backing up security checklines down hallways and around corners. And you could forget about trying to get in one of the House office buildings after the inauguration — the lines from the doors eventually just merged into the general traffic flow, creating a mass of unproductive pushing and shoving.

Many of us in the media section were eager to gauge the reaction of the crowd to the arriving political dignitaries. There were some boos heard when George W. Bush was introduced, but most kept it respectful with a small smattering of applause. Jimmy Carter got a huge roar of adulation, but second in the people’s favor behind Barack Obama was someone who many wanted to run for president — Colin Powell.

Later tonight: celebrity spottings, including a hideously denim-clad Don King, the boxing promoter, who scored primo seats to the inauguration.


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