I hit a standing-room mass at my Tenleytown metro station yesterday. It was 6:30 a.m. Imagine getting wedged into a box of bundled flesh with a stranger's chin on your shoulder. Now imagine you're a Scandinavian who fears to be touched. By the time I reached Farragut North, I panicked and elbowed my way out.
I walked the mile-and-a-half from the Farragut stop near the White House to Union Station. It's burn cold here. Ice curls formed in my hair, yeti-like. The only relief was soaking in the street market in All-Things-Obama. It's unfettered capitalism that locals here refer to as Obama's first stimulus package: "We Did It!" posters, Obama calendars, paintings, t-shirts, scarfs, and ski caps. Every block a half-dozen hawkers. And every block thoughts of death by frost bite.
At Union Station, I met up with fellow Crosscut scribe, Adam Vogt. We were fortunate to land a pair of seated yellow-section tickets courtesy of Rep. Rick Larsen, who handed out tickets and hosted a constituent meet-and-greet Monday morning at his Cannon Building offices.
Now it was our turn to stand and wait for two and a half hours. No movement. We waited amid the shouting and pushing with no one offering direction except for a handful of alpha male and female ticket holders. One takeaway from an ecstatic rabble: ecstasy doesn't track with chaos.
A couple times tensions erupted along the (post-racial) color line. We yellow-tickets ballooned and narrowed like a sick artery as the purple ticketers kept pushing through. We heaved forward in a swale shouting, "Darwin!" It was Lord of the Flies on ice.
Two hours in, I paid a scalper five dollars for a pair of eighty-cent hand warmers that I promptly stuck in my sneakers. Make no mistake: I would have paid $200 or (no offense Adam) handed over Adam's ticket. It was grim, and our only inspiration was this moment in history, the thrill of the Inauguration. That, and watching a stoic Garrison Keillor who stood caplessly nearby.
At 10:45 a.m. our line began to move. At 11:25, just under the wire, we went through the security check, a column of metal detectors that looked strangely out of place on the park grass. Then, suddenly and without warning, we arrived in Oz. We were up close, seated in the center row. The masses on the mall behind looked like thermal waves on asphalt. It was, well, pure joy.