Written: January 22, 2009
My close friend Syme and I went to watch Obama's inauguration, and holy crap, what a day! It was like the entire day was one long adrenaline rush; Syme and I didn't have a chance to sit down from the time we got out of his car at the Metro station at 7:30, to the time we sat down for lunch at 15:30.
The day started with a trip to Starbucks, and heading over to the College Park metro station (an excellent choice, we learned later, because the other choice had run out of parking spots long before we left). Thankfully, we already had fare cards, because the line to purchase them was over an hour long :-P
Our train ride was crowded, but light-hearted. We chatted with someone working for one of the vendors in the downtown area (who looked and smelled like he'd had a few drinks already, but he was coherant), and there was a lively black lady leading the entire train car in patriotic songs. It was awesome, despite the entire train being shoulder-to-shoulder. We got off at our stop, where we encountered a station that literally had no visible floor, it was completely filled to capacity. And, to make things worse, we were there when this happened, and the DC police officers in the station committed the cardinal sin of crowd control by making this announcement: "We need everyone to clear the platform now, there's been an emergency". There wasn't a riot or anything, but it did make a lot of people rather panicky.
Once above-ground, we began the Walk That Wouldn't End. We were trying to get to the National Mall, but we couldn't seem to find a way in; every cross-street we went to resulted in us going to another one even further up. After walking nearly 16 blocks, we finally made it to the mall, and worked our way through the crowd to the base of the Washington Monument. The view of the big screen wasn't great, but it didn't need to be; we were there. Before things go started, they showed various noteworthy people arriving, which made for an interesting demonstration of group mentalities. When Bush or Cheney appeared on the screen, the entire croud booed. When a member of the Obama or Clinton families came on the screen, the entire crowd cheered.
The ceremony itself was what everyone saw on TV. What wasn't shown was the aftermath - the entire National Mall attempting to vacate through the same two streets. We ended up standing still for like two hours, just waiting to be able to exit. It was kinda fun though, because we ended up next to a lively bunch of guys who started singing lots of fun songs. And, there were people climbing on top of the porta-potties. And families who were really getting into the mixed, joyful atmosphere. Unfortunately, after awhile, the overall feel of the crowd started to become tense, until we were finally able to leave.
Every open restaurant within a 10-block radius of the mall was utterly slammed, and the metro stations were more full than on the way in, so we went up to Dupont Circle for a classy lunch (where we met up with a friend of ours who was working nearby as an audio tech for one of the balls) and a bit of shopping, then headed back to College Park. Our detour worked to our advantage, because we were able to catch a train that had enough room for us to sit down, before we swung by the two primary stops and filled the train to capacity.
Overall, it was an incredible experience, and I had a wonderful time. I didn't get many good pictures, but the few I did get will be posted soon.