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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Orange You Glad You Rode Metro on Inauguration Day?

By the Queen of Free

A 50-something woman with short brown hair stood atop her Metro seat and screamed: “Is anyone here from D.C.?”

We had started and stopped and started and stopped at each station for about 15 or 20 minutes along the way from West Falls Church heading into D.C. on this, a very important day. What is normally a one-hour trip from bus to Metro to D.C. became three hours.

The train operator frequently announced: “The central office has told me to wait here. There are six (six!) trains ahead of us” and then came the news that we would skip stops at the Smithsonian, L’Enfant Plaza and Federal Center South. "It's like this all the way to Capitol South," the operator said. Oh boy. I had earlier heard on the radio that the crowds engulfed L'Enfant Plaza, causing station operators to throw open the exit gates.

Like orange seeds inside an orange pulverized into juice, we were a bit more packed than the normal orange crush experience (the orange line, you know) on a weekday. The visitors kept snapping pictures on the Metro. The Metro! Did they not know it was like this every day? I wondered.

The woman and her husband had blue (God forbid, blue!) tickets and were getting antsy about getting to the ceremony on time.
(Good luck, visitors! Are you still waiting in line? Or have you frozen up in the tunnel and been tossed out in the garbage?)

Being the only D.C. resident within earshot I calmed them down with soothing words about Metro’s efficiency. To the New Yorkers smashed up against me I suggested that they get off at Foggy Bottom and walk to the Mall which would be faster and better than standing like flaming flamingos for another hour. Besides, I would have more space for air intake and would be freed of the mother's hair in my face. They took my advice.

As they got off the train they told me: “New York is better prepared for crowds like this than Washington is." As one who protects a loved family member under attack by an outsider (what?) I defended Metro the best I could.

To the right of me stood Mississippians; to the left of me, Vermontians and on top of me, Floridians.

A sitting (sitting!) man, about 40, announced to the crowd as he read from his Blackberry: "The police may shut down the gates at the Capitol because of the crowd crush." Thank you very much! That's just where I was headed.

Soon (payback time), one of his little girls, about 9 years old, showed signs of nausea, and he frantically dived into their family bag of essentials and pulled out a plastic bag to catch her emission in the nick of time. Hoping the involuntary act was not contagious I looked away.

What a difference a stop makes!

The train picked up speed, and after 16 hours we arrived at Capitol South and what to my wondering eyes should appear but my, oh my, fur coats! Fur coats to the left of me, fur coats to the right of me, fur coats up, and fur coats down. They adorned every other woman, quite a different crowd from my group coming in from Virginia. The people roared approval when the station master announced over a loudspeaker that the gates were going up, like the parting of the Red Sea when Moses waved his magic wand.

It was not necessary to walk or even touch the ground for the crammed crowd carried you along. Upon reaching sunlight I discovered how lucky I was that security for the orange sections was fully staffed. At long fences thousands of poor folk with blue and silver tickets stood motionless like cattle waiting for entrances which never opened.

Must have been my color: Go, Volunteers!


Anonymous said...

Yeah, I was in blue!! But, got in okay..

Patriciadc said...

You (and I) were both quite lucky! The orange and yellow ticket holders have been mum, and I know why. Getting in "blue" was an astronomical feat! A friend of mine waited 5 hrs. to get in blue and made it at 11:30 a.m. when everyone scattered to find televisions.