Sunday, January 11, 2009
The rest of the country, fed by news reports, is anxiously awaiting the Twentieth. Here in DC, we're awaiting the Inauguration too, though the truth is that what we have to look forward to is a logistical nightmare. In short, the arrival of a huge wave of sightseers to see the swearing in and Inaugural Address is being greeted in many corners with resignation more than celebration. If one did nothing but read the headlines, one might have a totally different conception of how things are really going to transpire that day. Allow me to explain---certainly some people have taken the liberty of renting their houses and apartments out to out-of-town Inauguration visitors, but the practice is not as widespread, nor as lucrative as you might think.
If I may, pardon as I do a little more debunking. At first we were told to expect four million people for the Inauguration ceremonies. Then they backed off of that initial estimate. Historic occasion or not, the magnitude of the event can't outstrip the simple realities. Many from out of town don't realize that the actual city of Washington, DC, proper is relatively small in area and quite densely packed. At most, 500,000 people could even fit into the immediate area surrounding where the ceremony is to be held, each standing upright, crammed elbow-to-elbow on the Mall stretching from the Capitol to the Washington Monument. To wit, only people who were fortunate enough to get tickets from their Congressperson or Senator will really be able to see anything. Those who are packed in like sardines from the Reflecting Pool backwards, in my opinion, might as well not even be there. It is my understanding that there will be Jumbo tron television screens positioned every so often to compensate for that deficiency, but if that's the best one can do, I'd rather stay at home at watch it inside, where it will certainly be warmer and more comfortable.
The thought of two million people who don't understand the layout of the city, to say nothing of the mass transit system makes me cringe. This is why I'm going to make a point to avoid the general downtown area for at least three days.
Aside from the businesses who will profit from the influx of two million extra visitors, average residents will find their routines disturbed and many large thoroughfares cordoned off to automobile traffic. Many have been grumbling that, as a result of the roadblocks, it will be damn near impossible to be able to drive to the event. In an effort to keep the President-Elect safe and to closely monitor incoming and outgoing traffic, the only way to enter the District is by way of Maryland. All routes into DC via Virginia have been closed. This means that those who do wish to travel in via car are going to have slow going---traffic snarls, long lines, and checkpoints to pass through. This is to say nothing of parking, which will be a major problem in and of itself.
T-Minus nine days and counting. Everyone's holding their breath---half expecting a nightmare.