Friday, January 23, 2009

Had enough Barackalypse pictures yet? I didn't think so.

A series of personal and logistical problems prevented me from posting any sooner so I hope you are not completely sick of seeing YABIRAPs (Yet Another Blogger's Inauguration Ramblings and Pictures). I know, an inauguration post? On Friday? That's so Wednesday morning. Well, I've been sick and my camera had been temporarily detained, but I assure you mine are so awesome, you will not believe that I was even at the same event you were.

The way in. Can you say clusterf*ck? I thought you could. We boarded the metro at Petworth shortly after 7:00 AM, admittedly a bit on the late side, but I figured the ghetto line would be all right. Curiously, it took 10 minutes for the next train to arrive at Petworth, but the station wasn't all that crowded so it was OK. The train, on the other hand, was a mess. It took an hour to get to L'Enfant Plaza, our chosen destination. Unfortunately, the train didn't stop at L'Enfant Plaza. Without so much as a comment from the driver, we cruised straight on to the Waterfront station. This really wasn't that bad, since I heard that problems at L'Enfant stranded some people there for an hour. But it is a curious feeling when you are denied egress at a station that's supposed to be open.

DSC_0150At left: Green line between Columbia Heights and U Street. No, nobody got on this particular train after Columbia Heights. Everyone was cheerful and civilized, though. Despite the train stopping for 5 or 10 minutes at a time between stations, and the smell of burning brakes and overstressed elecrtic motors being especially strong, it actually kinda worked.

Moral of the story: Next time, take the bus. At least you can get out whenever you want.

Metro to Mall. After wending our way to the supposed only entrance to the Silver area, where I and 7,222,353 other people had tickets, we found what appeared to be the single bottleneck entrance to the security area. After following the line back from there for at least a mile and still not finding the end, I questioned whether waiting in that particular line would be the most effective method to getting into the mall before Spring.

Fortunately, the security was fairly disorganized, and after approaching the bottleneck from a different angle (that is, Independence Avenue rather than 3rd Street) we were directed directly into the foray. At this point, the current was fairly strong and we were at the surprisingly efficient security checkpoint in 10 minutes or so.

DSC_0152On the way to the 3rd and Independence entrance. I wondered if they slept through the whole thing?

I have to say, I am sure that it's very challenging to manage a million people on the mall, but there were some really stupid decisions made. The security was well staffed and could have handled a volume far greater than was coming through at 9:30 AM when we got there. But the mass of people trying to get to the Silver Area was mostly being forced through a series of intentional bottlenecks that slowed down the crowd way too much. We all know the result: thousands of people never made it in.

Also, on the way out after the ceremony, all those bottlenecks were still in place. If there had been any kind of emergency, it would have been a deadly stampede. As it was, it took an hour to leave, with people climbing over jersey barriers and fences to get out. Really bad planning. All those obstacles should have been removed after 10:30 or 11, and they should never have been as constricting as they were.

DSC_0193On The Mall.

Yeah you seen this picture before, it was about like that. Awesome crowd mostly. There was one time when I was trying to meet up with my friends who were all of 30 feet away, so I said excuse me to a largish lady in front of me and asked if I could get by her to join my friends. Her response? "NO!"

Wow. That was a first. The lady to her right was equally taken aback and let us by her instead. Ironically, once past that wall of people, there was much more space towards the center of the field. All those people who were just being obstinate were actually making things more crowded for themselves. Oh well. With few exceptions, most people were very nice and the energy was good. Other than the one bitchy woman, I was pretty surprised at how many people thought it was cool to just spread out your picnic blanket and lay down in the middle of the biggest mob in history. What do you think this is, woodstock? Even more surprisingly, some folks were backing them up. I got chastized for jumping over someone's legs who was all sprawled out, taking up about six times as much space as everyone else. She's sitting down! You can't go there!! The hell I can't... I didn't see her reservation for that particualar 4 foot by 4 foot piece of land, so get the hell up, or suffer the consequences.

Inauguration From Above, AnnotatedGetting Out. As I mentioned before, it was (or could have been) quite disastrous. There were barriers everywhere - fences, Jersey barriers, busses parked across the road, you name it. And since you couldn't see anything except for heads as far as the eye could see, it was totally unclear which way one should be going to avoid said obstacles. You got dead-ended constantly. A single gunshot or detontation of any kind would have turned this into a bloodbath of a stampede since there were no clear pathways out.

The satellite pic here was taken in the morning while the crowd was trying to enter. The security checkpoints are the while horizontal line between the two "mobs". As you can clearly see, the crowd is quite thin outside security, but is tremendously bottlenecked before that point. It was never especially crowded inside security compared to how it was outside - they could have allowed a much greter flow with no trouble. Once past the bottlenecks there were minimal lines for security - some entrances were wide open.

Highway PeopleOnce free of the "exit" we made our way to the 395 tunnel, which was open to pedestrians. At least they did something right - this was a relatively painless way to get north of the mall (and to glorious freedom!). And besides, walking on on-ramps and through a six-lane tunnel isn't something you get to do every day. It made for some very interesting pictures.

More to come....

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