Sunday, December 14, 2008

THE OBAMATHON GUIDE: An Inaugural Guide to Washington DC™ - Introduction

In the near future, men and women will live in cramped quarters. Streets will be crammed and congested, teaming with criminals and vendors of overpriced merchandise. Food supplies will be inadequate, and those fortunate enough to find nearby restaurants had better come with ample supplies of cash. Sewage systems will be clog, portajohns will be overwhelmed, and a wave of odor will be unleashed that makes London's Great Stink seem like Febreeze. And people will pay $1500 a night to sleep on couches.

Okay, so maybe watching Soylent Green before going to the inauguration is a bad idea. But seriously, it's going to be packed. Just how crowded will Washington DC be on inauguration day? Well, news sources have indicated that 1 to 4 million people will be present during the inauguration. Presumably, most of those people will stay within the area near the capitol, white house, mall, and the stretch of Pennsylvania Ave. between the Capitol and the White House. According to this nifty "planimeter", the area of this area (tried to think of a better way to phrase that but couldn't) is roughly 3.45 square miles. Split between the low figure of 1 million, that's roughly 96 square feet, or a 10x10 space, for every attendee. Not too bad, right? If the full 4 mil show up, that area shrinks to 5x5, still doable. But here's the thing: most of those 3 square miles are occupied by buildings, making it difficult for crowds to fill that space. If the entire 1-4 million crowd squeezes into the open spaces between Union Station, the Capitol, the White House, and the Lincoln Memorial (an area of .81 square miles) everyone would have from 22 to as low as 5.6 square feet, roughly the same square footage as the the back seat of a Smart Car. If streets are closed to traffic and open to crowds, there may be a few extra square feet to go around. But the bottom line is it's probably going to be flesh on flesh out there, which may sound sexy until you consider that the other flesh might belong to a hairy fat guy from Duluth, MN.

So why even go? Why would people show up fully aware that 1 to 4 million people would also be showing up? To paraphrase Yogi Berra, wouldn't Washington get so crowded that no one would go there anymore? Well for starters, this guy will be there.
And we all know he rocks. But in a funny sort of way, the massive crowds themselves are a bit of a draw. When else in our lives will we get a chance to congregate with so many of our fellow countrypeople? Will a crowd this large ever assemble again? I am thrilled to be in attendance; my inner optimist giddily wants to partake in sheer euphoria writ large, my inner pessimist has always wanted to experience first hand what living in a dystopia would be like. But whatever the motive, just to be there will be life-altering. 2009's inauguration will be the Woodstock of the Myspace generation: instead of hippie buses there will be Priuses and people who took the Metro, instead of tie-dye there will be twitterers, instead of - okay, there will still be illicit substances this time around. But there will be idealism in all its splendor, and hope, and love. And someday, the youngest of us will lean back, sigh happily, and tell their grandchildren about the time they went to the 2009 inauguration.

See you there.

Part 1: Is It Safe? (safety, prohibited items, law enforcement, crime)
Part 2: Crush Hour(Transportation, Getting to DC, Getting to the Mall, the Metro)
Part 3: When Nature Calls (restrooms, sanitation)
Part 4: Phone Frenzy (Cell phones, texting, finding lost friends)
Part 5: Food for Thought (Food, sack lunches, vendors, restaurants)
Part 6: Got Balls? (Inaugural balls, dress codes, bars)

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