How to Get Ahead on the Mall
Expect crowds. One of the first pieces of advice given to inaugural ticketholders and, based on their behavior this morning, one of the first to be forgotten. You can't really blame them for being upset: some traveled thousands of miles and fought aggressively to get tickets, thinking this would get them a front row seat to history. Oh, how wrong they were.
I spent this morning trapped on 1st Street in front of the Capitol with the rest of the Orange Gate ticket holders who didn't get through security in time to grab a spot in the actual section before it filled up. Needless to say, the view from there was of shoes and the backs of coats, not of the actual happenings. Disappointing, yes, but most people resigned themselves to the fact that they wouldn't be seeing much and decided to stop talking and listen to the proceedings. Great.
But then there were the fighters, those determined individuals who thought that just by holding a ticket, they could shove their way to a better view. Not without a fight, and boy, were some people ready for one. The highlight was two older women shoving each other and screaming about whether one woman's tall husband could stand on the floor to get a better view. Neither one seemed particularly interested in the inauguration itself, since they continued to push and bicker while President Barack Obama recited the oath of office.
The other strategy to get ahead: claim to have a useful skill. When one woman a few rows up from me announced she wasn't feeling well and wanted medical attention, a man claiming to be a doctor pushed his way ahead of everyone else. The woman, suddenly well again, enjoyed the rest of the ceremony, and the doctor stayed up front for the rest of the show.
When it came time to leave and everyone managed to avoid the three motorized scooters that cut through the crowd during the inaugural address, you'd think you were home free. Alas, there was one more stop to navigate. Former NBA and Georgetown basketball star Dikembe Mutombo was also trapped in the crowd, and everyone wanted to pause for a picture with the big man. I left wishing I'd bumped into Mutombo earlier. At 7'2", he'd certainly have been able to share his view with the rest of us.
Photos by Caroline Jones