Thursday, January 10, 2013

How I Braved Inauguration 2009

A few years ago I did something that Mr. Love Bird thinks was crazy: I attended Inauguration 2009. 

Mr. Love Bird thinks me and my family love all things "touristy:" going to the Macy's Day Parade, attempting to see the Rockefeller Center tree lighting and pretty much anything that involves cold temperatures and large crowds. Apparently we have a desire to do those things, but he doesn't. I wonder why???

Anyway, with Inauguration less than two weeks away I wanted to share what my experience was like just in case my readers are curious or maybe going themselves. We Love Birds will be down there that weekend, but not attending Inauguration although Mr. Love Bird thinks I'm going to pull a fast one on him and go at the last minute. Of course I would wouldn't do something like that!

Here's what my experience was like . . .

A fellow coworker, fellow Wellesley alum and I hopped in a rental car we picked up at JFK airport and headed down to Washington D.C. the day before Inauguration. I *think* I recall trying to get the free tickets that were made available by local government offices but those were snatched up super quickly. (Speaking of tickets did you hear about the recent Inauguration parade and ball ticketing snafu?)

It was freezing cold, but we were giddy with excitement! The drive to D.C. wasn't too bad. We dropped off my coworker with her friend then me and Melissa (my fellow Wellesley alum) went to check into our hotel.

There was a Bob Evans across the street and she being from the West Coast had never been so as my duty as a Midwesterner I introduced her to that glorious restaurant. She agreed it was good!

We had to be up at something like 3 or 4 a.m. the next morning and the hotel had several other Inauguration attenders staying there. Thankfully the hotel staff had complimentary bagged breakfasts for everyone so we woke up, grabbed our bags and headed out. 

Fired up and ready to go!
At first the roads were clear then we started to see long lines of red lights exiting the freeway as we approached the Metro station, and we kinda looked at each other like, "What did we get ourselves into?!" There were several transit stations we could've taken in and I had done a bit of research to figure out which was best. Looking back I think pretty much any train station was going to be crazy packed. Everyone was buzzing with excitement to get to Inauguration!

There was singing, laughing and general camaraderie all the while the sun hadn't come up yet and we were pretty cold, but little did I know how much colder we'd get! We waited patiently to get on the Metro and I was excited to get my commemorative Obama transit pass which I carried in my wallet the entirety of Obama's first term (yes, I'm a nerd):

One thing I had thought about in my planning process was what to do about the toilet situation. I knew Melissa and I would be out there along with thousands of others for hours and similar to New Year's Eve at Times Square I figured once you got onto the mall, there probably wasn't going to be close access to a bathroom once you staked your position. Boy was I right!

I was concerned about being dehydrated but resolved to take little sips of water and honestly, for those with small bladders I could totally see how wearing an adult diaper could be an option. I'm not joking folks.

Trying to get up the escalator to the street
The transit was very slow going followed by a long escalator ride up to the street and walking with thousands to get a good spot. It became clear that we were not going to even get a glimpse of Obama besides looking at adjoining teleprompters. This is where Mr. Love Bird's commentary comes in . . . He said for all that we should've just stayed home, but honestly, I loved the feeling of being a part of a historic moment with thousands of people. It was a diverse happy crowd and I remember looking around thinking, "This must be what heaven looks like." Yes, call me corny but I really did think that - but I'd hope heaven's not as cold! 

The view in front of us . . .
The view behind us
Speaking of cold by this point I really wanted hand warmers and besides the adult diaper that would be the second thing I'd suggest bringing. My hands were numb (I had two pairs of gloves on), but I stayed snuggled up with everyone else there so the communal body heat helped and Melissa and I waved our flags proudly with everyone else. 

With my good friend Melissa
Once we saw Obama on the teleprompter we were screaming along with everyone else. I was so proud! And to see Malia and Shasha and Michelle? I wanted to push through the crowd and run up and hug them. They were stunning! I actually kinda liked being able to take pictures of the oath's words on the teleprompter as well as Obama's speech.

Once the ceremony was over the grand exodus began (and the mission to get to the bathroom ASAP!). We actually took our time and waited for a bit in a hotel with a bite to eat and to warm up, but even after an hour or so the transit was still badly backed up. It was one of the worst claustrophobic situations I've been and it was later reported in the news just how bad it was. I started to get nervous going through an underground passageway at one point even planning my exit strategy if a stampede or emergency broke out. It was definitely panic-attack inducing. 

Just looking at this picture makes my heart race
We were much later than planned meeting back up with my coworker and getting home to NYC  - she actually had a better spot than we had in the crowd, but I think it may have been because she was staying closer in than we were to the city. Despite this I still think it was worth going and experiencing my first Inauguration and such an historic one at that.

Whew! So that was my experience and thinking back I kinda do think I was crazy for withstanding the cold and hours on my feet and dehydration, but it's one of my favorite memories ever. Can't quite say I'd do it again, but if you're on the fence about attending and never have before I'd say GO! It definitely is a once in a lifetime experience. 

Have you been to an Inauguration or are you going to the upcoming one? What was your experience like? Or do you fall in Mr. Love Bird's camp?