It looks as though attendance will be through the roof for the Presidential Inauguration of 1-20-2009 itself and for the Inaugural Parade down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC that follows. Some will be there to cheerfully rally for constitutional rights, others will be there to cheer a hero, and yes, a few others will be there to give a defiant anti-Obama Bronx cheer. Whatever your purpose, here are some practical tips for the Inauguration attendee:
1. You’re too late to get tickets to the Inauguration itself, at least up close. Tickets have already been distributed to members of Congress and other political VIPs to distribute, and demand already far exceeds supply. You can stand for free on the national mall to see and hear the inauguration on a jumbotron screen, then say to your children that you were there. If someone tells you they have a ticket to the inauguration for sale, they’re scalpers and it should be going for more than a thousand dollars. Otherwise, it’s a scam. Even if the price is high, it still might be a scam.
2. You’re too late to get a hotel room in DC or anywhere nearby. Give up on that. They’re all taken as far out as the last metro stop. So if you really want to be at the inauguration, stay in Pennsylvania or West Virginia or central Virginia and drive yourself to a DC Metro station in the wee hours of the morning. Don’t even think of driving in to DC itself.
3. Your uncle’s second wife could stage an “Inaugural Ball”. Most of the “Inaugural Balls” are chances for party organizers to rake in gobs of money from clueless visitors for lame drinks and a chance to possibly see a third-rank celebrity on stage who was famous 20 years ago and… that’s really it. The rich and famous have already bought up the tickets to the small handful of Balls where the Obamas will show up. Don’t be suckered into shelling out hundreds of dollars for a lame warehouse event.
4. Bring layers, heat packs, discreet cash, a teeny radio and beef jerky. Sure, it might be 50 degrees and sunny on Inauguration Day 2009. But it might also be 36 degrees and raining, as it was on Inauguration Day 2001. Wear layers, which you can always wrap around your waist if it gets warm. Make your top layer a poncho. In case it gets extra cold, bring the little heat packs that work when exposed to air. They weigh next to nothing but will keep you happily warm. Stuff cash in various odd places because you’ll need it especially if you can’t get out of the city. Everyone will be in line for the eateries that take credit. You’ll be able to eat at a cash-only stand if you get desperate (or just don’t want to give up your coveted place on the sidewalk). Bring beef jerky if you’re a carnivore: it’s light and filling. And get yourself one of those micro FM radios with earbuds. That way, you can listen in on Obama’s inauguration speech even if you can’t get close, and if something unexpected goes down you can know what’s up.
5. Don’t bring poles, sticks, or heavy gear. There will be a large security perimeter through which officers simply won’t allow anything that possible could be used as anything like a weapon. And after hour 4 and mile 4 of carrying that boom box, you’ll set it down and leave it on the curb anyway.
6. See a bathroom? Go to the bathroom. This thing is going to be like a chilly Woodstock. A chilly, urine-soaked Woodstock. Take advantage of all opportunities.
7. If you’re healthy and strong, walk in. The DC Metro could run fourteen trains a minute and not keep up with the traffic demand after the Inaugural Parade ends… and the Secret Service has nixed cars. Park five miles out in Maryland and take an hour to mosey each way. Leave the metro for people who can’t walk five miles.
8. Get onto the parade route soon and stay there. After Pennsylvania Avenue fills to capacity, security officials won’t let anyone in. So get your necessities elsewhere, get them early, then stick tight where you are.