Friday, January 16, 2009

Inauguration Weekend

by J J Cohen

So you may have heard that the DC area has gone a bit overboard in prepping for the Inauguration and its attendant hoopla.

All bridges to Virginia, for example, will be closed -- apparently to prevent Karl Rove from leaving his home in Arlington and mingling with the multitudes. I am gladdened that this longtime security risk has at last been neutralized, but why did it take eight years? Democratic Marylanders like me can just glide on down ... or, in all honesty, walk: it's only five miles, and we have been warned repeatedly that the subway system will be so crammed with people that a stroll will be faster than a Metro ride.

A security perimeter will be set up around the parade, and once the streets have reached their maximum density of revelers per square foot, no one else will be admitted. Expect a small scale riot as would-be Obama gawkers hurl their bottles of spring water and their energy bars at the police (we have been warned to bring our own food and water because it will be very difficult to move once we are inside the security zone). Oh yes, we are also not allowed to pee unless we want to wait in a line that stretches to the crack of doom. So far the only thing that has not been decreed is the hanging of large banners around the District that announce YOUR JOY WILL BE KILLED and WOULDN'T YOU BE MORE COMFORTABLE WATCHING THIS AT HOME?

Our university is not all that far from the White House, and so we have been bombarded with messages about safety and security and the apocalypse that looms. My favorite was yesterday's email update, which included this section:

Tips for Personal Safety: Prepare in Advance

  • Be sure to purchase in advance and/or pre-load Metro SmartTrip cards before Inauguration Weekend. Also, visit ATMs to ensure you have sufficient cash before the crowds hit D.C.
  • Refill necessary prescription drugs and remind your guests and visitors to do so as well.
  • Be careful while texting and walking. These activities combined can be very dangerous and may cause falls, collisions, and bottlenecks.
  • Be mindful of information from unofficial sources. If you receive e-mails or text messages from unofficial sources that an incident has occurred, proceed with caution and look for official sources to verify it.
  • Dress warmly and wear comfortable shoes. Women attending the GW Inaugural Ball should either wear or bring with them comfortable, flat shoes in the event that they must walk unexpectedly.
Yes, mother. My SmartCard will be loaded (even though the Metro will be so crowded that I am supposed to walk). I will visit the ATM so that I will have a wad of cash to bribe my way through the barbed wire of the parade security perimeter. I will load up on extra Zyrtec in case my allergies flare up. I promise to dress in an extra heavy coat (but not TOO heavy: at the security perimeter bulky people will be turned away). My shoes will be flat and comfortable because I know when you say "be prepared to walk unexpectedly" what you really mean is "be prepared to run when the police teargas the excluded people at the security perimeter hurling Cliff bars and Evian bottles." Most important of all, I will not walk and text at the same time because I know that I will stumble, fall, and be trampled until I am a small red spot on the concrete. This spot may freeze up, others will slip, bottlenecks will emerge, and we will have inauguration mayhem, all caused by texting while walking.

Happy Inauguration, everyone. See you back in class Wednesday.

[x-posted to In the Middle]

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