It’s hard to say exactly what the state of mind is here in DC as we head into the weekend of Barack Obama’s inauguration. It seems to be equal parts festive (Historic event! Springsteen! Ten official ball appearances!) and fearful (Bridges closed! No more than 300k at the parade! Nowhere to pee!), and neither faction seems to have much of a clue as to what the next several days will bring.
I hate to say it, but I have a feeling that the outcome of all this frenzy is going to be disappointment. Every day brings a new “security” measure that seems almost guaranteed to cause as many problems as it solves. I’ve lived here for more than 10 years and the restrictions sound daunting even to me — and I have it fairly easy. I don’t have to walk more than a few miles to any of the venues, know the city well enough to find another entrance if the first (or second or third) checkpoint I find is too crowded, and have a reasonably good idea which of the Smithsonian museums will have the shortest restroom lines. If I were coming in from out of town, staying in a hotel in Northern Virginia, and planning to use Metro to get around… Well, I’d be quaking in my boots.
Now, I certainly understand that security is important, but some of the steps that have been announced are so extreme that they seem designed more to keep people away than anything else. Among the announced measures are closing all the Potomac crossings inside the beltway (that is: every bridge between DC and Virginia), shutting down four of the Metro stations closest to the Mall and ball locations, and making all attendees choose between the swearing-in and the parade (in the past, the crowd kind of moved from one to the other). I’m no expert — these all may be genius security and crowd-control measures, but they certainly read more like a plan to keep people from even bothering to try to attend.
(The weather, incidentally, isn’t helping. We’re in the midst of a good cold snap — it’s 10 degrees at the moment — and it’s not expected to be much above freezing by Tuesday — the warmest day of inauguration weekend. Gah!)
I haven’t given up on it though — I’ve got a reasonably heavy slate of celebratory activities scheduled for the next few days, provided that my first foray into spending a sustained amount of time out in the cold doesn’t send me back to the sofa with my kleenex. (Fingers crossed.)
More on my plans tomorrow…