Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Line Experience, 9 a.m.-noon

After 9 a.m. it's clearly gotten ridiculous. The crowds are huge. We are packed tightly against each other. People trying to cross through what might be the line squeeze through miserably. There is no, zero, crowd control; all the thought seems to have gone into controlling the crowds inside the barricades around the mall. There is absolutely no one to organize the crowds on our side. The question/comment goes through the crowd frequently: Do you all have purple tickets? Everyone does. It defies logic that they would issue too many tickets for the area we're ticketed for, so we continue on the faith that this line will move and they'll start getting us in. Yet the line/crowd barely moves; when we do surge forward a step, it seems to be a compression move that just squeezes the crowd ahead of us. It just doesn't seem anyone is getting admitted yet.

The line/street full of people makes a bend around the corner; that's the corner above with the crowd massed at least a couple blocks on either side of the corner. The orderly line that started the morning still has kind of a discernible shape swinging around the outside while the inside of the corner is filled with people recently arrived. At around 9:30 a.m. we finally determine we need to move to the inside and take a straighter line. We move up and push into an area that is still swinging around to where we can now see there is indeed a gate. I'm tall enough to see, barely, that people are being admitted. But our area of the crowd seems not to move at all. People start chanting "Let us in."

Nate hits an emergency need to pee and has to worm out of our part of the crowd and away from the gate. But he gets a different view and determines that the area of crowd that is more directly in front of the gate is actually moving forward; he's found the current in the river. He manages to get through to us by cell phone -- service is intermittent because bandwidth is overloaded -- to say he's joining that part of the crowd. Meantime Autry has fallen 20 or 30 feet behind us in the crowd, caught in an eddy. Sandy and I signal to Autry and move out of our area, and get out by being assertive. We move around and at about 11: 25 a.m. dive into a new part of the crowd, no closer to the gate but now directly before it. We finally see a cop, one cop, who is telling people the gate closes at noon and they should retreat and skip the swearing in, and try their luck getting on the parade route instead. It seems hopeless now but we push ahead and catch a bit of the current. When Sandy and I squeeze through the gate with the mass pushing behind us, it's about 11:55 a.m. But we get separated going through the metal detectors. By the time I clear Sandy's not in sight and the invocation is under way. But we are both, finally, into the mall. I don't know Autry's fate. I can't raise him or Nate or Sandy on the cell.

(Continues next post above)

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