Inauguration 2009: A Rant

There was much to be happy about today and I will blog about that in a bit, but I do need to point out something:

Whoever was in charge of the logistics of this day from the Metro and other public transport to safely getting ticketed people into the designated areas IS MADE OF FAIL. I have rarely been so frustrated and annoyed and I have rarely seen a clusterfuck bigger than the one I witnessed today.

Starting with transportation: as I said, we got our tickets yesterday, so we didn’t have to wait in a long line at the start. However, our train took 3 times as long to get into town because there were so many people trying to get on and the cars were full by the fourth stop away from the terminus. As people tried to cram themselves in, they held up trains in front of us, our train, and the trains behind. Though the city claimed to have been ready for the estimated 2 million people showing up for this thing, they were clearly not.

They had to shut down certain stations because too many people were crowding the platforms, then open them as they cleared the folks out. We had to go one stop further than the suggested stop because of one of these closings, and thus had to come to our gate in a roundabout way. I don’t think it would have helped had we come from the intended stop, because for some reason the Blue Gate line was completely useless.

Each ticket had a color, designating your section. Every section had an entry point for security checks and then the actual gate. We passed the Orange line, which had a clearly marked entrance and path. The Blue had no such thing. We kept going to different parts of an ever changing line, no one was ever sure it was the right line, there were no cops, security, line coordinators, or anything to help. Let me repeat: there was no one managing our line, and it was already breaking down into chaos by the time we arrived.

The inauguration ceremony began at 10, the swearing in at 12. They opened the gates at 8 or 9 and closed then at 11:30, officially. What genius thought that they could facilitate getting a quarter of a million people sorted, through security, and into the standing area in 2.5 – 3.5 hours? I don’t know what the other lines were line, but with the Blue line, there was very little movement and, in the end, we didn’t get in and no one told us why. Looking at the footage on television, I have to wonder if they gave out too many tickets and there just wasn’t any more room.

Still, there was so much that could have been done better, including opening the gates at 5am. It may have still resulted in the area filling up completely before everyone got in, but there would have been time to redirect people elsewhere. The lines should have been tightly controlled, because thousands of confused people all together is never, ever a good thing. All traffic through the area where lines crossed streets should have been halted – yes, SUVs broke the line more than once. When the inauguration ended, there should have been controlled egress to the Metro stations instead of letting people mob the entrances, having no other choice.

I want to smack every person involved in coordinating this, because they obviously failed to consider so much and completely fucked my day. However, there were some bright spots – I’ll blog about them later. For now, I sleep… and then get on a bus.

19 Responses

  1. I have to agree. I did not have a ticket (though my parents did, and waited for two hours in line before realizing they were never going to make it and giving up) and I thus saw it from the general population-type area, but I was really frustrated by the complete lack of official information floating around out there. The various cops, volunteers, and military police floating around did not seem to know anything. Honestly, it wasn’t their fault, they just go posted somewhere and told to stop anyone from passing…no one told them what was going on either.

    There was just so much confusion about where people were supposed to go, and, even more so, where they were supposed to leave from. The cops would close off entire streets that they had announced (on huge screens) were going to be open, and then didn’t tell anyone.

  2. ABW,

    Do you drink? If not, sounds like you could use one. I’d buy you one if I was in your area.

    Anyway… glad to know that you are safe.

    I read that there were only 5,000 port-a-potties – that fact alone sets the stage for some major frustrations.

  3. We were there too (Blue Gate) – everyone was calling 911 and clearly there was no communication with the police in the area and no communication with the crowd. My daughter was crushed literally for hours and in tears when we had to leave. We heard a rumor about generators powering the security checkpoints going down but that still does not excuse the “security” from not letting us know what was going on. The PIC needs to own up and put out an apology.

    It was heartbreaking.

  4. Exerpt from the Associated Press: “City services handled an onslaught of visitors and users. Some 410,000 people had entered Washington’s Metro transit system by 9 a.m. More than 150 people waited in line for coffee.”

    Waiting in a line that long for my coffee? That would be scary for me and very scary for those standing in line next to me. ; )

  5. I hope you are home safely (and warm — brrr it’s cold out there). I’m looking forward to the good parts. I’m sorry tht it didn’t all go so well. That’s the nature it seems of huge public community events, like carnivals and fiestas — they are also about chaos. This knowledge doesn’t make one’s discomfort go away though.

    Love, C.

  6. As a DC resident, I just want to point out something that we find frustrating too, and which touches on the larger issues of your blog. We don’t have full control of our own government here. Congress does. We are often treated as the federal government’s plaything, and that means that our agencies (for transportation, road closures, and such) aren’t given critical information until very late in the game, or are jerked around by last minute changes decreed by Secret Service or whomever. We realize that some of this is an inevitable consequence of living in the nation’s capital city, but part of it definitely comes from a long history of disrespect from the feds. I am originally a NYer and have lived in DC for the past 10 years. I consider DC my adopted home now, but in saying all of these things, I in now way mean to step on the toes of those who have lived here all their lives and who have experienced this disrespect for far longer than I have. I just felt it was important to point it out to you because I believe that DC’s lack of self government is rooted in racial discrimination. I believe that the situation would be different if we were a white-majority city. I’m not saying that our officials are totally free of blame for the clusterfucky aspects of inauguration, but they and DC residents were seriously hamstrung by the fact that information was s l o w in coming from the feds, as it always is. I love your blog and have gained so much inspiration and insights from reading your words and the words of your other contributors. I’m glad you were able to be here for inauguration and I’m sorry to hear that things were so difficult.

  7. “MADE OF FAIL” made me laugh.

    I hate crowds, precisely because of the chaos, the pushing and shoving, and the contagiousness of stupidity.

  8. Julia — This is one of the problems that Pres. Obama says he’d like to address. Which would be really good.

    But others before him have vowed to improve this situation for D.C. too, and it’s never gotten very far. Sigh.

    The man has done a lot of good things today. But he is only a man, and the economy is a shambles — U.S. banking system is not only broken, it’s dead broke empty, according to accountants in Dubai who ought to know since so much of our money has ended up there thanks to Cheney and private contractors and the evil war.

    Love, c.

  9. Foxessa, yeah… I don’t know how much Pres. Obama (how great does it feel to write that?!!) will be able to do about the DC situation, but it was nice to hear him acknowledge it, especially after 8 years of Bush ignoring it. I’m encouraged whenever someone speaks about it to bring it to greater public attention, and having presidential support is wonderful progress even if nothing ends up being fixed.

  10. ABW — HuffPo is looking to hear from anyone who went through what you experienced, as they investigate what went wrong.

    If you’d like to contact them, here’s the HuffPo article about it.

    Love, C.

  11. ABW — HuffPo is looking to hear from anyone who went through what you experienced, as they investigate what went wrong.

    If you’d like to contact them, here’s the HuffPo article about it.

    Oh, and here’s an e-mail to do it with too:

    submissions+mail@huffingtonpost.com

    Love, C.

  12. This is probably not the proper reaction to the inauguration clusterxxxx and I do honestly feel bad for everyone who got shut out and put through heck.

    But a girl I went to college with and absolutely hated (think: Liberal version of Sarah Palin) had some sort of big-shot role in logistics for the inaugural committee.

    Thus, as I read these reports, all I can feel is schadenfreude.
    Sweet, sweet schadenfreude.

  13. Sorry you had such an awful time! What Lisa said.

    We stayed home and watched on CNN. We had originally planned to go, but there were so many last-minute changes that we heard about that we decided it would be wiser to stay put. For instance, there were originally supposed to be Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts helping give directions and so on, but now nobody I know ever clapped eyes on one all day. Where were they all? Also, a lot of people who had pieces of things to do during the day had to go through security at 7AM for evening events, for instance, and then 6AM, and then 5AM (so they couldn’t even take Metro, poor things), and they had to hang out in ready rooms all over the city ALL DAY just to bartend at a ball or something. *Sigh.*

  14. Rachel Maddow says there’s a Facebook page for all the ticketholders who waited and waited and waited and got up so early and traveled and got shut out.

    It’s called “The Royal Purple Tunnel of Doom” and you can find it here.

    Love, c.

  15. This was the work of a federal agency? Do we want these people administering health care? Better get your pap smears now, ladies.

  16. As another frustrated Blue Gater, I cosign on everything ABW said.

    EPIC FAIL. Oh, and DC Cabbies: totally disliking most of y’all for a good year.

    No real ADA provisions, it made me cry to see what folks had to go through.

    My own drama of planes, trains and automobiles and buses I can’t even put down, yet. I’m still processing. Let’s just say, while I didn’t lose a friend, my friendship with my roomie devolved behind Inaugu-rama.

  17. ABW -

    This isn’t about this entry, but about your tshirts. As a Jew with massive curly hair, I bought one of your DTMH shirts off of Zazzle – the one with the rules printed on the back. After checking it out real thoroughly to make sure each and every rule applied and didn’t make me look like an appropriating shit, I wore it to a major poetry slam, where just about every woman with not-white-girl hair came running up to me and demanded to know where they could find such a useful shirt.

    I’ve passed on your name/site to a good fistful of poets, and I hope you get lots of business!

    You can see a video of me wearing your shirt while doing a poem here: http://www.poetryslam.com/index.php?option=com_wrapper&Itemid=88 The piece is called “bilingual” – it’s around the middle of the list.

    Thank you so much, from the bottom of my hair, for making such a fantastic shirt.

    ~Dane

  18. The inauguration was a indeed a clusterxxxx, alot of people promised things……and it did not happen….. it couldn’t happen. Don’t be disappointed with empty promises, this is what we should expect for the next 4 years. God help us.

  19. That sucked. What would you think of ‘disaster services’ being handled the same way – or worse. Just a nasty thought sparked by thoughts of Katrina…and Houston.
    Mind, infrastructure services – physical facilities – are often past belief. Levees.org is flat scary.
    All this and flat broke. Not an accident. Sabotage.

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