Your humble blogger went to the big rally yesterday. Here’s what it looked like:
I never noticed it before, but the National Mall looks a lot like the Vienna/Fairfax Metro stop. But let me start at the beginning.
I hit the road at 8:30 in the morning, which normally would get me to DC well before noon. I figured there would be traffic and delays, but I did not feel obligated to attend the whole, three-hour event. Maybe I get there by one, I thought, and still have two solid hours of rally fun! It had occurred to me to drive to DC the night before and find a place to stay for the night. But, even leaving aside the fact that I had other plans for Friday night, my understanding is there wasn’t a hotel room available anywhere near the city.
I knew I was in trouble as I approached exit 62 on I-66, which leads to the Vienna Metro stop. The two exit lanes were backed up well onto the highway and did not appear to be moving at all. Interestingly, the other lanes on the highway were moving pretty well. Screw this, I thought, and mostly abandoned my hopes of going to the rally. I was expecting crowds, but not madness. I considered driving to a Metro stop farther East, but figured all of the stations were likely to be just as bad.
So I drove a little farther on I-66, managed to turn around (which actually involved getting briefly onto I-495, the infamous “Beltway”, since at least that exit wasn’t so backed up.) But then I noticed that, as I approached exit 62 from the east things were not backed up at all. That made sense, actually, since people living east of this exit would naturally go to a Metro stop closer to the city. Maybe I shouldn’t give up so easily, I thought, and decided to take my chances.
As I approached the station I could see the platform. My jaw dropped. Not only was the platform thronged with people, the line went up the escalator, through the turnstiles, across the bridge leading over the highway, and well into the parking lot. Once again I abandoned all hope of getting to the rally. Where was I going to park?
I did not even bother with the first of the two big parking garages. There was a line of cars waiting to get in. I wandered a bit, hoping I might find a supermarket or something where I could ditch the car and walk back to the station, but no such luck. But then I stumbled onto the second parking garage. Which was funny, because while I knew there was a second garage I had never bothered to figure out how to get to it. (I go to Washington periodically, but I have never had to deal with this much traffic before). Anyway, the second garage did not seem quite so busy. What the heck. Figured I’d prowl around the lot, discover were are no spots, and then give up this little adventure. Whatever. I tried.
I found a spot. A legal one!
I can’t believe it either. It was on the top level of the garage after I had already abandoned hope, but there it was. Rock and roll! Out of the car, down the steps … and that was about as far as I got before I found myself amidst an ocean of humanity. Some people were coming out of the station and walking towards the garage. Do you think they just got off the train and were going home? Of course not. These were the folks who were giving up.
One of them helpfully informed us that they had been waiting on the platform for over an hour. Three trains had come and gone, but there was simply no room to pack on even one more person. Vienna being the end of the line, the trains are supposed to be empty when they got to us. Apparently people were getting on as far east as Clarendon and riding in the wrong direction until it turned around at the end of the line. They figured this way at least they were on a train and would get to the city eventually. Have a look at the Metro Map, Orange Line to fully comprehend the level of desperation that requires.
Screw this, I thought again, but then I noticed that an awful lot of other people had the same thought. Quite a few were leaving, which once more made me think I shouldn’t give up so easily. At this point I decided once and for all to tough it out. With patience I would ultimately get there, and even if I never made it to the damn rally, well, there were plenty of other things to do in the city. Besides, there was definitely a party atmosphere at the station, and everyone seemed to be having a good time. So many people were carrying signs that we were basically having our own rally.
A train finally arrived. I figured I had no hope of actually getting on it, but I was just following the people in front of me. The next thing I knew I was on the platform and the train still had its doors open. I went running from car to car. Nope, run to the next one, nope, run to the next one, nope, and so on until…holy crap!…there was just barely enough space on the last car to squeeze in one more person. Whoo hoo! Actually, about five more people got on after me at subsequent stops. There was no need to hold on to anything, since it was physically impossible to fall down. Here’s what it looked like:
Every station we passed was mobbed with people. No one was getting off the train. Every time we blew through a station with no one new squeezing on we all let out a loud cheer. At one station a young mother holding a three-year old tried to get on. “We have room for the kid but that’s it,” I said, to the delight of everyone standing near me. The mother looked less amused.
We all got off at the Smithsonian stop, the one closest to the rally. That would normally be a thirty minute ride, but it took longer this time. You see, they were having trouble closing the doors at each station, since people kept getting bags and pieces of clothing caught in them. For all the crowding and discomfort, though, I did not see any personal unpleasantness. There was still very much a party atmosphere.
Here’s how it looked at the Smithsonian Metro stop:
There was still some walking to do to get to the rally. It was just coming up on 2:00, so at least I would be there for the final hour. Here’s an amusing sign I saw while I was walking:
Here are some random crowd shots. They should help give you some idea of how close to the stage I managed to get:
I’d like to show you the photos I took of all the famous people I saw. Alas, I was much too far away for that. If you look carefully at this next one, you can just make out, on the JumboTron, someone who sort of looks like Jon Stewart.
A surprising number of people brought their dogs. One genius brought his tiny pomeranian:
My view wasn’t all that much better than the dog’s.
There were lots of good signs, and lots of people who were really into it. Here are a few pictures:
And my personal favorite:
There were a number of groups performing. These drummers were quite spectacular:
So, even though it was a pain in the ass getting there, and I was too far away to see anything, and I could only hear about every third word of what the folks were saying from the stage, it was still a lot of fun. I’m glad I went.
After the rally I decided to look for a place to eat. Chinatown was only a few blocks away, but no dice. Every tiny, hole in the wall restaurant had a line out the door. I eventually walked all the way over to the Dupont Circle area. Then it was an early dinner at an Indian restaurant I like, a jaunt over to the Politics and Prose bookstore for some serious browsing, a quick desert at Hello Cupcake (mmmmmmm, cupcakes), then back on the train to go home. It was a little after eight at this point. The trains were still packed.
Of course, by this time the ride was livened up by folks who were clearly going to Halloween parties, but that’s a different post…