Things To Act
Saturday, January 29, 2005
*The worst tickets were the "gold" tickets. They were also the fanciest. Evidently the theory was that people would be fooled by the trappings, at least until they got there. We (the person I was with and myself) had yellow tickets, which were in the category of second-worst. But we decided to brave the elements and go nevertheless.
*After scoring a free breakfast in the House office buildings, we emerged from the Rayburn at about 10:20 to try to make our way to the Yellow Gate. This brings us to Major Theme One: Horrible Crowd Control. We were stuck in the crowd on the sidewalk for over an hour trying to make our way to the gate. About 11:40, we finally made it.
*Security was so-so. We were expecting metal detectors. Instead, we were told to split into male and female lines for a pat-down. Evidently the theory was that no one could hit the president with anything from as far back as we were, and bystanders didn't need protection from terror nearly as much (I suspect that most terrorists are incompetent or we'd all be a lot more terrified, but that's another story. As is the fact that I've already thought of two ways to beat routine Congressional security for the Capitol, not that I'm going to try them). Back to the lines--the men's line was quick-moving. The women's line was glacial. Some women demanded to go through the men's lines, but the guards wouldn't let them. Cheney took the oath of office (at 11:50) before our party was actually through security.
*For the next ten minutes, we busily tried to find some spot that wasn't behind The Wall. There wasn't one. Guards weren't letting any more people crowd up onto the lawn, and bystanders continually claimed that guards had been arresting people who tried to the climb The Wall to get a better view. Several people tried it anyway, but not us. Throughout the President's speech, people kept trying it. Guards didn't do much (except occasionally tell people to get down), but people standing farther back kept yelling "Get off the wall." No brawls broke out.
*For most of the speech, we could occasionally catch glimpses of the General-Conference Style Screen That Lets You See What's Going On, Despite the Fact That You Came To See The Event, Not The Televised Version, depending on how people shifted above The Wall in front of us. The speech itself seemed like a nice stating of American ideals, and I tend to think that critics are reading way too much into it.
*The weather, though cold, wasn't as cold as it had been earlier in the week. That was good. We did see two people being helped by EMTs, but didn't press closer to get details.
*The benediction was rather weird. The preacher seemed overenthusiastic in parts, to the great amusement of my companion. We agreed that "clean X, clean Y, and clean financial statements" was the highlight, as did the people in the crowd around us, who were also laughing.
*The crowds getting out after it was over were also pretty bad, despite the fact that we stayed around awhile to see what things looked like above The Wall.
*We did see a handful of protesters outside the House Office Buildings on the way out. They had a sign saying something about a mandate to leave Iraq. I inquired about how the mandate could be for that, given that Bush, not Kerry, had won the election. They said something incoherent about some poll. I thought their sign would have been improved with a footnote explaining their references.
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