I can remember some of the big anti-Vietnam War demonstrations on the Mall in the 60s and 70s. Organizers would claim there were a quarter of a million people on the Mall, maybe half a million. I don't know how they knew; nobody could really count a crowd like that. But the Mall was crowded. I remember that. If that was a quarter of a million, where are six or ten times that many going to go?
I'm not even worrying about where they'll sleep, or eat or go to the bathroom; I'm sure the hotels have all tripled their rates and are full. Anybody with relatives here will probably try to sleep on the living room couch, something like that. I'm just worried that they won't all fit on the Mall for the ceremony, which means they won't have much of a view and will probably have trouble hearing the speech.
These huge crowd estimates are of course a tribute to the excitement the prospect of Obama as president generates. It's a compliment to him and I expect it makes a lot of us feel better about being Americans, feel that our country is getting closer to fulfilling some of it promise and hope. That's fine, but will they fit? This a fairly small city; you could lose a couple of million in, say, New York, but not here.
My own plan is simple. I won't leave the apartment. I'll hide under the bed with a small TV, have an excellent view and hear the speech. After it's over, I may stand up and pour myself a celebratory glass of wine. I wish those traveling millions well, of course. I just don't want to join them on the Mall.
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