Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Warming Up the Crowd with the Electric Slide

Poor DC.  There was no way for the city to be prepared for the crowd.  When we left at 5:30 this morning there was already a busful of people at the stop.  Then we got to Pentagon station to find them running 6 and 8 car trains every 5 minutes.  We got on one immediately and sat... and sat... and sat.  But the crowd was patient, extraordinarily so (or maybe half asleep).  We probably should have gotten off at Arlington Cemetery and walked but we didn't. When we got off at L'Enfant Station there had to have been 50,000 people trying to squeeze out.  We stood... and stood... there was a medical emergency.  it took us 1.5  hours to get from train to street.  That was the scariest part, being in an unmoving but mostly cheerful crowd jammed into the tubular, cavernous upper deck of that station hoping no one fainted, or panicked or had an asthma attack. They finally turned off the fare card readers and began letting us through in batches.  If you have never seen the DC subway system, stations are long concrete tubes. L'Enfant has a lower level platform for the trains with 2 sets of escalators up.  On top the deck isn't one large smooth walkway.  it has cut out areas with railings that divide it into two narrow walkways.  That area was cheek by jowl the full length of the platform.  

Occasionally we chanted Obama but mostly we tried to be patient, chatted with our neighbors and held on to each other so as not to get separated in the scrum.  The final challenge were the escalators out.  We were probably 3 or 4 stories below ground and we had to walk out.  We tried to be encouraging to our sistahs who had already walked farther in the first three hours of the day than maybe in the previous month.  We lied, "Come on, you're almost to the top. You're doing great, yeah, I can see the top.  Don't stop."  

After that it was pretty easy.  We settled in at the 14th St. entrance of the Mall, near a tree for a little back support.  The Sunday concert was playing on the Jumbotron.   Stevie Wonder started playing Higher Ground and the Electric Slide broke out on the Mall.  First 15 middle aged black women, then a few more, then some young'ns, finally some white folk felt brave enough to join in.  150 people doing the slide, happy to be there, in the cold, with too many or not enough clothes, dancing, willing to stand among millions, warming up the crowd.  Higher ground.

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