Sunday, October 31, 2010

Rally to Restore Sanity

Yesterday was Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert’s “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear”.  I’m not big on politics at all, and until about a week ago I’d never watched The Daily Show and never even heard of Steven Colbert.  But this looked like a rally I could get into.  It’s wasn’t about subscribing to a certain political viewpoint, but rather about big ideas we should all be embracing. Ideas like being reasonable and listening and disagreeing appropriately.  And most importantly: Don’t be douchey. 

This CNN article about the rally really hits the nail on the head about what it was all about:

In the 10 years that I have lived here in the DC area, I have been into DC for 2 major events – this rally and the National Book Festival a year ago.  So I was excited even to just be a part of something this big and exciting!  And big it definitely was!  An estimated 215,000 people were there.  They are saying it was the biggest event in DC since President Obama’s Inauguration!

We managed to have a near perfect experience with the whole thing!  We couldn’t have done better if we’d planned it!

Andy and I met at the Woodbridge Commuter lot a little after 8 and headed up to the Springfield Metro.  There was a short line of cars getting into the parking garage but after we got in there were TONS of spots!  We got a spot right by the stairs and walked into the station and right onto a train!  The one bit of pre-planning we did – me going to the metro station a few days early and securing fare cards for both of us – really paid off as there was a line of people waiting to get their fare cards.  It was nothing like it would be later in the day – people waited over an hour just to get their fare cards! 

It’s another story for another time (it’s a great story that makes me very happy, but has nothing do with the rally!) but I had a pink flamingo hat from my Halloween costume and I decided that it would be fun to wear the hat at the rally.  The flamingo had no real significance whatsoever, but it was fun! Random flamingos are always funny! As we got on the metro the people behind us remarked about the flamingo!  It was one of the ladies’ favorite animal!  She even took my picture to send to her daughter!  We started chatting and had a few good laughs!  I wore the flamingo hat for the pre-show but when we sang the national anthem I took it off and then realized how hot it was! 

We arrived at L’Enfant Metro station at 9:20 and waited about 30 minutes for Keith and Virginia to arrive from Vienna.  There was a steady stream of people headed to the rally but it wasn’t that busy yet.  We walked up the street and right onto the mall and into the rally area.   We quickly found a good spot, right in front of one of the big jumbotrons! We were between the National Gallery and the Air & Space Museum, closer to the museum. We had a view of the actual stage, but we couldn’t see what was going on. 

Right after we got there we all pulled out our phones to check in on Foursquare or Facebook.   There were so many people there that the cellular networks were overloaded and not working!  I finally was able to check in on Foursquare through the Official Rally App using the free public Wifi.  When I checked in I unlocked 5 new badges, including the “Epic Swarm” badge – that’s when more than 1,000 Foursquare users check in at the same place!

We settled in and watched all the people who were streaming into the rally area.  There were some awesome signs!  Everyone was encouraged to bring a sign and there was a wide range of signs from the silly to serious.  Some were political, others were just goofy, others just had good ideas!  I took pictures of the ones I saw that I liked, and there are a bunch of others here:

Right before the actual rally began the Mythbusters did a pre-rally show.  We did the wave and all jumped simultaneously to see if it would show up on the seismograph and we did the 200,000 person “cheek pop”.   They showed live views of the crowd on the jumbotrons – there were packed people from the Capitol building to the Washington Monument! We could see the steps of National Gallery and they were PACKED with people!  So many people every where!

The actual rally was almost a parody of other rallies!  There were poems, a benedictions, awards, musical performances, and celebrity guests, all kinda silly, but still getting to the point that what’s really silly is how crazy politics and Americans in general have gotten. 

When the rally ended we’d planned to just stay put for 20-30 minutes to let people clear out but somehow we didn’t.  We packed up and started heading toward the American Indian Museum.  We’d naively thought that there wouldn’t be anyone there.  HA!  Since we’d gotten there so early and so painlessly and then hadn’t moved, we really had no concept of just how many people were packed into the National Mall area!  The streets and sidewalks were packed!  We could barely walk! The flamingo hat came in very handy!  I lead the way and everyone followed me!  We were holding on to each other clothing and bags, but still the flamingo hat made it easy to stay together!  We headed over to the museum anyway in hopes of getting some food and finding a bathroom that didn’t have someone sitting on it! (yes people had climbed on top of the porta potties to get a view of the stage!) Our hopes were quickly dashed when we saw the line to get in!  So much for that! 

None of our phones were working, even the free public wifi on the Mall wasn’t working.  So we struck out in hopes of finding something!  We headed down 3rd away from the mall and very soon the crowd thinned out, however, there was really nothing down there. We finally got one of our iPhones to work and found a McDonald’s nearby and headed to it.  By this point we were all getting a little cranky and tired so it got a little tense.   We finally got to the McDonalds and after waiting in line for 10 minutes to finally use the bathroom with the extremely sticky floor and only one functioning toilet, and water so scalding hot you couldn’t get your hands under it(I really should have just taken my chances hiding in the bushes in front of the Health and Human Services Department building!) I felt a lot better!

We went back and forth on what to do next – we didn’t really want to try and get back on the metro, but there weren’t many options for places to hang out.  Finally we decided to accept my friends Matthew & Michael’s invitation to come over to Michael’s place on Capitol Hill to hang for awhile.  Keith and Virginia weren’t up to walking all the way over there and really wanted food so we decided to part ways. 

Andy and I headed back toward the Mall – there were still people hanging around, but for the most part the crowed had all headed out.  We got a little lost – thank you Google Maps for 1) not loading (the cellular service was still a bit wonky) and 2) when you did load you lead us the wrong way! We finally used the “phone app” on our pocket computers and Matthew helped us find the place!

It was awesome to hang with Michael & Matthew and their friends for a little while!  They had the 3 things we needed most – a plug for Andy’s phone, a place to sit, and water! (Not having any access to a bathroom all day lead all of us to avoid drinking and we were a bit dehydrated!).  We hung out there until about 6:30 and then headed back to the metro. 

The closest metro station was Union Station so we walked the 5 or 6 blocks over there and got on a red line train.  We had to switch to a blue train at Metro Center and when we arrived at Metro Center the train we were on was PACKED!  We were trying to get off and everyone was pushing and shoving.  There was a man in wheelchair who’d gotten on at Union Station with us.  He was with 4 other people and I’d noticed they were all talking in sign language.  When we arrived at Metro Center the man in the wheelchair and his friends were trying to get off the train, but there were soooo many people they couldn’t get off.  And, because they were deaf they couldn’t yell “move it” or ask people to move.  Like a moron I asked one of the friends if they were trying to get off?  Then I got smart and motioned to the door and the gal nodded that “yes” they were getting off. So I said “Hey, can you all let this guy through” and promptly everyone near the door parted ways for the man in the wheelchair to get out.  The only problem was the people in the back didn’t see and they started yelling and pushing.  We all yelled back “chill out, we’ve got a wheelchair here!” They mostly stopped but there was still a crush of people getting off!  I finally got spewed out on the platform and stepped back to wait for Andy.  He was one of the last to get off the train and he later told me that the door closed on his leg!  He said he pulled out pretty quick, and that the door opened again right after he pulled it out!

Considering that was our only real metro issue on a day when there were 215,000 people in DC for a rally, I say it was awesome!

We finally made it back to Springfield a little after 8:00 and drug ourselves to Andy’s car! Our legs were not willing to carry us even a foot further!

It was a great day!  Fun rally!  Great ideas to think about! Fun times with good friends! :-) 

See Virginia's Rally pictures here: