Our day began painfully early, especially considering that we had been up until after 2 getting home from a Frightened Rabbit concert the night before. Jenna woke me up at about 5:30, and we got the crew together and ready to go by a few minutes after 6. I could tell the metro was going to be packed because as we walked down from Dan's house to the Columbus Heights stop in the freezing predawn, folks kept pouring out of houses and joining us on the way there. Little trickles of people were coming from all the side roads, accumulating at every intersection.
We barely missed the first metro that came by and had to wait a little anxiously as the crowd grew, and grew, and grew, before the next train arrived. We had to push a little to fit in, and several folks pushed up behind us to get on. I didn't have enough personal space to get my arms up so I let other people's shoulders hold me up when the train departed.
At each station that we stopped at a few more people managed to squeeze on. When we got to our destination we stepped off the train and saw...wall-to-wall people leading to the escalators and up to the turnstiles. In DC you have to swipe your metro card on the way out and this caused a pretty serious bottleneck as people jammed up against those turnstiles and fumbled through heavy coats for their cards.
We were a few blocks away from our entry point, which was the Blue Gate. Every ticket had a color that indicated which section you'd be in, and each section had a correspondingly named gate. The blue section was one of the closer sections, well in front of the reflecting pool and maybe only about 100 yards back. (This turned out not to matter later as we didn't have a direct line of sight and had to watch the huge monitors like people further back, but we didn't know that yet and were still full of Hope©.) As we got closer to our gate the crowd got thicker until we reached a t-stop near one of the silver gates and came upon a thick, nearly impenetrable wall of people waiting for the gate to open. We had to go single file and snake our way shoulder-to-shoulder through the crowd, weaving in a curvy path through and around. Other people joined our line as we made our way, and at one point I was a few people behind Jenna and Travis and Dan and I realized I could very easily lose them completely, even in plain sight, and next time I caught up with them I should grab my ticket from Jenna and keep it on myself from then on.
After about fifteen minutes curving around, we finally broke through the other side of the mass of people and could take our place at the end of the blue line. It was wrapped around the side of some large government building, and so we were actually facing *away* from the capitol when we got in line. It wouldn't be the last time we weren't what was going on or if we were in the right place. It was about 7:15am now, and the gates were supposed to open at 8.
Now that we were no longer moving, the biting early-morning cold really started to sink in. The night before we had tried to buy some of those chemical hand-warmers from the CVS but were told that all the stores in the area had already sold out of them, and I was really wishing I had thought to wear more clothes. I put the collar of my pea coat up to keep the wind out a little, and I put on my ear warmer under my hat, but the chilly air still cut right through.
The worst of the cold didn't come from the air but from the ground. We were standing on marble, and the cold from the stone seeped up through our soles. Everyone around us who hadn't thought to wear big thick boots was stamping their feet to keep warm.
[to be continued tomorrow]