Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Infamous Purple Tickets

Imagine waking at 4am EDT after falling asleep just three hours before, partially for completing a 5-hour drive through traffic from NYC, partially for staying up to chat with welcoming friends who offered accommodations for fellowship. Imagine joining an early-morning stampede on the Metro, scrambling yet patiently biding lines with 1.7M other revelers clogging every conceivable train, plane, car, bus, bike, and pedestrian route into Washington DC. Imagine facing pre-dawn winds that blustered and drove temperatures well below zero, even if those measured temperatures neglected to measure a bone-rattling wind chill factor. Imagine exiting the Metro to face a wall of revelers, altogether commiserate but undeniably determined to bear witness to the noontime event that would mark a new chapter in American history. Imagine forming a strange brotherhood with same revelers while fighting every inch of advancement to the entrance gate, moving with the grit that some describe wartime front advancements amidst gunfire and shrapnel. Imagine fighting the totality of weather and crowds for hours on end, all the way from 6am to 11am EDT before reaching the entrance gate. Imagine the profound sense of disappointment when said gate was closed and not accepting any entrants for any reason. Imagine holding the official inaugural ticket in shivering hands, a supposed golden ticket (purple, in fact, of the Official Inaugural Celebration variety) that held little value from that moment forward. Imagine the build-up and excitement dissipating as no other places were available to bear witness directly with own eyes as little time was left before start of ceremonies. Imagine the extreme frustration of discovering that many people without official tickets clogged the area and inevitably blocked entrance to those with tickets, inevitably taking seats to which they were not entitled. Imagine staring at those official tickets and wondering what a morning of such highs and lows really meant when the inauguration was out of sight and out of reach.

An uncommon fate that befell our delegates on Inauguration Day, but the event was not a loss. With the excitement of a city that had never seen the same size crowd before - and arguably never again in our lifetimes - there were many logistical blunders that were left unreported. Both lax and overzealous crowd control from a security staff that was not always equipped to handle mega rallies such as what became of the Inauguration. People with medical conditions, some of which led to ambulance arrivals and further confusion. Onlookers trapped by barricades and made to wait for hours while others whose luck placed them more favorably on the Mall were able to exit with relatively minimal delay.

These stories became part of the historic fabric woven from the experiences of thousands who were took part in the day that unfolded - including the heart-breaking events that awaited those who held infamous Purple Tickets. Turns out that our delegates had plenty of company in their state of heartbreak with the countless other Purple ticketholders who experienced the same fate. I had to chuckle as the inauguration balls following the ceremony turned up a number of hapless Inauguration Day stories, and the common thread tying most of these accounts of misfortune together? Purple tickets...
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