Inaugural tip #2 – Make sure you go – before you go

Immediately following Barack Obama’s Election Day victory over John McCain, I contacted Florida Senator Bill Nelson’s office requesting tickets to the Inauguration. Apparently, so did thousands of others.

The first email I received from his office informed me of that fact, one that I had already surmised. I was told that I would be informed after January 5th, if I was chosen to receive a lucky pair of tickets. I thought of Willy Wonka and the Golden Ticket.

On December 19th, I received this follow up email from Senator Nelson’s office:

Dear Friend:

Judging by the level of interest in attending President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration, a wave of excitement is sweeping our country.

This excitement translated into my office receiving tens of thousands of ticket requests for the swearing-in ceremony. With such an unprecedented number and only a few hundred tickets allocated to each member of Congress, it is impossible to accommodate the number of requests.

However, you still can be an eyewitness to this historic ceremony from a vantage point in sight of our nation’s Capitol.

In keeping with a pledge to make this inauguration one of the most open and accessible in history, the president-elect has announced that, for the first time, the entire length of the National Mall will be opened to the public. Also, there will be many other festivities surrounding the Jan. 20, 2009 inauguration. To learn more, please visit

Meantime, I wish you and yours a very happy holiday season – and, all the best in the New Year.

I had also read that 2 million people were expected to descend on Washington DC for the festivities. The highest number I had heard was 3 million.

The idea of being confined in a massive crowd no longer excited me. Being in my mid-forties, I have had my share of large crowds – but 2 million seemed insane.

A few years ago, my wife and I went DC on July 4th. We twice went through security checkpoints and successfully secured a nice grassy spot against the Capitol wall. Palettes of water bottles were placed on the scene but were quickly snatched up leaving my wife and me without any water. I had an empty water bottle from earlier in the day and found a water fountain that filled my bottle with warm water. This was the only option as street vendors who would sell water bottles were not permitted within the area and departing the grounds to seek out water didn’t guarantee re-entry.

The tepid water was all we had. I happily drank the water, grateful for the fluid while my wife chose to lie on the grass in a near unconscious state until nightfall – when the concert began. Thankfully, neither of us needed to use the restroom – or Porto-potty.

And this was when there were only thousands on hand for the concert and fireworks and not the millions that are expected Tuesday.

They are recommending people come equipped with their own supplies including toilet paper. You do the math: 500 Porto-potties for 2 million people – 1 outdoor temporary facility for every 400 people.

Do they even have enough Porto-potties on hand?

“We think we’ve reached an appropriate number and can accommodate the crowds,” said Kevin Griffis, a spokesman for the Presidential Inaugural Committee, a privately funded organization that is picking up the cost.

Don John’s Conrad Harrell was confident there will be enough port-a-potties. “Absolutely,” he said. “Absolutely.”

One can only imagine the stench by the end of the day. With yesterday’s Obama-stock drawing thousands by the Lincoln Memorial and whatever is taking place today – can we really expect all five thousand to be cleaned by tomorrow?

A friend told me that he heard that people should also consider bringing items to store their own bodily waste. I pictured myself either being the psychotic astronaut and wearing a diaper, or putting a funnel on and carrying a large coke bottle with me (a homemade catheter if you will).

Yes, the Smithsonian buildings will have their bathrooms available but imagine the lines. People WITH tickets are being told to get their around 7 am and no later than 9. The inauguration begins at noon.

I need my morning cup of coffee or two. And I’ll need water. If I was staying in Virginia or Maryland and took the Metro into DC, my last bathroom break probably was 6 am. If you figure that the swearing-in ceremony ends at say 1pm – the amount of time it would take for 2 million people to exit the city by Metro – we’re looking at ‘holding it’ until 3 pm.

The diaper or catheter idea is sounding good and I can not fathom the conditions of the Porto-potties by 2pm. Just be grateful that the weather is closer to freezing rather than closer to the 90’s.

While 2 million OR MORE people will be sitting in DC most of whom will be watching this historic event on a large screen television hoping that they don’t have to ‘go’, I’ll be sitting at home on my couch watching the inauguration with some close friends and family. If one of us has to use the restroom, I can hit the pause button on my TiVo and wait for their return.

Though it would have been glorious to be in attendance, I think I’ll reflect joyously as I got to watch the event in the privacy of my own home and not have to share a bathroom break with 2 million of my new closest friends.



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