For the past weeks, the news here in Charm City has been permeated by the eminent visitation of our president-elect. I am a bit hesitant to adopt extreme partisanship when it comes to politics, because we must remember that the government is comprised of politicians: people whose job entails making you believe that he/she is a saint among sinners. However, I must admit that Barack Obama is already on his way to endearing himself in the hearts and minds of Americans. His ability to bring the government to the people astounds me, and though it may be an illusion, I feel that this man actually cares what I, personally, think. Take a look at his web site: http://change.gov/ Here, you can volunteer to take part in the campaign, read the Obama blog, and share your ideas in the "Citizens Briefing Book". Surely, these ideas are read by random interns or aides with their own agendas....but what else can a president do to connect to the common man? And now? He is coming to visit my own little neck of the woods.
And what do I do? I take an alternate route into the city. Yes, that's right. I pay $4 to avoid the first politician I have dared to trust. For most of the day, I have been feeling like a hypocrite - I talk like I like this president, and when he comes to speak, I don't even bother to see him in person. Honestly, if the weather was better, I would have gone. Despite the horror of traffic/parking conditions. Despite the lack of decent public transportation options in this city. Despite the apparent body cavity search, and the possible confiscation of my thermos of hot beverage and/or hand warmers. And despite the fact that people were seated at 1pm for a 15 minute (correction: 11 minute) speech to take place three hours and fifteen minutes later. Yes, I would have endured these things. But it is f-ing COLD outside! Eleven degrees to be exact, and though it holds no candle to the minus 44 in North Dakota, it's enough to make me whine. (Actually, I begin imparting my misery to anyone within earshot at about 28 degrees...)
I was in the city early this morning, volunteering as a judge for the annual Future City Competition. This is for 7th and 8th graders, intended to teach middle schoolers about engineering and promote the career choice. The kids do a lot of work, and I really enjoy interacting with them, hearing their creative (and sometimes off the wall) ideas for infrastructure, transportation, and environmental resourcefulness in cities of the future. The competition location has an excellent view of the downtown area of Baltimore, and the harbor was eerily empty this morning. No boats, save a fire truck around 11am, and not even any wind. Ice was formed over a shady section. Likewise, there was no traffic on this side of the city - few cars, and even fewer air traffic of course. It was sort of like a ghost town, and even when I went to the recycling center, there was no one there. I guess all the hype about how horrendous it would be to move around when the president visited hit home. No one went out.
I began to think that maybe poor Mr. Obama would be talking to an empty plaza. I began to think I should turn back and read the obnoxiously confusing signs in Federal Hill to find a parking space. (Seriously - they read something like "No parking from 7am to 7pm the first Monday through Sunday of each month with 31 days on opposite side of street and 2 hour parking at other times except within 45 minutes of a stadium event in which case you better have a resident sticker." Misreading of said notice - or god forbid not knowing when the Orioles have a home game - costs $42. But I digress.) Then I saw the electronic sign over the interstate: "Inauguration event at capacity. Overflow to Inner Harbor." This means that the plaza holding 30000 people where Obama is to appear is full one hour before the scheduled seating time, and the remaining people must go to a site three blocks away to view the speech on a huge big screen tv. Living room, here I come.
I nearly missed the speech, which started at 4:15pm, because I turned on the tv at 4:23. It is now 5:42pm, and I hear people are still trying to get out of the city. I? Am feeling a lot better about my choice.