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The Inauguration from the view of the huddled masses

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As the glasses of champagne clinked in elegant Inaugural Balls, the masses who crowded the Mall and lined the parade route soaked tired bones trying to rid themselves of the chill or slowly made their way home on winding highways in buses that smelled faintly of port-a-potties, but the one thing these people shared (other than the hope of spotting Beyoncé) was the celebration of the 57th Presidential Inauguration.

While the speeches and parade were televised for all the world, the experience of being there was something else entirely, and seeing as this country is supposed to be a “for the people, by the people” kind of thing anyway, we thought we’d let you see it from the bottom up since the combination of President Barack Obama’s swearing in for a second term falling on the same day as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was too much for a former history teacher with a hankering for road trips to resist.

Going to a city like D.C. during a major event like this one can seem like craziness, but if you’re willing to go with flow, it’s likely to take you exactly where you need to go. A good start for out-of-towners driving in, though, is a Metro Station that offers parking.

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(Note the Port-o-Potties; they’re a running theme for the masses and definitely a humbling, if necessary, experience.)

Despite having plenty of practice operating transit machines, a lack of sleep may have led the plentiful staff in the station to assume I was lost, which was fine because not only did they lead me to an open machine, but did everything but pay for the ticket. All I needed was a lollipop to make it the perfect customer service experience.

On the train was the first hint that there was excitement in the air, thanks to the manicures of the mother-daughter duo sitting in front of me. Though the daughter noted their 4th of July designs were far more elaborate, they were still happy to show them off.

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That was far from the only example of family bonding on the ground at the Inauguration festivities, as pictures of the First Family could be seen on everything from reusable shopping bags to pins to pictures being sold by the vendors reminding us all that we are nothing if not a capitalist country.

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One constituency that might need to be considered in the next election is that of sock monkey lovers, which kept popping up all over the place as well, be they on hats or in the hands of children. While this young girl’s mother was intent on sharing the historic occasion with her offspring, the girl herself admitted the experience wouldn’t have been complete without her little pals.

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If 2016’s candidates don’t believe the sock monkey crowd will clinch the election, though, they could always turn to the aliens in a pinch. Sadly, this was the only one I spotted who was willing to come out of the ship, so to speak, but times, they are a-changin’, and, as we’ve seen, the tide of public opinion can turn within a term or two.

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Speaking of tides, I mentioned that going with the flow was the key to getting around, and the way the Capitol was set up, there wasn’t much choice in the matter. From the station, I was swept into the crowd going to the Mall without quite realizing what was happening.

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Fortunately, I was able to step out and grab a quick cup of coffee…just like everyone else.

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The vendors seemed to anticipate the wants of the target audience for President Obama’s announcement that confronting climate change was high on his second-term agenda and must have made a killing on the reusable shopping bags. Their popularity may eventually offset some of the paper waste.

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The award for the best souvenir of the day, though, goes to the Obama condom, which speaks for itself.

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The award for most likely to give you nightmares (unless you’re of the opinion that the election was more than enough to do so) was a tie between this terrifying, Lord of the Flies-inspired piece…

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…and the modern take on the Nixon masks so beloved by Hollywood bank robbers.

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Lest you think there weren’t temptations for the family crowd, PBS lovers could dip into their pledge money fund for a pin and lovers of all ages could snuggle up under the watchful eye of the 44th President.

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What I did miss in this huge gathering was the protestors, who may have been pushed off the beaten path where security was directing the flow of traffic, but it was odd not to even glimpse an anarchist or two in the crowd much less hear the chanting that remind us what the First Amendment is all about and what the President has yet to accomplish during his time in office.

One exception was the driver of this bike taxi, whose sign read “Will sell soul for power (like they all have)”.

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What few signs were being carried through the crowd were much like this one that seemed to sum up the spirit of the day. In fact, the person to whom they belonged was loaning them out for photo ops to passerby.

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Security was high, as can be expected, as military vehicles closed off the streets around the Mall, but occasionally sunny skies and very subtly-placed snipers kept the mood festive rather than oppressive.

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The Federal government is often accused of wasteful spending, but one thing they did remarkably right was the clever use of port-o-potties surrounding the area in front of Capitol Building where enormous screens were set up for the standing-room only crowd to see the swearing-in. With police stationed all over the city monitoring crowd-flow, keeping everyone within the cordons on the Mall could have been a nightmare, but an army of conveniences stood guard, providing plenty of facilities and a barrier no one was tempted to mess with.

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Seeing the snickers and comments elicited every time someone on the monitors said “You may now be seated,” there’s a good chance a few of those bathrooms were also being used as impromptu seating whether the occupants intended it or not. The early-risers who had laid down blankets didn’t stand a chance of defending their territory against the crush of people.

I eventually ended up with a pretty good position near the carousel, where the biggest applause was reserved for Eva Longoria, former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden (familiarly referred to as simply “Joe”), and, of course, ourselves.

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Yep, that’s a picture of a bunch of people taking pictures of the crowd we’re smack-dab in the middle of. Yay, America!

Though some commented the screens could have been better placed or bigger, the best seats in the house for the masses were still reserved for the kids with a set of sturdy shoulders providing a boost.

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Thanks to a dying cell phone battery, we’ve come to the end of our pictorial tale of the 57th Inauguration, though we would like to give a shout-out to the delightful ladies of the USO who came out to entertain those of us standing at the end of the parade route, the charming Austrian mother who got a picture of the police cars that somehow managed to get into an accident on almost empty streets, everyone who kept us apprised of the parade’s progress via smartphones, and, of course, all those charged with the hefty responsibility of maintaining law and order.

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Next time around, maybe we’ll run into you, too, in the nation’s capitol.

Kicking off another term for Barack Obama.

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