This weekend, I headed down to Washington, DC, for the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, hosted by none other than Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. More important, though, given I live just outside the city, was the chance to go home and see my family, including my sister’s cat, Sheesha:
And this is proof positive why I would rather have a cat than a child. Cats die maybe two weeks after they stop being cute. Children live – what? – maybe eighty years after they cease being cute?
Another aside: do be sure that if you have a flight at Logan at 6:45pm that you leave MIT well before 5:45pm. If you choose to ignore my advice, you will not make your flight. Even though it’s rush hour, the Silver Line to the airport will burn you, coming only once every ten minutes. Even though you don’t have any carry-ons, the guard who is supposed to simply check to see whether your ID matches the name on your boarding pass will feel it’s his duty to chat about the Yankees and the Red Sox with the person in front of you. And, of course, as you leave the security checkpoint, your laptop bag will tip over, spilling all its contents onto the ground. Then again, you might be lucky enough to be put into business class on the following flight because there are no other seats available.
Also, let me say for the record that this is the first time in my four years I’ve been home on a random weekend like this. I go home for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Spring Break (hardly even over the summer), but I never go home on a weekend despite living so close (relatively speaking).
But the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear had become a phenomenon on its own right, and a number of friends from home, MIT comrades, and MIT alums were heading down to the festivities on the National Mall. So, I couldn’t pass up on the excuse to go home – especially at Halloween. I’ll spare you the details about what happened on Friday – it just involves doing work for 1.00 and having a friend’s car suddenly stop while driving down I-95 – but Saturday, well, was quite an adventure.
I departed from how at about 11am with my sister, only to happen about the – well – insanity caused by the rally. Outside the Metro station was a long line extended down the street composed of unwise out-of-towners who didn’t have SmarTrip cards or otherwise didn’t get their farecards in advance.
Meanwhile, my sister and I, with our local insight, had our SmarTrip cards ready to suavely go through the fare gates. It didn’t quite work that way, because for the umpteenth time my SmarTrip stopped working (never happens in Boston, by the way). Thankfully, the station officer said the line was too long and let me go in for free ($2.40 saved!).
Estimates for the crowd attending were at nearly a quarter million, but the D.C. Metro was sadly ill-prepared. They were still running their pathetic Saturday service, which sees, at times, only one train every fifteen minutes. Hence, this miserable sight, and the packed-worse-than-vacuum-sealed-sardines trains:
Look at the platforms, just look at them! If you didn’t get on the train at one of the suburban stops, you weren’t getting on at all; there were simply too many people.
I had intended to meet up with several current MIT students or MIT alums, but finding our way through the crowd was difficult enough. Further, it seemed as if the cellular networks were jammed with rallygoers posting realtime Facebook updates about the event and CNN reporters Twittering about the breaking news on the National Mall. So, I couldn’t even call them.
And while organizers had intended to only accommodate a crowd for four blocks, they ended up taking up ten blocks of the National Mall, plus a number of adjacent streets. The side effect is that a number of people couldn’t hear or see anything, forcing some people to scale trees or, worse, portable toilets (I was so hoping for one of those to cave in). At one point, the crowd even began to chant “Louder! Louder!” Either way, it was quite amusing to look at the signs. If you’re easily offended, hide your kids and hide your wife.
I was considering adding Halloween to my blog post, but it was a rather quiet Halloween in my neighborhood. When I was in high school – i.e. too old to be trick-or-treating (ahem…) – it was tradition for me to sit outside in a chair pretending to be a scarecrow and then jump out on unsuspecting kids. Having been at MIT all these years, I have not been able to satiate my appetite for little children screaming. But, this year, I was able to reprise my role, restoring fear in the hearts and minds of children. I didn’t even think I looked fake, but, my, children can be gullible. Some of those screams were of Wilhelm caliber, and one girl in particular was clutching to the side of the house in unabated horror with a scream that caused some boys down the street who I scared a bit earlier to break out in laughter.
Sadly, there weren’t too many people out in my neighborhood trick-or-treating, so I had to be satisfied with the ten sets of kids (and parents) who I managed to startle. But I’ll take what I can get.