6am, I’m late getting started, as usual. I don the tight lycra, heat-holding undergarments my aunt bought me. Looking in the mirror I see an obese Sandy Duncan. It’s not a good moment.
On the red line from Dupont Circle to Union Station. Our third stop, Metro Center, looks like a scene from the sack of Rome. We flee.
Outside Union Station, 7:30am. A line of port-a-potties; all but two are locked. But toilet paper in abundance.
Hawkers on the street sell buttons, hats, T-shirts. The best line: "It’s cold outside, but these buttons are HOT!"
The ticket lines must look like a swarming ant hill from above. The yellow line stretches so far from back from its gate that it has begun to merge with the purple line. Not a cop or event organizer to be seen. The group around me clings to a tall figure wearing a stovetop hat, whom we begin to refer to as Abraham Lincoln. We proceed with good humor and patience.
Ten minutes later it is almost impossible to move in the area at all. People won’t let a wheelchair through. For a few minutes things are so tight it feels a little scary. Line cohesion begins to dissolve. A quick decision -- obey the rules or acknowledge the chaos around us and bolt?
See you later, Honest Abe.
8am, the line still not moving and people merging from everywhere. I text a friend, "I don’t think I’m getting in."
He texts back: Yes you can.
Believe it or not, the line starts to move.
Upon reaching the gate, the temperature begins to drop precipitously. Everyone begins opening up little teabag-like packets that heat upon exposure to the air. Warning labels indicate you should not place them directly against your skin, your eyes (?) or in your mouth, because of the amount of heat they generate. Most of us find them lukewarm. I regret I haven’t worn another layer. For some reason the thought triggers the memory of me in the mirror. Another unpleasant moment.
Jim McDermott, S.J.