Forewarned about how hard it would be to get into Washington, D.C., this morning (I live in Alexandria, Va., across the Potomac from the city), I arrive at the Braddock Road Metro Station at around 6:15, immediately getting on a train. The crowd is not rush-hour level, yet, but was still more than one would expect at this hour on a typical morning. It is ordinarily an 18-minute ride to Foggy Bottom, in D.C.
I think I might have layered too much, one passenger tells his traveling companions. The train pauses at the Ronald Reagan National Airport stop and the conductor announces over the loudspeaker that we'll be pausing until he gets the all-clear to move—there's a backup ahead.
Too-Layered Guy moves over to the open Metro door, grateful for the cold wind blowing in, and enjoys it for a few seconds. Once again we are waiting to get permission to move out of the D.C. backup, the conductor announces. Meanwhile, I'm going to close these doors so we don't freeze. Too-Layered Guy laughs as he moves away from the now-closed doors. He can't catch a break.
Another passenger, wearing glasses, a black sweatshirt with an American flag, black knit cap with "Obama inauguration" on it and cowboy boots under his khakis, sits with two large suitcases. He doesn't get off at the airport stop, spurring a post-9/11 "hmmmmm" from me. After five minutes at the airport, we're off again.
Another long delay at the Pentagon Metro stop as people, over-bundled and excited, start to get a bit weird. A woman sitting near me starts to survey the rest of the train through binoculars.
More delays. The latest is on the above-ground track between the Pentagon and Arlington Cemetery, the landscape barely visible in the dim light of pre-dawn. The track is on an incline, making standing uncomfortable.
After National Cemetery we slow make our way to and through the Rosslyn station. "The next station is Foggy Bottom, your first stop in Washington, D.C.," the conductor tells the now-packed train. "We gettin' there." There is much laughter.
We arrive at Foggy Bottom at 7:15 a.m. and the conductor encourages the passengers to walk from here. I'm not saying it's a short walk, he says, but it's a nice walk. There is much laughter.
I do get off here, heading not to the Mall but to U.S. News's Georgetown office. I am fighting a tide of humanity: Virtually everyone else on the streets is walking east, toward the Mall and the Obama era.
I pass a homeless person wrapped in a thin blanket against the biting cold. I have the audacity to ask for change! he announces to passers-by. In Washington, D.C., even the homeless have talking points.