I saw my first Redditor on the line at Port Authority. I handed him a sample soap, he looked at it and said "Uh, thanks..." smelled it, and I walked away.
So, we get to the station.
At this point, we'll be discussing the pain.
My legs were hurting already, because of the way I was sitting.
I got off the bus and felt like a pilgrim in an unholy land.
Ok, not really.
I walked for a bit until I couldn't figure out where I was supposed to be heading. Luckily, I fell in with that Redditor and his buddy, and he gets out his iPhone and a GPS app. "This way, gentlemen!" he said in an authoritative voice, pointing. If he had a barrel, or a fallen enemy, or perhaps a wild animal, he would have put a triumphant foot upon it.
Maybe spear a flag into the ground.
So, we started walking. Fast. I'm carrying 30lbs of soap, you know? But I'm keeping up a good pace. I mention the bag after these University boys ask me if it's full of beer. Sigh. No, it's not. This is the Rally to Restore Sanity, not get drunk and act like morons.
For some reason this reminds me of a scene from Spinal Tap.
Ian Faith: The Boston gig has been cancelled...
David St. Hubbins: What?
Ian Faith: Yeah. I wouldn't worry about it though, it's not a big college town.
Sigh. No, not beer. It's 35lbs of soap!
So, we get to walking, and we can hear echos. Echos of yelling. Music. Crowds. Pretty unreal.
We keep walking. Now, let's see if I can detail how far of a walk it was. Let me get a map.
Ok, so, we walked from the bus station (red circle) to down the National Mall.
I lost them about half way there. A woman started talking to me and asking me if I was glad to be there. I said I was, but was upset I was missing the rally. She said that didn't matter. I agreed and disagreed.
She said she had been to three different inaugurations, for Clinton, Bush, and Obama. She said she hadn't seen that many people at any of those, than she did at the Rally. I thought that was pretty unreal.
So. I'm all alone. I have a 40lb bag of soap and people keep bumping into me. I even said "Hey, I'm just the guy with the 45lb bag of soap. COME ON!"
I walked back to 3rd and Madison.
Feeling forever alone, I sat on a rock and watched two daschunds play for a bit. I watched people walk around, and I desperately looked for Redditors, whom I did not find. There was no enjoying the show. I couldn't hear anything, I couldn't see anything, and the crowd, while well mannered, was too thick to walk at a respectable gait.
At this point, I spoke with my girlfriend, then my mom, updating them on my day. I sat on the rock for a bit, people watched, took some video, and was then struck with an irony so deep, so sad, that I had to call my girlfriend again.
"You do realize that while you're in the comfort of our apartment, lounging, watching television, you're able to enjoy the Rally, while I'm actually AT the rally, and I can't enjoy it?"
I started crying.
So, she said "Well, I saw this report earlier about people in Washington, DC, people who actually live there, who said they were going to go to the Rally, saw the trains were packed to the gills, and decided not to go, so why don't you head over to that restaurant I told you about, and get some food, then head to the after party."
She's so smart.
So, that's what I did.
She asks me where I am. I tell her. She goes on google and finds me the closest metro station. I say great. Which way is North?
"You can see the sun, right?"
I said yeah.
"So, figure out where North is."
"I... what, do I look like an Arawak?" (I just started reading Zinn's History of the United States)
Sigh, ok, I'll say something funnier.
"I... what do I look like, a..."
Shit, I've got nothing. I said "I could tell you what time it is..."
"Just figure it out. Go here, go left, go left again, it's right there."
So I say ok. I hang up and go to the first official looking person I can find, which is an ambulance driver. She says "That way. Bend to the left. It's Union Station. That's the closest."
See, now, I didn't know where the hell I was. Union Station sounds like, you know, a good place to go.
The problem was, Union station was all the way back near the goddamn bus station. Here I am, carrying 40lbs of soap... but I didn't realize I was heading in the direction I came from. So I walk back.
I know that white line might be hard to see, but that's the way back.
I stop someone on the way, ask her if I'm heading in the right direction. She says yes. I ask how far. She says about a third of a mile.
Here's where the rest of the pain starts. I've given away, at this point, 1 sample bar.
I'm holding 45lbs of soap and my messenger bag. I feel like I'm slowly dying. I feel like I'm on the second day of The Long Walk and Vegas odds have me buying the farm next.
Once at Union Station, I took the red line to Dupont Circle. The train was empty. So empty that I was able to get a seat, which was awesome. Sitting down was like shutting off the switch on the electric chair, and still being alive.
But not for long.
I had five stops until Dupont. The first stop... not so bad.
The second stop must have been just shy of the mall. In retrospect, I'm happy the ambulance driver told me to walk to Union Station, because this is what it felt like two stops in:
It was insane.
Three stops later, I was able to push myself out, using my 50lb bag of soap as a battering ram. No one smelled as good, or felt as run over, as those did in my path.
Out of the train, I felt I could not only breathe again, but that my blood lust had suddenly dissipated.
Out at Dupont Circle I was able to find my way thanks to a local Washington resident, made my way around the Circle and found myself on Connecticut Avenue. There, I found the coolest place in town.
Now, I hadn't been in town that long, you know, but it's safe to say that there is no place cooler than Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe, who have an awesome place, but wow, what a crappy website...
I got in looking to get a cup of coffee and maybe a dessert or something, I don't know. I had a fresh copy of Howard Zinn's book with me, and I wanted to make a dent in it before the after party. So, I head to the reservation desk and I meet Annie, a very nice young lady who is taking seat requests. One for 3, one for 4, one for 2. I walk up and put one finger up in the air and look sheepishly tired. She smiles. "Just one?"
"Please. I've been wearing the same underwear for twelve hours."
"Oh, in that case, half an hour."
"For chrissake, is there any place other than starbucks I can get a cup of coffee and sit down?"
She thinks for a minute, beckons me closer. "Try Dupont Cafe, across the street."
"Thanks," I say, and head over.
Well, no. That place felt like if I didn't have an MBA, I was not welcome. Also, it was empty. Sure sign.
I walk back. "Yeah, listen, don't ever send anyone over there again, ok? I felt like I needed an MBA to walk in there," I said. I know I already said it to you, but in the interest of full disclosure.
She laughed, looked at her sheet. "Ok, I'm gonna put you in front of all these people."
"Wow, ok," I said, and dug deep into my bag of samples and grabbed her a full bar of Soapert soap. "Here," I said.
"What is this?"
"Soap. It's for the Colbert Rally, for some friends of mine. I only brought 5 of them, so, you know, don't use it. Don't even look at it. Just, you know, smell it."
"Wow, so, I can sell it on eBay for thousands of dollars?"
"No, jeez, it's just soap."
I got a table about three minutes later. You didn't know, did you, that I was so charismatic and charming? Did you!?
So, yeah, I sit down, and Anne comes to my table. No, not Anne, I mean Jen! Jen, yeah.
We talk for a moment, I order decaf coffee and apple pie ala mode. And it was awesome.
I read for a bit, and Anne/Jen comes over and says "Hey, my friend is a big fan of Reddit."
So, I tell her the story of Soapier, and I give her some samples for her and her Reddit friend, who thanked me on Reddit. That was awesome.
The bag does not feel lighter. In fact, after sitting, it felt like I went into default mode, back to a weaker state of being.
I leave and head over to the One Lounge, across the street. I get there and I find more of those amazing inventions...