So today was the Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, held on the National Mall in Washingt0n DC.
When the respective rallies were announced - before being merged - I thought, "Well, I really ought to go, seeing as how close I am to DC."
Of course, I was reluctant to do so by myself, so I'd hoped that Scott would be able to go as well, particularly after I learned that the Fred Clark, the eponymous Slacktivist would be attending, and there was talk of those of who make up the Slacktivite community of commenters in attendance getting together to meet.
I've been hanging out with these folks in virtual space for over three years now - sometimes quietly lurking in the comments, sometimes actively engaging - so I found the idea of meeting some of them in real life especially appealing.
Ultimately it was determined that Scott would be able to go with me, official Slacktivite meet-up plans were made, and yesterday found me very excited about the prospect of being part of the masses descending - in a reasonable fashion, of course - on our nation's capital.
Then it turned out that Scott wasn't going to be able to make it, and, despite my desire to go, I considered scrapping my plans to attend.
After all, I am fairly crowd-phobic, I've only rarely been to DC, and never by myself,* and I am inclined to feel anxiety about doing pretty much anything that falls outside of my comfort zone, regardless of how mundane and ordinary a task it may be for anyone who is Not Jon.
(That is, after all, the primary division I see in the world: Jon and Not Jon.)
So driving out to Vienna, alone, to get on the Metro and ride into a mass of god only knows how many people, even if it meant seeing two of my favorite comic pundits, and meeting people I've known for years without actually knowing? It was a daunting prospect.
But, I decided, I wasn't going to let Fear keep me from doing something Sane.
The plan for the Slacktivite meet-up was to get together in front of the Smithsonian "castle" at 10:30. Looking into Metro schedules, I determined that if I left home a bit before 9, I would get there in time.
Problem number one occurred fairly early on, as I was making my way to the Greenway and didn't notice my camera anywhere in the car, and didn't remember bringing it into the car with me, and I remembered setting it down outside when I'd stopped to smoke a cigarette before leaving.
I thought about just saying "forget it," but didn't like the idea of leaving it outside all day, so I turned around to go back and grab it. In the process of turning, my camera bag came sliding out from under the passenger seat, as I had brought it after all.
Still, it was only a brief delay, and I still had plenty of time.
Once I got to the Metro station, I parked the car, locked it, and made my way to the exit...and realized that I'd forgotten to grab my camera.
I went back, grabbed it, and headed for the exit, still having plenty of time to spare.
Then I saw it: the line.
Hundreds and hundreds of people standing in line just to get in to buy their passes.
I really hadn't expected there to be that many people.
I stood in line for over an hour and a half. By the time I actually got on the train, I was already over a half an hour late for the meet-up, and the train had yet to leave the station.
At every stop there were hundreds more people waiting - and unable - to get on the train.
By the time I actually got to the Smithsonian station, which is where most everyone was getting off, and out onto the Mall, the Rally had already started. I went to the meeing spot just in case, but I knew that there was no chance that anyone was still there. Of course, not knowing what any of them look like, how would I know?
Giving up on that, I set to making my way through the crowd to find a spot to enjoy the Rally, depsite my disappointment.
Where I ended up stuck, I had a solid view of the back of someone's head, occasionally punctuated by a brief glimpse of one of the jumbotrons on which the stage was displayed, though more often than not someone would hold up a sign and obstruct my view whenever the path was clear.
Again, from what I heard, and the few glimpses of it that I caught, the Rally was entertaining, but honestly, if I'd wanted to actually see the thing, I would have been better off staying at home.
When it was over I made my way back to the Metro station only to find that the entrance was closed. So I wandered off in search of another Metro entrance, following crowds that seemed like they knew where they were going and assuming that they were probably headed towards the Metro, only to find that, after a couple of blocks, the crowd had no particular destination and had thinned out to pretty much a handful of people.
I tried pulling up some directions on my phone, but network congestion from the masses of cell phone users made that impossible.
Finally, I found myself behind a couple headed towards L'Enfant Station, and I followed them to it, only to find that that entrance was closed as well. Following the vague directions provided by the security person, I eventually spotted a line of people that was at least three times longer than the line had been in Vienna at another Metro entrance.
(Oh, and did I mention that, after all of the trouble I went through over the damn thing, my camera didn't actually work? I have no idea why - I used it just the other day with no issues - but for some reason, even with fresh batteries, it wouldn't turn on. Thus, I have no pictures. I could have taken some with my phone, but they would have been terrible and pointless.)
While I was standing in line, the Metro entrance across the street, which had been closed, opened up, and a large chunk of us broke free from the line and headed over there, and, in my second break of the day (after the opening of that Metro entrance), the train I needed arrived within a minute of my getting onto the platform.
The trip back to Vienna wasn't nearly as crowded as the trip into DC had been, and after a couple of stops a seat opened up, and I was finally able to get off my feet after being on them for a solid 8+ hours.
I guess that, overall, I'm glad I went, if for no other reason than that I added to the total number of attendees (Also: Ozzy!), but in a lot of ways it really was dispiriting, and seemed like a reminder of Why Jon Doesn't Like To Do Things.
While I found it heartening to see so many people - of so many different races, creeds, and ages - come out in support of sanity (and/or fear), it's kind of a truism that I never feel more alone than when I'm in a crowd, and given the size of the crowd...well, when I was driving home I said, to an unresponsive Universe, "All I wanted was to have a good day. Just one day in which things could be different, in which I could fall into the category of Not Jon. Is that so much to ask?"
*Sigh* Still, Ozzy.
Lest you think that the experience has made me more fatalistic and more inclined to Not Do Things, next weekend will find me flying to Texas to visit my brother and attend the Fun Fun Fun Fest. Given that there are three of them, I should be able to have at least one Fun, right?
*Since I've lived in NoVA, at least. 12 years ago I went to DC to visit my brother - who worked at the Pentagon at the time - and did spend a day out on my own, and another day of going out on my own and meeting up with the first "virtual" friend I ever had. But given that I was staying much closer to the DC, that was a less involved process.