So we string out along the north side of the (frozen) Reflecting Pool, holding signs announcing our team numbers. Everyone gets phone calls from volunteers trapped on Metros and running late, and some from the outer suburbs lost because they're not familiar with the Metro or the Mall.
As dawn gleams pink at the distant Capitol, our teams gather. I have an enthusiastic bunch, and one woman shows a talent for leading us in cheers and song. One I especially liked because it kept us warm: choo-choo,choo,choo,choo, rotating arms like a train. "Get oooooon the Oooo- Bama Train!"
We also sang "When the saints go marching in," with refrains like: "When Obama takes that oath, oh, I want to be in that number, when Obama takes his oath." Clearly Paula is a church choir member. She should be director if she's not already.
So finally at 6 a.m. we move to our positions. My toes, despite being clad in wool hiking socks and fleece-lined boots, are completely numb. I almost stagger over the small rise we must climb to pass the Vietnam Memorial and reach Constitution Avenue.
Most of my team end up at 18th Street because the crowds are already pouring down the hill from Farragut North and West metro stations toward the Mall. Paula leads some cheers while I go to station more volunteers.
Most of the time we spent greeting the crowds, smiling and offering to help. Some take us up on our offer and I'm surprised how many have Silver tickets, a mile and a half from our location. (the tales we hear over the next few days explain why).
One of our team discovers a warming tent near our location. Yay! Better yet, another works in a government office nearby, so we don't have to use the frigid Port-a-Johns. Even better. The security guards are a bit bemused by our visit (we have to show ID, go through X-ray machines, the works) but it was worth it.
Finally, at 11 a.m., the shift is over. I wander by the Lincoln Memorial and debate weaving through the barricades to join the huge crowd there. I gape at the sea of people off in the distance, clustered at the base of the Washington Monument and beyond, a pixilated sea of humanity. There's only a smaller crowd clustered at a Jumbotron near the Reflecting Pool and I amble over there. I'm really close. In fact, almost too close -- the screen is a little blurry. The sun is in my eyes.
Then we listen to the stentorian announcements of various powers-that-be arriving. Cheney is in a wheelchair. Actually, the crowd I'm in is polite. There is little booing.
And finally, Barack Obama appears. The cheers go up. The oath seems awkward. Obama gives Roberts a smile and I wonder what happened. We all learned later -- Roberts has a hatred of split infinitives. He really needs to read up on the history of English grammar. Some idiot monk tried to impose Latin rules on English. In Latin you can't have a split infinitive. That's because the infinitive is one word in Latin. Duh.
Then we listen to Obama's speech. There are few cheering points, but elegant turns of phrase, I thought. No one was chatting, everyone was listening.
And it's over! We have a new president, at long last.