Inauguration Report: On the Ticket Lines, Long Waits and Family Feuds

Capitol Hill today looked like a mosh pit. Last night, most congressional offices made the final decisions on their ticket allocations to the swearing-in, and today it seemed as if the entire universe had flocked to the House and Senate offices to collect their coveted prizes. The Metro stop was so crowded that they stopped making passengers process their tickets, which means everyone without tickets already rode for free. The Senate line was manageable; the House lines were not: As we left around 2 p.m., we passed a line that stretched for a block down First Street, then looped back for a block, then looped back again. There was an identical one across the street.

From the friends we made in line, we discerned that the only people who managed to snag a ticket were those with political connections, or smart people who’d submitted requests to every one of their congressmen and representatives — Republicans included — on the day after the election. Bryan Lipscom of Sumter, South Carolina, who was waiting in the Senate line, said he and his brother in D.C. had both submitted requests, but he succeeded, he thinks, because he comes from a red state and fewer people were fighting for access. An Arizonan woman said she’d been denied by every one of her representatives until last night, when John McCain’s office called to say she’d made it in.

But even having a ticket in hand wasn’t without its struggles. For one, they’re pretty valuable, and many had to resist the urge to make a profit. Jack Hauser of New Haven, Connecticut, who’d gotten the tickets via his wife, Debra, a Hillary Clinton delegate, said he’d been saved from greed by a ticket shortage, “because if we’d gotten the three tickets we wanted for our kids, I’d scalp them in the second. Come on! It’s like holding onto tickets for a Springsteen concert.”

Not getting extra tickets meant the Hausers, like many other families, had to make a tough decision on who got to come, which Debra admitted hadn’t been tough at all. “The kids stay home. Sorry!” she said, and then laughed really loud and long.

Another family, the Nelsons from Houston, were standing on the sidewalk debating which of their six members would get their four allotted tickets. The parents, Eric and Carol, both in their sixties, insisted their kids plus fiancés go. “They’re young and they need to go,” Carol explained. “We had our historic experience waiting in line to get the tickets.”

Their son, Drew, insisted otherwise. “My dad was a Vista lawyer. He won what was essentially the Hispanic version of Brown versus Board of Education. Everything they fought for their entire lives is encapsulated in this one act, and they think I’m going to let them come to Washington so they can watch it on TV in my apartment? It’s not going to happen.”

At press time, the issue remained unresolved.

Inauguration Report: On the Ticket Lines, Long Waits and Family Feuds