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Monday, March 19, 2007

Lost in DC! (Or how we almost marched on the Pentagon)

Robert Rouse has an excellent post about our trip to Washington, DC - I strongly encourage you to read it if you haven't yet had the pleasure of doing so. Seeing as how that has already been covered, and, having gotten my rant out of my system upon our return early Sunday morning, I offer you the details of the little side-adventure that my daughter Samantha and I had:

Our story begins as we got off of the bus at 23rd and E Street. Oddly enough, Bruce Springsteen was nowhere to be found. The first building that we saw after exiting the bus was the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery for the US Navy. My little reader stated to the goup "They do surgery there". =)

As we walked on down 23rd Street towards Constitution Street and the National Mall, I contacted my father-in-law who had already arrived via a seperate bus from Louisville, and was already in the fenced-in waiting area at the west end of the mall near the Lincoln Memorial.

We had been advised to try to stay in small groups of 2-6 people for the march, as it is nearly impossible for larger groups to remain together throughout the entire march. Robert and Lobo had quickly disappeared after exiting the bus, in search of fellow compatriots they had protested with during other marches as well as friends from their Camp Casey trips. Sam and I tried to stay with Roger McNett and our neighbors Jim and Rebecca Reeder. We were briefly seperated after the two of us forged ahead to meet Denny (my father-in-law) inside the waiting area, but all connected again shortly thereafter. The last forecast we had all heard called for a sunny day with highs near 40 - it was wrong. Although the sun did pop out, the mercury barely made the low 30's and a brisk west wind lowered that even further.

We had arrived rather early for the scheduled 12:30 march, around 10:45 if memory serves me. I knew Samantha would be fine with the two-mile march; we had walked parades together that long last summer, but the colder than anticipated temperature took their toll on her. After the first hour, she complained of being cold and wanted me to find a bus we could get on. Since our bus had left after dropping us all off, and really having nowhere else to go, I tried to keep her warm by holding her close and assured her that we would be walking soon and would warm up.

Jim Reeder graciously offered up his vest and parka, and her grandpa gave her his hat. . .we all agreed that she looked like a little Ewok - a three foot tall being in a green coat with only a small mouthhole showing, and green arms hanging nearly to the ground! I wish I'd taken a picture, but I was too concerned with her welfare to think about it. Sam can be a bit of a drama queen, and I thought we'd be alright once we started moving. . .however the start of the march was delayed as we were waiting on late-arriving buses of fellow protesters to make their way into the compound, and I began to get truly concerned as the time went by. We finally, and painfully slowly began to move around 1:00. By them time we made it to the approach to the Arlinton Memorial Bridge, Samantha was tearing up and I knew I had to get her out of there somehow, someway, ANY way I could.

If you've never been to one of these events before (like me), once everything is rolling there are almost zero options for getting out. The correlation that comes to mind is when you're at Cedar Point, et al, you've passed the PONR (point of no return) and are pretty much consigned to your fate. The difference here being that I felt my child might possibly be in danger from the cold, I was NOT going to make her cross a bridge where the temps just HAD to be much worse, and I was determined to remedy the situation no matter what. I advised Rebecca Reeder that I had to get Sam out of there. . .she suggested I approach a policeman with my dilemma.

I did so, and was advised that, as I stated above, there was no exit available. I asked another officer, who suggested that I take her to an ambulance located on the other side of the crowd. I carried her through the marchers to the ambulance, which was surrounded by "eagles", and tapped on the window. I explained our situation to the paramedic, who had us go to the back door and enter to have Sam evaluated. We removed her layers of coats, her gloves, and her shoes and socks, and the medics attempted to crank up the heat in the back of the ambulance while one gentleman went to check to see if there was any hot chocolate left up front.

They were unable to get the heat working in the back of the ambulance, and the hot chocolate supply had been depleted, but Sam and I were allowed to sit in the cabin of the ambulance until we warmed up. I watched as the last of the protesters passed, with the pro-war types harrassing them. After the last few had passed, the "eagles" melted back into the surrounding areas, and we made our exit. The medics had all agreed with the position that the police had made to me: the entry points into the area were likely still all blocked, and there was no place to go in that direction if we could get through.

Our best option was to make the short trek past the Lincolm Memorial down to US 50, and attempt to hail a cab. Not wanting to expose Sam to any more of the cold weather than I had to, I took their advice. I tried to get a cab for nearly 20 minutes before an empty one finally pulled over. I asked the cabbie if he could get us to the North Pentagon Parking Lot (where we were to meet our bus) and he said "No!" and drove off! WTF? What was going on here??

After another ten minutes, I was nearly ready to trek back north despite the medic's advice, when another cabbie pulled over for us. This one was happy to make the attempt. Another foursome that were looking for transport inquired about the fare to take them to Arlington - I'm thinking "Back off bitch! This cab is MINE". . .she was told that the fare would be $15, and she walked away. Now I, after having experiencing cabs in several other cities, asked if that would be our rate to the Pentagon as well. The cabbie replied that "No, they wanted to go into Arlington and there were four, yours will be less". Let me tell you, based on past experience, I expected a $25-30 fare to "go across the river". This is where the positive experience culled from the negative began. . .

This cabbie DID indeed get us to the entrance to that parking lot, but the Pentagon Police waved him away, saying that we could not enter that lot. Our driver pulled off to the side after that exchange, and wondered what to do. He decided to make a u-turn and talk to the cop in person about our dilemma. Ladies and gents, this is an arabic cabbie approaching a Pentagon Policeman in the middle of a Peace March on said Pentagon to protest our involvement in Iraq. This man needs a wheelbarrow to cart his nads around in! He tried to explain the situation, and I chimed in from the backseat to no avail - we were NOT getting in.

Our driver next attempted to enter the Pentagon from it's main entrance, after making a round-about journey to find that entrance. Again I explained our situation to the officer at the front gate. He advised that we could NOT rejoin our group and that I did not want take her (Sam) into the area because they were ready to fire tear-gas into the crowd. We then tried to exit the area, and seeing other people cutting across the parking lot, asked them if they were with the protest march. Although they claimed not to be, many had protest signs. At this point, a marked Pentagon Police car pulled up next to us and told us to get out. We proceeded to the nearest exit, where another squad car was parked in the median. I exited the cab and explained my situation to the officer, who advised me that things had gone bad and to exit the area immediately and attempt to contact members of our group. He pointed out a six-level mall across the way as a safe haven. Our cabbie dropped us off in front of the Station Center Mall, and when asked about his fare for our roundabout ride and all of his trouble, said "Just make it $10". Knowing the details of our situation, this man could have charged us thrice that much - I offered him a $20 and thanked him profusely!

- I will offer up the end of this story tomorrow, as it has consumed my entire evening. . .

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Blogger Human said...

Lil Joe and I were about 20 miles away in Rockville MD. while you guys were freezing. It sure was a blustery day.
So glad you got inside the ambulance and later the Mall.

Sounds like an exciting if somewhat pressured, adventure.
That good cabbie was a great find.
Can't wait to read more.

Hope this won't deflect another try at a DC demo. We are sure to have a bigun during the summer and Sam will have a much better time.

If it were not for the weather, I imagine the crowd would of been closer to 100k.

Still, so glad for so many standing up for Peace.

Next time man. Next time.

title="comment permalink">March 19, 2007 9:34 PM  
Blogger Peacechick Mary said...

Poor Sam! Poor you! The cabbie situation was beautiful. I hope you are all well and getting rested and warm. Thank you for your heroic efforts on behalf of Peace.

title="comment permalink">March 19, 2007 9:50 PM  
Blogger Stan Matuska said...

What an adventure! Too bad for the weather. I personally don't like being cold, disoriented, lost, or in large crowds! Good thing I didn't tag along or you might have had a bigger child on your hands!

I'm proud of you for going. I hope Sam thought the entire trip was fun, despite the cold temps.

title="comment permalink">March 19, 2007 10:43 PM  
Blogger azgoddess said...

it's amazing what the hu-man spirit can contain or even endure...what a beautiful story!!

title="comment permalink">March 20, 2007 1:54 PM  
Blogger Robert Rouse said...

I wish I had been able to reach you by phone - I tried but only got your voice mail. Our friend Jim had his "Bring the Troops Home" bus parked right in front of the Lincoln museum. He followed the march with some handicapped peace-mongers and people who had to drop out. He would have been happy to let you and Sam ride along.

title="comment permalink">March 20, 2007 3:46 PM  
Blogger John Good said...

Thanks all! It was a good experience for me and I am better for it.

Robert - hindsight and all =)

title="comment permalink">March 20, 2007 7:30 PM  
Blogger Hill said...

Holy cow! That is an amazing story. Glad you were able to FINALLY get warm again. This is something Sam will remember forever. I wish the weather could have been warmer for both of you!

title="comment permalink">March 21, 2007 8:45 PM  

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