By Susannah Clark
On Tuesday I spent 12 hours at a mall, and it wasn’t for the two-for-one sale at Urban Outfitters.
Along with over a million frost-bitten fanatics, I woke up at 3 a.m. to brave the National Mall, batting my ice-caked eyelashes as President Obama solemnly swore.
Despite bitter temperatures, the ceremony was enthralling. Tuesday was a typical day in a series of exceptional experiences spent in between the Capitol and the Washington Monument. It was empowering and humbling at the same time.
The relationship that Cher from “Clueless” had with the shopping mall is what I have with the National Mall. It is my playground.
Along with the expected festivals and rallies, the Mall has been my site for picnics, first dates and pick-up games of Ultimate Frisbee.
Relationships have begun and ended on the Mall, starting with hand holding on the carousel and ending at the National Gallery with my wooer attempting to urinate in Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain.”
The first time I ever saw “Annie Hall,” my favorite movie of all time, was at a Screen on the Green on the Mall. I sat on a blanket under the stars, remarking on the striking similarities between my parents and Woody Allen and Diane Keaton.
That same summer, after watching “All the President’s Men” on the Mall, I decided to give that whole journalism thing a dabble.
Every time I start out on the gravel path next to the entrance to Smithsonian castle, I cut across the green with fresh perspective and insight. Tuesday was no exception. Though my view of Obama’s speech consisted of the back of a 6-foot-tall man’s North Face jacket, actually being there was an experience no Youtube video could simulate.
Even though I live nine Metro stops away in Arlington, this was my first inauguration on the Mall, seeing as my father made us drive two states away to escape both of George W. Bush’s Texasfests. (I will never forgive him for making me miss Ricky Martin’s dance off with W.)
Standing in such a giant mass of people can be inspiring, despite being a reminder of how small and insignificant you are.
The person next to you has terrible body odor, you’re exhausted, you’re freezing, and you’re developing some body odor of your own. But to borrow a philosophy from “High School Musical,” you’re all in this together.
The first African-American president was inaugurated, and I watched it 100 feet away, commercial-free.
While others crossed oceans and paid $600 for one night on a college kid’s couch, I got to sleep in my own bed that night. Lucky is an understatement.
I’m paying for my Inauguration Day adventure this morning with a vicious sore throat and undying under eye circles. My nose may be congested, but the extra box of Kleenex is well worth another day spent on History’s playground.
When I graduate and move away from the DC area next year, I’ll probably end up living in a place where the closest mall has a Big Lots instead of a botanical garden. I will surely miss all the action.
Hopefully I’ll get to fly down for the 2012 Inauguration. As long as my parents don’t charge me too much to sleep on the couch.