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Washington Copes With the Crowds

Restaurants are packed. Streets are closed. Visitors abound. Washington is under siege by sufferers of Obama fever. Estimates peg the number of out-of-towners in the District at upwards of two million. As a result, locals are making changes to their normal routines to accommodate (or avoid) the swarms...

Restaurants are packed. Streets are closed. Visitors abound. Washington is under siege by sufferers of Obama fever.Estimates peg the number of out-of-towners in the District at upwards of two million. As a result, locals are making changes to their normal routines to accommodate (or avoid) the swarms. Walking north away from the National Mall, ground zero of the inaugural festivities, shops that aren't stocked with food and drink or souvenirs are posting signs in their doors (like the one below), informing customers that they will be closed both Monday and Tuesday.According to reports and to the locals I spoke to, staff at the Georgetown Hospital and the Washington Hospital Center are sleeping on cots at work so they don't have to deal with disrupted Metro service and closed roads and bridges. But overall, excitement about Obama seems to wipe out any annoyance in these changes to people's routines.Andre, an employee of Tigereye Design, a company that produces souvenirs, had to take on the new role of helping to deliver his company's goods from their warehouse in D.C. to various merchants in the city and in surrounding Virginia and Maryland. While the trucks are usually able to pull right up to the doors of the shops they service (such as Political Americana, around the corner from the White House), today they were loading merchandise on dollies and carting them several blocks to their destinations. (They also made larger deliveries outside of the city this morning to avoid having to travel to the suburbs on Tuesday and Wednesday.) "It's not that big a deal," he says, "because it's Obama. If it was Bush, I don't know."


Not all out-of-towners are just here to revel in the excitement. Some are taking part in the temporary tourist economy. Gabriel Lamberti, a carpenter who lives in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, made the trek down to D.C. to meet up with friends from Florida who run a pedi-cab business. (As shown in the video below, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty named the bicycle rickshaws the official vehicles of the inauguration.) Charging roughly $20 per head, he's now driving people around town, and his mode of transport is the only one allowed inside the Mall area. "I'm here to cover my trip," he says. "I'm going to go home with a few bucks and get to be here."He mentions having to schlep one group of girls all the way to Georgetown on Sunday night, but insists he's been trying to take it relatively easy. "I'm trying to soak it all in," he says.[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tZuILrFZJMg
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