Not all of us are lucky enough to be able to afford getting to the inauguration. The hundreds of dollars for the flight, coupled with a few hundred more for a hotel room, puts this trip beyond most peoples budgets this January.
And according to the Associated Press, we are missing out.
One ton each of chocolate and cheese. About 1,500 cases of beer. Eight hundred pounds of bison.
Those are just a few items that the Marriott Wardman Park, Washingtons largest hotel, is stocking for the 49,000 meals it expects to serve Jan. 17 through Inauguration Day. The hotel is among many businesses and government agencies trying to quantify whatever they can before President-elect Barack Obamas swearing-in on Jan. 20.
Just one question: Where does one purchase 800 pounds of bison?
Of course this is all to feed and make money off the estimated 3 million to 5 million people who will be in Washington, D.C. for the inauguration.
Of course, can that many people even fit in the area around the inauguration? The Champaign News-Gazette spoke to Clark McPhail, a professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Illinois and author of the book The Myth of the Madding Crowd.
He puts the possible size of the crowd at 1,207,000, assuming a density of 5 square feet per standing person. Putting the density at 2.5 square feet would make it 2,115,000 people. But dont expect this number.
It is unlikely that this many people could safely or comfortably remain in such limited space for the several hours prior to and throughout the inaugural ceremony and the parade in what will likely be very chilly weather.
Of course there is a tendency to overestimate the numbers at any event with a very large crowd. Just ask John Fleck, the Albuquerque Journal science writer, who debunked the myth of a million-person Rose Bowl Parade crowd. This is something he still gets props for, two decades after the fact.