They came from Baltimore, Chapel Hill, and San Francisco. From Seattle, Laramie, and Western Pennsylvania.
They traveled on the Bolt and Mega Bus from New York, which both cost $20 and have free wi-fi. But they also came on busses chartered by media tycoons. Those busses were free and, as I understand it, had amazing snacks. As great as the Bolt and Mega Bus are, they don't give you snacks. I met a student from Edinboro University (Pennsylvania), who came on a bus chartered by his school. There were a lot of ways to get there by bus, I guess is my point.
But I also met a woman from Silver Spring who drove her car, and found parking near Union Station. Which is incredible. To find parking near Union Station during a rally on the Mall? Unbelievable.
The larger point is, a LOT of people attended the Rally for Sanity in Washington on Saturday. Hundreds of thousands. Maybe, dare we say it, millions.
I met so many people with stories to tell. OK, I met six. Six people. I was with an out-of-town friend and we had some catching up to do. I couldn't run around the Mall the whole time doing interviews. But each of the six people I met had a story tell. A story about their journey. Something that just clicked inside of them, and made them think, "Hey, a rally for sanity on the Mall. That could be fun." The point of this paragraph was: There were so many stories.
And while it may be my responsibility as a citizen comedy journalist to tell those stories, in my blog post today I want to approach a different subject. Forgive me, America, if I deviate from the narrative so often prescribed for occasions such as this. But I want to talk about the politeness.
It was in the air. You could feel it, the way you can feel static electricity when you scoot your socks across a carpet and touch your hand to a balloon.
When I entered the U Street Metro station at 10:30 a.m., after finally changing out of my flannel pajamas, and also after downing three glasses of water and two Advils for the headache I had from the vodka-and-soda-water specialty drinks they were serving at the Eritrean bar the night before, the platform was crowded and every arriving train was packed. And yet no one booed, or seemed upset, or tried to cram into the cars. Instead, everyone happily drifted back outside, to find some other way downtown. I walked down 13th Street and flagged a cab just north of Logan Circle.
But it was there. The civility. The consideration. It was everywhere.
It was in the group of actual Tea Party supporters just off the Mall on Seventh Street, who cheerfully posed for a group photo taken by a Moveon.org supporter. "Gosh!" the Moveon supporter said, "There are so many of you! Can you squeeze in closer?"
It was in the crush of people near the food tent across from the West Building of the National Gallery. It was the friendliest crush of people in which I have ever been pinned. We were all struggling to get somewhere else -- anywhere, really -- but everyone was just so nice about it. At one point a guy let me go ahead of him.
"That is what today is all about," I said.
"I love you, man," he replied, in pitch-perfect mock sincerity.
And it was in the beautiful woman in the food tent itself, a stranger who offered to help me carry the cheeseburger, two orders of fries, and three bottles of water I was taking back to my new friends on the steps of the National Gallery (West Building).
Let me repeat this: At the Rally to Restore Sanity, a beautiful stranger offered to help carry my food.
I thanked her but explained that I was going all the way back to the steps of the National Gallery. She smiled and said, "I really appreciate that. It's OK." Only later did I realize that it is sometimes possible to be too polite, even at the Rally for Sanity. Sometimes you should make up a story about how you're with some friends close by, then pretend to have lost your friends when they aren't there. If you are the beautiful woman who offered to help carry my food, can you please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org? That would be great. Thanks.
If you are not the beautiful woman who offered to help carry my food, which is probably everyone reading this: Thank you for letting me go on about the beautiful woman who offered to help carry my food.
Where was I? Oh yes: The future.
My mind turns to future generations. For it is with them our future lies. It's a tautology, but that doesn't make it any less true.
I like to think that somewhere in that crowd there was an eight year-old boy or girl. Let's say it was a girl. We don't know where she was, just that she was there. Maybe she was carrying an ironic sign. Maybe her parents are 30 Rock fans or work in advertising. And maybe that little girl watched Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert clown on stage, and instead of thinking "Where are the Jeffersons? The Lincolns? Where are they?" she thought, more sensibly, "This is so fun. Mommy, who is Ozzy Osbourne? Everyone on stage is so, so good."
Well, I like to think so, anyway.
As for the rest of us stuck in the present, know this: According to Canada's CTV, 250,000 people attended the Rally for Sanity. That compares to 80,000 who attended BeckFest. Which means that for every one person willing to trudge down to the Mall to listen to Glen Beck glorify himself by giving empty speeches about God and patriotism, there are THREE people willing to attend a rally of political sketch comedy, kooky signs, and a performance of "Peace Train" by Yusuf Islam. I don't know about you, but that makes me feel better about our country.
Jon Stewart did restore sanity to America. He really did.
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