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The Inaugural Ball’s Thousand Points of Smartphone Light

Ever wonder what it would take to get tens of thousands of people to stop everything they’re doing at once and raise their camera phones in unison?

Cue the entrance of President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama at the Official Inaugural Ball 2013, 9:21 p.m. Monday at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

The first couple danced to the light of thousands of smartphones. Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call

As the newly inaugurated president and first lady danced to Jennifer Hudson’s rendition of Al Green’s “I’m Still in Love With You,” people in the crowd whipped out their smartphones with the speed of gun-fighters. It was as if the phones, with their white glows, had finally nudged aside the cigarette lighter as the official audience-serenading device.

And, as quickly as they appeared, the first couple was off, spending precious few moments to linger after Hudson finished her song.

Perhaps the Obamas were hungry. If so, they knew they wouldn’t be getting much at the ball, which had on hand Cheez-Its, “cocktail pretzels” and “dry snack mix” for the partying masses.

Official Inaugural Ball 2013 pretzels and Cheez-Its. Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call


Even so, the meager food offerings were not as much of a bummer as two of HOH’s most feared words: cash bar. The less said on that topic, the better. The memory is too painful.

Meanwhile, the view from the press workspace/holding cell was directly in front of the stage. Working scribes unlucky enough to follow the Presidential Inaugural Committee’s rules found themselves sequestered there and having to be escorted around if they were interested in engaging any of the folks attending the ball. There were even designated “media restrooms.” To stay in the press workspace was a sad affair indeed, given its relative isolation.

The press workspace at the ball was an isolated place. Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call

Lucky for HOH, it was easy to break free, and we found ourselves doing laps around the ball space. For those who have never been, it can only be described as the most charming loading dock in the world.

One thing HOH did notice, though, is that the press didn’t have the worst placement by a long shot.

That distinction belonged to the column space reserved for those wishing to pay homage to the South. Southerners found their designated spot on the northernmost part of the perimeter. It was a lonely outpost as far away as possible from the “special guests” section, which was cordoned off for VIPs and located at the southernmost part of the party space.

The “South” column marker was far from the ball’s action. Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call

Obama didn’t do so well in the South in his 2008 and 2012 campaigns. Hmm. At least the Southerners’ lines for the dry snack mix and cash bar weren’t long.

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