The Hitchhiker's Guide To Inauguration Weekend In Washington


Complete Inaugural Coverage


Christina Ruffini is a CBS News broadcast associate who works in Washington, but lives in Maryland. Also a starving graduate student, Ruffini has become an expert in a variety of parasitic behaviors that include grocery shopping in the kitchens of friends, scrounging for paper products in public restrooms and finding free places to crash.
When it comes to lodging in the land of Lincoln, your chance of finding a decent, well-priced place to stay during Barak Obama's inauguration are getting slimmer than Amy Winehouse on a weekend purge.

More than 95,000 hotel rooms have been booked in the greater D.C. metropolitan area, private apartments are being rented out in droves, and couch-surfing has reached near epidemic levels. Even roach-riddled broom closets are going for $600 a night.

However, if you are one of the many procrastinating patriots still in desperate need of a dwelling, you are not completely without options.

You could go on Craigslist and agree to pay an exorbitant fee to lease the flat of some random district denizen who will probably show up in the middle of the night and throw you into his basement well.

Or, if you've seen "Silence of the Lambs" too many times, you could take a cue from the city's many residence-less residents, and think inside the cardboard box. Oversized Rubbermaid containers also make excellent shelters and have the added bonus of generally being waterproof. Doorways are another option, but most of the good ones will probably have been booked months ago. When picking out an alcove or a window ledge to sleep on, never choose anything higher than the first floor.

If you are worried that spending the night out in the elements might leave you with hands too frost bitten to wave an American Flag, you can head indoors. D.C.'s coffee shops and bookstores are usually pretty liberal – both in their geo-political outlook and their policies regarding the behavior and aroma of their patrons.

The fact that you have not had a shower since you got into town is likely to go unnoticed in a place where most of the employees are too busy trying to grow dreadlocks or finish their totally unmarketable post-graduate degrees to care that you are snoring away in the stacks.

Campus libraries are another great place to stash your ruck and sack out. They are open 24-hours a day and due to a common love of grungy t-shirts, unwashed hair and angst-filled facial expressions, it is nearly impossible for the librarian overlords to distinguish the average student from the average out-of-town vagabond.

The monuments, in contrast, are not a good place to nod off: Lincoln's lap isn't as cozy as it might appear … and neither are the park police, who will gleefully arrest you for trying to spoon the 19th president.

If you feel compelled to snooze on sculpture, the American Red Cross headquarters has a lovely, story-high cutout of the company's logo that has long been a favorite sleeping spot for locals. The building's tenants might emerge sporadically and guilt you into donating blood, but other than that, it is a pretty good bet.

Sporting events are also a solid option for a siesta and one my all-time favorite opportunities to take a nap. There is safety and anonymity in large, jersey-clad numbers. And since none of D.C.'s teams are really much to cheer about, get yourself some cheap high-altitude seats and your slumber won't be disturbed by the two or three hardcore fans who care enough to yell.

Finally, do not discount the many opportunities afforded to you on D.C. public transportation. Not only is it a great place to meet new friends or test your tolerance for the human race, but you can snuggle down in a seat and take an unchartered trip to the land of nod. Metro trains are fully heated and run until the wee hours of the morning. However, cars do get pulled out of service randomly and with very little warning, so you run the risk of waking up alone in a dark train yard somewhere wondering why you can no longer see the Potomac and who stole your "I Heart Barak-racy" commemorative button.

Wherever you crash on inauguration weekend, make sure you stay safe, stay warm, and stay way caffeinated, because the less time you spend in dreamland, the more time you spend in Obamaland. Just don't drink too much of that coffee, Red Bull or Diet Coke, or you will have to find a bathroom – and that's the only thing more elusive than a warm bed in Washington.

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