January 20, 2001
Omni Shoreham Hotel
My parents, my hairdresser, friends from home and the woman who sits at the front desk of my apartment all thought I was going to an inaugural ball. A real inaugural ball. It would take too long to explain that I would not be rubbing elbows with the country’s political personnel and pundits. I was going to the GW Inaugural Ball. One little white lie can’t hurt.
Knowing that the salons in the area would be crazy, one of my friends said she would do my hair for me. I faced the inevitable problems that occur when you have a non-professional trying to be a professional. My friend desperately attempted to convince me it was not a big deal that the hair on the left side of my head was about an inch higher than the right. A few tears and screams later the hair was leveled out. Hairspray is an amazing thing.
One minor catastrophe and a few beers down, my friends and I hopped on the Metro to get to the ball. We always travel in style.
The lobby of the hotel was packed with familiar faces. We were guided through the lobby to a walkway and eventually through an age checkpoint to pick up our iridescent bracelet for those over 21. After the checkpoint we were shuffled to another line where our tickets were checked and then down a stairway to the coat check. If it wasn’t for a friend I saw at the beginning of the coat-check line who let us cut in, I honestly believe I would still be waiting to check my coat.
Down another set of stairs through the maze-like hotel, we finally made it to the two ballrooms. Inside were tables with all kinds of food, several cash bars, a dance floor and a band. The rooms were huge but they were packed with student politicos – who probably told their own white lies to friends and family – freshmen and lots of seniors taking advantage of their final GW events. I question whether the sophomore and junior classes were even invited.
As my friends and I walked around the room the faces changed but the comments were all the same.
“Hi. You look so beautiful,” they said.
“Thank you, so do you,” I responded.
“I love you hair,” they said as I laughed silently.
The conversations were always abrupt. It seemed like everyone wanted to find as many people as they could. A giant GW search to see and be seen.
My friends and I spent most of the night on the dance floor. Right next to us was Ms. Senior America, an elderly lady getting her groove on. There was a handful of older people who looked out of place. I wondered if they were at the wrong ball and had gotten the Omni mixed up with the Marriot, where a real ball was taking place just down the street.
Everyone in the room was smiling, even those waiting in line to get their pictures taken. The average wait time was 45 minutes, something no doubt J Street lines prepare students for. The band played mostly old tunes while the interspersed disc jockey picked up the beat.
The night went quickly and at midnight it was over. We found our way back through the maze up the first stairway, the coat check, the second stairway, the walkway where we picked up our souvenirs and the lobby. For a GW event I was impressed, but it still was not a real inaugural ball.