January 27, 2009

The Legend of the Purple Tunnel of Doom Grows!

WHEN I was jailed by the crowd near the now famous Purple Gate at January 20th's Inauguration, I'll admit that I was mad but at the same time I was determined to make the best of an unfortunate situation.

Because I couldn't get into the Purple area, I watched the inauguration on TV like many Americans did despite having traveled some 3,000 miles to witness it first hand.
After the swearing in ceremony I slowly calmed down and wrote about my hellacious experiences on this Blog.

But others, rather than staying mad or just forgetting about the day, got busy organizing. Two Washingtonians by the name of Dave Meyer and Marisa McNee started a Facebook group called "Survivors of the Purple Tunnel of Doom" (PTD). Soon 5,775 people had joined the group and its numbers raised the consciousness over the inauguration day ticketing fiasco. The story got the attention of the Washington Post. Those stories in turn got the group a meeting with the Congress's top law enforcement official who was in charge of security at President Obama's swearing-in ceremony, Mr. Terrance Gainer, Senate Sergent-at-Arms.

The legend of the PTD is growing on Facebook. There are six groups now with names like the Sympathizers of the Purple Tunnel of Doom, The California Survivors of the Purple Tunnel of Doom, Allies of the Purple Tunnel of Doom and so on. Group members have set up a Purple Ticket Holder Relief and Restitution Fund to help distraught victims recoup losses through compensation. It currently has no funders, but it is seeking big-name contributors such as Oprah Winfrey.

There is at least one song on the Purple Tunnel of Doom incident. And Cafe Press, a user generated commerce site, has an outlet called PurpleGate 2009 which is selling mugs, bags, special PTD buttons as well as a kids "I Survived the Purple Tunnel of Doom" 100% cotton Baseball Jersey. (And notice the dog shirt!)

And I just checked eBay. Believe it or not Purple Inauguration Tickets - like the one I have -are selling for over $100 dollars. In fact one listing says, "Buy it Now" $1,200. (I could pay for my trip if my ticket was worth $1,200). Over at YouTube there are about 38 videos that have been posted on the subject of the tunnel debacle. The phrase "Purple Tunnel of Doom" has made it to Wikipedia and users are currently in the middle of a debate about whether the term should be included in the official Obama inauguration citation.

And finally, go to Google and type in "Purple Tunnel of Doom" - You should get around 518,000 hits. But the incident has not really made the "big time" yet (and it's doubtful that it ever will) because in the days following January 20th the term PTD did not make it into the top 100 searches as listed by Google.

The latest news on the legendary PTD is that the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies said that blue, silver and purple ticket holders who were not admitted to the ceremony will receive copies of the swearing-in invitation and program, photos of Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, and a color print of the ceremony. As of today there is nothing posted at the committee's site - and excuse me, but I thought everyone with a ticket already had those commemorative items? (When you picked up your ticket at the Congressional office building, those materials were inside the envelope containing the famous - Purple Ticket!)

Oh well. Let's wait and see what happens on that front.

In case you had figured it out by now, the Internet is an amazing tool for people to sell things like the purple tickets but more importantly, as the Obama campaign taught everyone, it is a phenomenal resource for organizing and mobilizing people into action. In the "old days" - pre-Internet, the entire Purple Tunnel of Doom matter would have virtually gone unnoticed.

Postscript: On January 26th, South San Francisco Council member Kevin Mullin and I were interviewed for PenTV's, "The Game." The entire show was devoted to our experiences in Washington, D.C.

You can watch the show if you have cable. Tune in to Channel 26th at these times:
  • January 27 - 9:00 pm
  • January 28 - 6:30 pm
  • January 30 - 8:30 pm
  • February 1 - 6:30 pm

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