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One of the resounding themes of Inauguration Day will be broken dreams and dashed hopes. People are going to be flooding the federal core, ready to celebrate an inspirational new president, only to be bummed out by the intense security surrounding the event. Hunger could be a problem as well.

If you are one of those 2 million-plus ordinary citizens alighting on the scene, you’ll need to plan at least two meals ahead. That’s because the chances that you’re going to, like, get a spot for the parade or hang on the Mall, then go back to your apartment or hotel room for lunch, and then later re-assume your place in history are nil. Just not going to happen.

So you gotta pack lunch and water and snacks.

Yet according to the Washington Post Web site, you can’t carry any large bags or backpacks, at least for the parade route.

Here’s what is acceptable: “Bags smaller than 8 inches by 6 inches by 4 inches…”

Great work, officialdom. All my friends, all my acquaintances and relatives and colleagues—-they all know automatically what kind of bag is 8-by-6-by-4. In fact, I have a good friend who, when he needs a bag, doesn’t ask for a grocery bag or a “baggie” or a paper bag, but rather uses dimensions to state the request. Hey Erik, he’ll say, you got a ten-by-19-by-3-inch bag kicking around in your kitchen?

Look at the top of this item. The Giant bag is 13-by-16 inches; the Washington Post delivery bag is 21-by-7.5 inches. Which means that the most common bags around are going to be useless to all you parade seekers.

We here at City Desk will keep following this bag story. We want to know who came up with these bag dimensions and why. Also dying to find out on what sort of bag the rule is modeled. Could it be some kind of Ziploc bag that’s on every grocer’s shelf? And what’s with the whole 3-d standard? Sure, bags commonly expand and become three dimensional, but not uniformly so. And whatever you do, don’t you dare try to get in with a bag that’s exactly 8-by-6-by-4. Read the regulation carefully: It has to be smaller than those dimensions.

This is the story of the inauguration.

Photograph by Darrow Montgomery