People continued to troop down to the D.C. Convention Center yesterday, looking for coats they couldn't find there after Monday's inaugural balls.
By afternoon, there were 15 coats left hanging on the racks -- and a lot of versions about how the wrap flap happened in the first place.
And there were still some missing coats.
"I left an $8,000 mink there, and I'm still looking for it," Colleen Beveridge, an inaugural ball guest, said yesterday.
Beveridge said she stayed at the convention center until 2 a.m. Tuesday looking for her fur and returned again yesterday. She and other ball guests complained that nearly everyone, from the coat check attendants to D.C. police called in when the departing ball crowd became rowdy, contributed to the confusion.
"An attendant took my claim check and was still gone 40 minutes later," said Beveridge, who had a police officer escort her through several coat check rooms, without success. Yet, Beveridge said, it took most of Tuesday and numerous telephone calls before she could find someone to take an official police report on the missing coat -- a report she needs in order to file an insurance claim.
There was a fracas at the center shortly after midnight when several thousand people left the ball at the same time, creating a backup at the coat counter. Some people, tired of waiting, left the ball coatless. Others waited an hour or more to claim garments. And others, by mistake or because they couldn't find their own coats, left the complex in coats, furs and stoles that didn't belong to them, according to police.
At evening's end, about 60 coats remained unclaimed.
Michael Rogers, the convention center's deputy general manager, said yesterday he has not been told that any coats are still lost or missing. He said the center's coat checking vendor, King Enterprises, will continue to work with people to find their coats and is insured against losses. But the claimants will have to prove they were in the building and checked their coats.
"In a situation like this, there can be a lot of exaggerating," Rogers said. "People might be tempted to overextend the value of anything missing, if it is missing."
Rogers complained that the Presidential Inaugural Committee didn't leave the center enough space to handle coat checking services properly. The committee, for the second day in a row, did not return a reporter's calls.
Several of those at the ball called yesterday to dispute suggestions, offered by police and center employes, that ballgoers were drunk. They complained that the center had too few coat checking attendants and too little security for the coat racks.
"It was poorly organized," said Bruce Fairchild. "Besides, by the time you've waited an hour and a half to get your coat, you've sobered up."
Beveridge said the crowd was being as patient as possible until three police officers climbed up on tables and began helping to distribute the coats.
"They were passing these furs and coats overhead and they were disappearing into the crowd to who knows where," she said. "That's what really panicked people."
But Rogers, saying it was hard to pinpoint "just when the tension and panic set in," said no coats were handed out indiscriminately.
"I really think the great coat caper is over," he concluded.