Well, now we've seen everything: Limo gridlock! We are talking about the week's invasion of the District's normally impassable streets by a pride (surely not a gaggle or flock) of stretch Cadillacs, luxury Lincolns and similar members of the limousine species.
The invasion was, of course, tasteful. The world bankers and government dignitaries attending the International Monetary Fund meetings here do not yearn for pale blue Rolls Royces or mauve Bentleys. They do not go in for punk. We noticed one maroon car about 35 feet long with blackened windows that looked as if it were on loan from the mob, but by and large the IMF-ers' preference runs to banker's black. Bankers, we are told by those who provide the cars, care much more about the quality of their drivers than the grandeur of their vehicles. Many reserve their drivers, as well as the cars, a year in advance.
But there is no way for a limousine to qualify as discreet, being by its nature, an awesome sight. A limousine has the demeanor of one born to power. Limos do not yield gracefully--even (or especially) to each other.
What was to become the limo crisis of '83 peaked on Wednesday, when the IMF demand was augmented by that of visiting Democrats gathered for a fundraiser and assorted notables assembled for a British Embassy function. Knowledgeable observers estimate that the number of limousines on the streets probably exceeded the requirements of an average presidential inaugural--although it did not match the record set in January 1981 by the Reagan presidency. For those festivities, the resources of the entire Eastern seaboard were tapped.
Where do limousines live when the IMF is not in town? Some of them keep busy ferrying visiting foreign big shots, corporate executives and movie stars around. Others lend their prestige to weddings, funerals and proms. Hundreds more will be shipped back to limo farms in Delaware, Pennsylvania and other places where the big car rental agencies keep backup fleets for loan to major District limousine rental agencies. Most, however, will sit on lots in the District and environs, waiting for the next big event that produces a mass mobilization of limos on this city's streets.
We can wait.