With traffic slowed to a crawl, the masts of television news vans raised skyward out front and music blaring from radio station disc jockeys across the street, it seemed like the opening of a hot dance club or even a Hollywood premiere.
But the site of yesterday evening's gala was the 900 block of E. Fayette St. - in and around Baltimore's main post office - and if the affair had to be named, it might have been called The Procrastinators' Ball.
It happens just about every April 15 - or, when that date falls on a weekend, the Monday after - with the deadline to file income tax returns. Those attending were self-invited.
As at most dance clubs, there was plenty of sweat on the brow of the last-minute tax filers, but it was hard to tell whether the perspiration resulted from the stuffy heat in the post office lobby or from time ticking away for getting tax forms - or extension requests - into the hands of a postal worker by midnight.
Most streamed by in cars, handing their returns to letter carriers, such as Natasha Hawkins, who presided curbside in fluorescent orange smocks.
A few in the lobby filling out forms declined to label themselves with the "P word" but offered excuses including "I could never find the time after work" and "I hate taxes."
But Carolyn Crosby of Northwest Baltimore had no pretenses: "I waited to the last minute because I owe. Everybody I know got their money [refunds], but I'm still crying."
Crosby was in such a hurry to get to the post office that she drove her Mazda 626 from her job at Greater Baltimore Medical Center in Towson about 4:30 p.m. without filling the three-quarters-empty tank.
By 6 p.m., she was in a snaking line in the lobby waiting for help with her 1040EZ form from Internal Revenue Service employees who are on duty there for the final hours every year.
"Ain't no telling how long I'll be here," Crosby said, adding that after filing, she'd take care of the filling.
She had stopped first at the State Office Building complex, seeking help with state forms, and gave a lift downtown to fellow tax sufferer Michael Scott, 45, of West Baltimore. His excuse? "A steel beam fell and hit me on the head. I've been at Shock Trauma since January."
He wasn't kidding.
"My life is more important than doing taxes," said Scott, leaning on a cane.