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Monday, October 27, 2008

An Adventure in Civics

"It's not the voting that's democracy; it's the counting." ~ Tom Stoppard, Jumpers


You guys aren't going to believe what happened today!

I almost didn't get to vote!
Or at least it sure felt that way for a few hours!


It's like Roseanne Roseannadanna says. It's always something!
Well, today it was my something.

I have to admit that first of all, I played hooky from work today.
I wasn't really sick, but I kinda felt like maybe I could go down that road, and... well, you know how it is some days? I just needed an extra brain day. I didn't want to hear any whining today.

So here I am at home, doing a little laundry, eating some popcorn, and then I think, Hey! I'll get dressed and go to City Hall and VOTE! That will make me feel good and productive!
When you live on the Left Coast, by the time your vote gets counted, the rest of the country is already asleep and the thing's decided. So I wanted to get my vote in early. And it seemed like a very good hooky-day idea.

I get down to City Hall, which is just the prettiest building ever with all of the marble and carvings and gilded metal and go down to the basement. I fill out a form, get in line, chat a little with the people around me. Twenty minutes later, it's my turn... and the woman behind the desk tells me I'm not in the computer.

Um, excuse me?

*freaks out a little inside*

She wants to know if I've registered, and yes, I have. I voted in the primary in February!

She looks for me again in the computer, every which way since Sunday. I'm not there.

*silent scream*

Then I have to go to another room, where three other people try to find me in the computer.

Not happening.

Wha?!! These things are supposed to happen in Florida! (No offense, Florida. I was going under the assumption that we had our voting sh*t together here.)

So they tell me that I have to petition the court.

Come again? WTF?!

They tell me I have to fill out some forms and go to the Civil Court across the street, and talk to the judge. Then, if the judge signs my petition, I can come back to City Hall and vote. (Needless to say, my fantasies of my weekday play date are evaporating quickly before my eyes. To their credit, everyone at the Department of Elections was very nice to me. I was also the epitome of calm.)

So I go to the Civil Courts building, find the courtroom, and proceed to not have a writing implement, except for a purple calligraphy pen, which I don't think is appropriate for filling out this bunch of forms. (Note to self: why do you never have a pen?! You always have like five different lipsticks and nothing to write with. That's bad! Very bad!)

There's no one else there except for another woman with the same forms I have. She sees me rummaging around and kindly lets me use her pen. We chat a little, and discover that both of us have the same story. Registered to vote in the February primaries, voted, and now don't exist. Not that we're paranoid, but WTF?

Then someone comes out of the courtroom and says they're closed for lunch. Come back in an hour and a half.


So I'm walking around the Tenderloin, looking for something to do for 90 minutes. I see a drug deal, some people in very bad shape sitting in wheelchairs and more than a few lawyer-y looking types. (For those of you who don't know the lay of the land, City Hall is adjacent to a neighborhood known for violence and poverty, the Tenderloin.) The Tenderloin has some very cool, old buildings, but it's not a place you want to hang out and gawk. You can look but you keep moving and you pay attention to who's around you.

The good news is that I happened upon a Burmese restaurant I read about and wanted to try, except I'm never near the Tenderloin at lunch. So I decided to have some tea leaf salad and some coconut milk and chicken soup. What's a tangobaby post without a foodie story anyway?

I love Burmese tea leaf salad (La Pat Dok). It's made with fermented tea leaves, dried shrimp, cabbage, tomate, fried garlic, sesame seeds and peas and nuts. This one was very good.

While I was sitting there, still feeling nervous about having to go to court and talk to a judge, I realized that I should be very grateful to be here eating tea leaf salad and having some recourse to the law and my rights. If I was sitting in Burma, or Myanmar as it's now called, I could be eating some kick-ass salad with NO voting rights. Or I could be in prison. For a fascinating book about Burma and also George Orwell's ties to that country, read Finding George Orwell in Burma by Emma Larkin. It's a fantastic read.

And then it was time to go back to court.


"I'm tired of hearing it said that democracy doesn't work. Of course it doesn't work. We are supposed to work it." ~ Alexander Woollcott

While I was waiting, I made two new friends, Theresa and Kathy. Theresa told us about some past elections in the Philippines and let's just say that we should be glad that eye gouging and intimidation and prison aren't direct results of the democratic process here. Bless her heart, Theresa is 76 years old. And Kathy was our court angel. She provided me with a paper clip for my important documents because I didn't have one of those either.

Then the bailiff said we could enter the courtroom.

Here's the courtroom. Just like on TV, right?

We never saw the judge. A clerk came out, talked to each of us individually and then took our documents back to the judge for evaluation. I was the first one to get my petition signed and then back to City Hall for me.


And about an hour later, I had voted.

As I was leaving, I saw three weddings.
One "traditional" (for lack of a better word) and two lesbian couples.
All were lovely. And I wouldn't have seen them if I hadn't been scurrying around to get petitions signed and eating Burmese tea leaf salad. Sometimes timing really is everything.

I hope my vote on Proposition 8 helps those gay and lesbian couples who want to have the right to marry.

And City Hall is just so dang beautiful. You should really come and check it out.

And then no other but Abe Lincoln himself thanked me for coming out today.
Now that's an adventure in civics!


christina October 27, 2008 at 7:16 PM  

OMGoodness!! Yippee!! You voted! After all that, you got to vote! You were a determined little one!

The food looks yummy!!

I am in awe of all the beautiful shots you captured!!!

I am also glad that drug deal didn't go bad or you would have had to haul ass!!!

OMG!! So proud you voted!

Red Shoes October 27, 2008 at 10:57 PM  

Thank you for showing us how all this went!

paris parfait October 28, 2008 at 4:03 AM  

Your adventure in civics made me all teary, with tales of all the wonderful diversity that makes up our country. Great photos representing that. And an important reminder about the freedoms we enjoy, which are still unheard of in way too many corners of the world. We are lucky and too many people tend to take our privileges for granted.

A Cuban In London October 28, 2008 at 4:17 AM  

Well done!

Greetings from London.

Anonymous October 28, 2008 at 8:54 AM  

What an amazing adventure! And absolute proof that black clouds do have silver linings :-)

tangobaby October 28, 2008 at 11:19 AM  

Hi christina,

I was so relieved to get those ballots, and so grateful to make my mark on history.

I am also grateful that my little adventure in the 'Loin provided a lovely lunch served by nice people and nothing else. I was wearing boots that unfortunately would not have lent themselves to me hauling ass. The heels are too high. (But the boots did match my pashmina.)

Hi red shoes,

Hopefully you will not have a similar adventure and things will go smoothly for you next week.

Hi paris parfait,

When I sat down to write what happened, I just loved all the twists and turns of my little adventure. The people I randomly meet in San Francisco have been wonderful. I find goodness wherever I look, it seems.

I think this election made many of us realize what it is we stand to lose if we don't get our collective acts together. Thank you for keeping us aware of that, too.

Hi cuban,

Thank you!

Hi johanna,

As it was getting later in the day, I started to worry that I might not get to vote after all that time. But I still felt like at least I tried my best. And then I got to vote! So yay!

julochka October 28, 2008 at 12:30 PM  

i'm so glad it worked out! scary moments when you think you're not gonna get to vote in THIS election!

and thanks for teaching me about tea leaf salad. now i guess i'll have to go to myanmar, since i can't think that i've ever seen a burmese restaurant in my life...

tangobaby October 28, 2008 at 12:41 PM  

Hi julochka,

Read the book first. You might want to get the recipe and try to make it yourself rather than go to Burma to get some. Or come here and I'll take you. There are several Burmese restaurants here.

As scary as it was realizing that somehow my information had gotten lost (and I wasn't the only one), knowing that my state will be going for Obama did make me feel better although I would have still been disappointed to not have had the chance to add my name to the list. And to vote on other important ballot measures.

But mostly it made me think that there should be an easier, national standard by which to conduct elections! I know you agree with me on that, especially considering that you might not have had the chance to vote either.

My Castle in Spain October 28, 2008 at 12:53 PM  

Grrreat !! so you voted...i'm sure it must have been such a happy moment for you !!

karey m. October 29, 2008 at 4:47 AM  

my heart was RACING! and then my nose got all twitchy and my eyes all wet...i always cry at weddings.

xoxo. loved this.

Anonymous October 29, 2008 at 9:01 AM  

i absolutely love this post, it is by far one of my favorites of yours. what an adventure! and i'm going to jot downt he salad ingredients and also the name of that book because Burma is in my husbands top 3 places to visit in the world. he loves that country.

tangobaby October 29, 2008 at 4:56 PM  

Hi lala,

It was a happy moment, tinged with relief! It only took five hours to get everything straightened out!

Hi karey m.,

Just when I was going to feel a tad guilty about calling in sick, I realized that if I hadn't been naughty, I would have not been able to vote! So I'm looking at this as a sacrifice my workplace made for America.

I did not cry at the weddings, but I love that first photo of the two wedding couples on the stairs, and the little girls watching them.

Hi sarah,

I actually had a hard time finding a consistent recipe for the salad because I was going to link to it. Travel to Burma, from what I understand, is getting incredibly difficult as the government does not welcome outsiders, especially Westerners. Burma is on the official State Department's list of DON'T GO THERE or whatever they call it. Maybe hubby can pick a place that's a little more stable? Just so I won't worry about you!