My Day at San Francisco City Hall (Fri, Feb 20)
After reading wordweaverlynn and rmjwell's volunteer reports (here and here), I knew it was something that I needed to do as well, but SF City Hall had put out the word they didn't need volunteers for the first part of the week. So I held off.
Last Thursday (Feb 19) I was reading that SF City Hall needed volunteers again to manage the crowds that lining up around the building waiting to get marriage licenses. I also read that nasty protesters had started harassing the folks in line. I've got a lot of background with crowd management, line control and dealing with protesters. So I figured I could be of use. So it was my turn to do the Next Right Thing.
I had already discussed taking a day off to volunteer with my Boss and she approved whole heartedly.
I tried to wake up early, I ended up rushing out of the house at 7:40, C dropping me off at BART in time to catch the latest possible train into San Francisco.
Walking up Grove street, I could see the line wrapping around the building and disappearing down the block.
My first thought was "I love this city!"
Then I saw the protesters and I thought "@%^ hateful people"
As I crossed the street, I passed one of the protesters and I said "God is Love. The Devil is Hate." which earned me a dirty look.
Then I was enveloped by the Glow of Happiness that radiated from the folks lined up. Young, Old, Babes in Arms, Kids, Teens. Every one of them happy to be there, despite waiting many hours in the cold and wet.
The SF Sheriff's Officer I asked knew exactly where to send me to volunteer.
I arrived at the volunteer station just as they started letting the line, so there was some confusion as how the line was to routed, but we worked it out.
As the line grew I was moved nearer and nearer to the main entrance to greet and direct folks.
It was easy to identify the folks coming in to get marriage licenses by the glow.
Eventually I was at the main entrance because the SF Sheriffs (SFS) did not leave the line outside to put up with the protesters, they brought the entire line inside. Out the County Clerks Office, down the hall, into the North Light Court, down some stairs, then wound the line through the lower level of City Hall.
The Clerks office is at the back corner of City Hall, I was directing folks to a down staircase on the opposite corner, because the line had grown so long.
The only "event" I was witness to, was a horde of press entering around 10:30am, several sheriffs (Several with zip tie cuffs ready. Including a few hog ties.) around 10:45am, then at 10:50am a group of 8-10 people wearing black t-shirts reading "Trust Jesus" "Fear God" and various bible references (book:verse pairs) on them. Only to see them being escorted out at 11am. The SFS were not laying hands on them, but were very clear in their body language that "if the protesters did not move, they would be moved." (darkmare trip report details what occured, but from where I was, I could hear none of it.)
Around Noon, I moved door guarding the entry to the hall leading to the Clerks office. Basically it was my job to query everyone wanting to enter the hall to ensure they had "real" business down there. Other Clerk's business, appointments, city workers, joining a group, press, passing out goodies or flowers, all were things I would accept for passage. Just looking, searching for a friend, no answer and I suddenly got very wide. ;) The main intent was to keep the hall as clear as possible.
Only one person refused to answer me, he tried to get around me, found I'd gotten wide, grumped at me and wandered off.
I saw a wide variety folks arriving to get in line or departing after getting married:
Giddy middle aged bears.
Stunned 20-somethings in tuxes.
A big "Yeah Ha" from western gear wearing couple
A straight couple where the groom and best man were in kilts
Matching Hawaiian print shirts.
and Joyful children.
There was a couple who had driven up from Santa Barbara, who had stood in line all night, got married in the morning, then came back and volunteered to be escorts from the Clerks office to the Rotunda for the marriage ceremony then to the Recorder's office to file license. As I was leaving, I was chatting with them, they were planning get their credentials to perform marriages and return to volunteer as officiants.
Flowers, flowers, flowers!
So many, we had to send the delivery folks farther and farther down the line. One person insisted on giving theirs to someone at the front of the line, because the bouquet they had had been through 3 marriage ceremonies already and they wanted it to do *4*.
I also met emmett_the_sane who was documenting one of the many flower deliveries. Our conversation was very disjointed as I paused to inquire "May I help you?" to each person as they approched the entrence.
Because I had another commitment in the evening, I had to leave shortly after 4pm, but not before hearing the announcement that everyone in line would receive a appointment to return and get their marriage license.
On the way out, I thought I saw a familiar face in one of the News tents, calling out it was indeed klwalton.
We discussed the mental and emotional state of someone who would cover their truck in hateful commentary then drive it around and around the block hoping to get on TV. At least the sidewalk protesters had the bravery to face their opponents face-to-face.
Tired, Hot, foot sore, but still happy and glowing myself after a day of basking in the glow, finally collapsed onto BART and headed home.