Tunnel Mole Goes to the Polls

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Tunnel Mole scurried out from the Beloved Downtown Houston Tunnel System last week to vote – as that’s one of the few services missing down below – and regrettably confirmed her fears about the polling place.

Actually, a polling place. Ours was starting to get crowded and boisterous just before closing time. A number of older folks cut in front of us in line to vote – could it be that they are retired, yet had the audacity to wait until the last minute, to push in front of the rest of us who had to cut our 12-hour workday short just to get there?

The registrars at the counter didn’t say anything; they were yakking with their buddies, the cutters. One of the clerks – the most important one; the one who gives you your backstage pass to go behind the curtain – was watching, but didn’t say anything.

But Nice Clerk (NC) decided to chat us up, possibly to defuse the situation. Who knows? All we know is he started talking about what a long day it had been; he himself used to be an election judge, but he’s helping out his mother (who’s the election judge who apparently lets cutters in). Yadda yadda yadda.

We listened, lazily. It seems that in NC’s neighborhood, where he was election judge, he took the place of a husband and wife team that kept alternating the role of election judge. “I got in the middle of all that,” he said proudly, as he shifted some type of tobacco product in his lower lip. (Snuff? Chaw? It’s been so long since we left West Texas, we couldn’t really identify it as quickly as we could there.)

“But they’re good folks,” he added hastily. “They’re pro-lifers.”

Tunnel Mole’s antennae – keenly honed after a recent reality experiment called “Feminist Goes to Catholic Law School (and Loses)” – stood on end.

“You can SAY that in here?” TM asked. One of the cutters whirled around and took it all in, probably ready to pummel her to the ground if need be.

Nice Clerk said, sure, and gave TM her ticket. TM very carefully scanned the ballot to make sure abortion was still not yet being voted on in a municipal election – and of course, voted as the Houston Press commanded on the issue of animal hides. Thankfully, those two issues were not combined – that would be a bit beyond the pale, even for someone whose money-making plan during law school was to get T-shirts printed with “Paws off My Penumbra!!” (Google the word if you’re fuzzy on the concept) and – brace yourselves for this one – “I (Heart) Abortion” bumper stickers.

Turns out, the proceeds from those enterprises wouldn’t even fund a three-pack of condoms and a 40-ounce. Maybe they – and Tunnel Mole herself – would have been a hit at a secular law school in California? And speaking of law school, now there’s a population of grade-grubbers whose parents maybe really should have considered some form of birth control.

In the interest of full disclosure, Tunnel Mole has not and will never have an abortion. But she’s worked with abused children. And until our society wants to go all Sweden on families, and help provide ‘em with a proper head start – NOT just vouchers for Catholic schools, y’all; we’re talking preschool education; health care (for fetuses and up), and paid leave for parents for the first year of a child’s life – then we’re not doing justice to those Former Fetuses (FF). And then to send the poorest children (FFs) to die or get maimed in a War for Oil? Puh-lease.

But enough bile. So TM exits the polling place, miraculously without a cavity search, and approaches the real, legit, most assuredly unpaid electioneers on sentry outside, and asked, “Do y’all know if it’s kosher to bring up an issue in the polling place, even if it’s not being voted on?”

“You mean abortion?” one replied. “Oh, that’s _______ __________. He’s famous for having chained himself to a tree in front of an abortion clinic – by his neck.”

So NC really stands for Neck Chains, and apparently I wasn’t the only one he witnessed to while he was on the city’s dime. TM later brought up the event to a cluster of local news reporters, who were unanimous in “outing” the incident. And they’re all diehard Republicans! (We’re in H-town, after all.)

Funny how the general public fails to get that the “liberal media” – whether Republicans or humans (hey, it’s my blog) – are sticklers for the rules. And one was being bent here.

Another rule was twisted years ago, when TM was at the Inauguration for Bill Clinton. There were a group of us, walking through the empowered and exhilarated crowd, past the church where the Clintons worshiped just before the ceremony. One of my colleagues – 6’4” and an imposing figure – grabbed my arm. His face was ashen. Someone had thrust a clear plastic takeout salad container towards him. It had what appeared to be a human fetus in it.

Well, that’s disrespecting the fetus, and we promptly got one of the many D.C. cops on his disrespectful, crazy ass.

Long ago, TM once covered a family planning clinic in another city, for a fairly major newspaper. The clinic had been bombed previously, so reporters were sent out there for a number of weeks afterward to give the anti-choice picketers their First Amendment right to free speech.

One tableau still sticks in my mind: There was a contingent of middle-aged white men, pushing old-fashioned black baby prams – misplaced modifier, we doubt seriously they were picketing for black fetuses – that had tape recordings of babies crying. (Well, maybe some of the strollers had real, tortured babies in there – wouldn’t surprise me to learn that child labor laws were being warped for the greater good.)

So some traumatized women simply trying to get an affordable pap smear had to push past all the hoopla – and that pretty much pissed off TM, whose pro-choice stance was concretized then and there. And even having a child – a miracle baby; a blessing from God -- hasn’t swayed that.

After the thoroughly unpleasant chore of doing my civic duty – voting -- I couldn’t wait to get back to the womblike safety of the tunnels. And I may dash off a letter to Rudy Giuliani—now there’s a pro-choice politician famous for cleaning up a city. He’d make short work of Nice Clerk/Neck Chains. – Tunnel Mole

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