I found it ironic that I was walking to the House of Shields one afternoon when I found myself bombarded with people in bright pink T-shirts from Planned Parenthood. I, like most Tea Party Patriots, associate the organization with birth control, or "shields" against pregnancy. The Clipboard People, as I have so cleverly named them, were out in droves. Before Planned Parenthood, it was the anti-Prop. 8 folks, then the ACLU. They always try to stop me, and I always say that I am late for something, so sorry (which is true). But if I ever actually paused to chat, I would have to ask them why they think that stopping people on a busy sidewalk is more effective than, say, direct mail. I actually have seen a few people staying for the spiel, so if 3 percent of the people that you greet stop and listen, I suppose that is still better than the 1 percent return that can be expected from sending paperwork to people's houses.
The problem lies in the fact that by the time you reach the Clipboard People on Market, you have already passed several spare-changers, an unbelievably tenacious dude who shoves his rap CDs in your face in front of Walgreens, a guy banging on industrial tubs of plastic to the tune of "Billie Jean," and any of a handful of clueless wanderers who have no spatial concept of other people (i.e., tourists). I'll say one thing for the Planned Parenthood gazetteers, they have pluck. No amount of "get the fuck away from me" seems to dampen their quest, and they remain magically upbeat and smiley in a world full of people like me.
I am lucky enough to have healthcare, so I felt a bit rueful for resenting the Clipboard Peeps (see? I've already given you guys a cuter name out of guilt). I had just had a weird health scare too, after hearing those horrible words that most of us gals dread at the doctor: "Is there any chance that you could be pregnant?" After doing some quick math and a survey of all the public toilet seats I had sat on in the last 60 days, the answer came up "No," but that stab of terror remained.
I was digesting my doctor's visit when I slipped into a booth at the House of Shields. I chose it because it was near BART, natch, and also because it is dark and medieval, like my soul. The inside is like Friar Tuck's man cave, with a long bar across the left side and small booths along the front wall. You can sit alone and watch everyone without looking like a perv, because no one will notice you pressed into your wooden cloche, sippin' away. This place has a reputation for being a bike messenger bar, but in my estimation, any bar near where bike messengers work becomes a bike messenger bar. This one is kitty-corner to the Montgomery BART station where they all hang out, and, I suppose, wait for their next assignment...