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Dog Bites 

Wednesday, Apr 3 1996
Disinformation Please
"We're here to serve you," says the answering machine at the Attorney General's Office Public Inquiry Unit. A live voice then comes on the line to direct all inquiries to the information line -- (800) 952-5225.

Here, we're told to press 1 if we're calling from a Touch-Tone phone. Being on the cutting edge of communication technology, we are able to comply. Then we're told to press 6 if we're calling from "a law enforcement agency, state agency, or legislative office, or you are a representative of the media." Immediately feeling special, having somehow moved ahead of the average joe in line, we press 6. Then we're told to press 1 for the exact same thing. Maybe it's a test. OK. Done.

"Your call is being transferred to a member of the attorney general's staff," the recording says.

We're giddy with anticipation. Instead, nothing. Zip. Nada. Lost in communication hyperspace.

OK, back to the information line. We redial (800) 952-5225. Press 1. Press 6. Press 1. Got it.

This time a different secretary answers the phone and informs us that we are in the wrong place for information. To get information, she says, we must call back the information line number but not press any of the options.

OK. We dial (800) 952-5225 again and don't participate in any of the button-pressing activities offered, all of which we've now memorized. Now we get a busy signal. Perhaps the office is experiencing a heavy inquiry period.

We dial the information line again. And again. And each time, we get a busy signal. It's now become clear that if we do not choose an option, we will be given a busy signal. Having grasped this revelation, we call the information line again, this time selecting random options that produce the following recorded message:

"Hello, you have reached the California State Attorney General's Office Public Inquiry Unit. ... In order to provide a more complete service, as so many of you have continually requested over the years, we have developed an automated system so that those members of the public who are able to help themselves can do so now." Yeah, right. "If you are calling from a Touch-Tone telephone, please press 1 now."

Yes, yes, 1 already.
"Please hold while your call is being transferred," the recording says, offering what would only become false hope. Busy signal. Ggrrrrrrr ...

We call back and talk to our third secretary of the day.
"OK, let me have you speak to someone," she says. "OK, you're from where? What did you want to know? ... OK, hold on. ... I'm sorry, but you need to call our information line."

Vows and Curses
On paper, it all looked so easy. But a marriage contract is more than just pressed tree pulp, so perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise that translating words into real life provided a truly San Franciscan moment of profanity last week during the great City Hall gay wedding extravaganza.

It happened when Mayor Willie Brown was about to embark on uniting 10 couples in domestic partnership. Brown was facing them, reading from the domestic partnership ceremony vows:

"I -- state your name -- do willingly take -- state your partner's name -- to be my lifetime partner to love and to cherish forever."

"I ...," the couples onstage dutifully intoned, and then stopped.
Brown started laughing and slapped his copy of the vows against his leg. "All right," the mayor said. "Let's start this again. This is serious shit!"

The next time through, they pulled it off without a hitch -- and got married.

By Lisa Davis, Ellen McGarrahan

About The Authors

Lisa Davis


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