The alarm rings at 7:30 AM. I do not want to get up. The bed is comfortable and the dog is snoring ever so slightly.
I turn on the bathroom heater and start the shower. 20 minutes later, I am clean and clean-shaven, wearing gray slacks and a button-up shirt. I head downstairs to check email, bring in the local paper, and, if it works with the shirt, grab my bow tie. The dog is usually smart enough to stay in bed.
By 8:15, I am walking to the bus stop, where I buy the Chronicle. If my timing is right, I catch a bus quickly. If not, I may be late. If I'm late, someone else will do my job.
The walk from the bus is about 10 minutes. If I'm early enough, I pick up breakfast - a toasted cheese bagel with butter and orange juice - from the deli around the corner. If not, I'll grab it later, if things slow down.
I walk through the door, greet the clerks, buzz into the back room, and it begins: 4 hours of joining couples in wedded bliss at the Hall of Records in Oakland. I've been marrying couples every Friday morning since June 2008 - more than 2000 pairs. Some Fridays are boring - 3 or 4 couples, with nary an interesting tidbit. Other Fridays are non-stop - 15 couples, and every one's got a story.
How did I get started? Why have I kept going?
My wife is in Miss Janet's book club. Their meetings are grouped in sessions, and each session ends with a potluck supper. I show up for the potluck because Janet usually makes something delicious involving meat.
During the potluck right after the state of California first legalized same-sex marriage, Janet bemoaned the shortage of marriage commissioners to handle the tidal wave of couples newly free to marry, and asked if anyone in the club wanted to join her at the Hall of Records.
I did some acting in college, so I have no problem standing in front of people and talking. My wife and I had been married almost 8 years at that point, and things were (and still are) working out well, so I was (and still am) a big fan of marriage. I had (and still have) gay friends, and the thought of them being denied a basic right was ridiculous. Those seemed like good enough reasons to volunteer.
Anyone who's read this blog probably knows what happened next. All the new folks and the pros gathered, oaths were sworn, vows were hastily copied and distributed. The terror of ruining someone's perfect day gradually gave way to the contagious joy radiating from enfranchised people. I got better at gathering groups onto elevators. I massaged here and poked there and finally constructed the ceremony that said what I wanted to say about marriage: its obligations and its rewards. I set to joining folks in matrimony.
Once the initial surge calmed down, a lot of the volunteers drifted away. I liked the routine and the people, both staff and couples, and my boss was kind enough to bend my work schedule to keep Friday mornings free, so I stayed. That was more than 5 years ago.
Working at the Hall of Records lets me evangelize and proselytize something I believe in firmly - marriage.
As I've mentioned, I am married, and happily so. Marrying my wife has been the smartest decision I've ever made, and I've made some awfully good decisions. Marriage has proved a stabilizing influence on both our lives, and enabled us to weather some rather bad storms. I'm sure Janet would agree that having someone with you who's promised to hang around through thick and thin, for better or worse, in sickness and in health, makes getting through the rough times a little easier.
I am a satisfied customer not just of marriage, but also of the Hall of Records. I marry people in the very room in which I got married, a twist I hadn't expected. The Hall staff are kind people whom I consider friends, and they do their very best to help the soon-to-be-newlyweds. The routine provides a nice grounding and a good end to each work week.
Most couples are at least a little happy they're getting married. Some are so overjoyed that tears and laughter spontaneously erupt - occasionally simultaneously. When you can spend a few hours a week helping people feel that good, and you're not breaking the law to do it, why wouldn't you?
Me, ready to go