Thursday, April 9, 2009

Riding the bus

OK, so many of you know that my State Senator, Dennis Damon (D-Trenton) has introduced a thing called LD 1020 "An Act to end Discrimination in Civil Marriage and Preserve Religious Freedom. It is a bill that would define marriage as a civil contract between two consenting adults, regardless of gender. It would also allow religious institutions to retain the right to refuse to marry any couple that does not meet their own requirements. (Catholics do this now, refusing to marry people who have been previously married and divorced, or couples where neither person is Catholic. I presume other churches have similar restrictions.) It would also make it so that Maine recognizes any marriage performed in any other state (including same-sex marriages).

Dennis is a brave, amazing guy. He made my heroes list a couple years ago when he was instrumental in passing legislation to allow adults who were adopted in Maine access to their original birth records, including the names of their birth parents. Now he has done this. Straight, with grown kids, he has been a teacher, coach and entrepreneur. His wife still teaches in public schools. All-American stuff.

And since he proposed this bill in the legislature, he has been the target of some pretty nasty stuff. Hate speech directed at him and his family. Public insinuations about his manliness and/or sexual orientation. Death threats. All-around nastiness. And he has remained steadfast. Bless his heart.

But this post was not supposed to be about Dennis. Well, maybe a little bit, toward the end. This is a post about marriage and a bus.

See, a friend of ours (K) who is a local mover and shaker in liberal political circles was charged with delivering 100 supporters of the bill to its public hearing before the legislative committee designated to hear it (probably the Judiciary Committee). Both sides will be out in force for this thing, and our side needs not only articulate speakers, but bodies in seats. The rules are pretty strict - no placards or signs, no cheering, no cat-calls, no misbehavin' of any kind. Seating is limited to 900 people, with the proceedings being simulcast to monitors in a second auditorium where more seating will be available. The show begins at 9:30 a.m. and is expected to go until 8:30 p.m. I have no idea if there will be a break. It will be a long, emotionally charged, exhausting day.

And our organizers are telling us to be at the auditorium (at Cony High School in Augusta) at 7 a.m. in order to be sure we will get in and get decent seats. They're also telling us to wear red to make a visible show of support.

So K and I got talking and L chimed in with a reminder that we actually know somebody who owns a bus. Like a real bus. A big bus. OK, an old school bus, but still. It's more than a Volkswagen microbus. It's more than a 12-seat university van, it's more than the old 16 passenger bus I used to drive. It's a 56-seat behemoth of a thing. And yeah, it's yellow.

So I called the gal, E, who owns the bus. Actually, E and her partner own a cab and hired car/transportation service. They have vans and SUVs and even TWO buses. Very cool. Could she give us a price? Sure!

Oh, and could I drive it, please?

You want what?

Hire me, I said. Put me on for one day. I won't even ask for pay, to keep our costs down, and I'll clean it out when we're done.

There was a very long pause.

Are you still driving for company X? No.

You still have your license, though? Oh, yes!

Is it clean? Like a whistle! I'm really quite boring, you know... (hush you!)

What are you doing for work now? I'm a self-employed contractor.

Really? So, like, your time is pretty much your own, then, right? Um, yeah. Pretty much.

I'm short one or two bus drivers and I have some shifts that need coverage. Think you could do them?

{in this long silence, I understood exactly what was being offered here in trade: You want to drive this bus bad enough? Bail me out of these shifts and I'll make it happen.}

(deep breath) sure. What have you got?

Well, kids, Dawn is taking one for the team.

Remember how much I like children, right? Yeah. Well, this company has the contract with a local school to transport their athletic teams to and from events. I will be bringing kids to a track meet, a tennis match, and a softball game. Three shifts, each probably a minimum of six hours, and I get to also drive the bus to Augusta for the hearing.

Now for the extremely local part of this post.

  • This all happens on Friday, April 24, 2009.

  • We will be leaving very early and probably staying until around 6 p.m. before heading for home. That means you might not get back to your car until 8 or 9 p.m., perhaps later.

  • If you live in Hancock County, Maine and want to ride on this bus, you can contact me at bbginanp (at) roadrunner (dot) com and say "I want to ride the bus" in the subject line. It will cost $15 per person and will include a box lunch.

  • There will be three places you can catch the bus. We depart the Bar Harbor town pier at 4 a.m. We have the OK to park cars on the pier for the whole day. We go to College of the Atlantic and pick up passengers at the whale's skull. We depart COA at 4:15 a.m. and head to Ellsworth.

  • We pick up passengers at the Ellsworth High School (yes, you can park there all day) and depart there at 5 a.m. SHARP. We will be travelling down Route 3 and might pick up people in Belfast if they request it. (Probably in the Reny's parking lot, and probably at around 6 a.m.)

  • YOU MUST RESERVE A SEAT if you want to ride. We are expecting to fill the bus to capacity. You can pay when you board the bus. There is a reduced price for high school kids.

Now back to the cool part about Dennis Damon.

When we were in Augusta recently for that tradeswomen's conference, we stopped over to the state house to visit our local delegation. We got to visit and chat with our House Rep, check out her seat in the chambers and stand behind the speaker's podium (wicked cool!). We also tried to find Dennis, but he was out of the building shuttling between meetings. The nice lady in the Senate Majority office found him via phone for me, though, and handed me the receiver so I could chat with him. I thanked him for his bravery and for the good work he's doing. And then I asked if he was a notary public. In fact, he is.

Well then, I said. When this is all over, will you marry L and I?

Yes, he said, he'd be glad to perform our ceremony.

So sometime soon, perhaps this summer, even, L and I could very well be getting married. Like for real. Legally and everything. It's big. It's huge. And it is not something I ever imagined I'd see in my lifetime.

It will probably be in the park (Acadia). It will absolutely be potluck. There might be volleyball or softball or Frisbee. There will certainly be dogs. There won't be alcohol, but there will be fun. And most importantly, there will be love and laughter and good times. Because that's what families and marriages are all about. Love and tears and laughter and togetherness.

Dennis rocks, don't you think? He's gotten a real rash of shit over this thing. Do me a favor and send him a note thanking him for being such a good guy, would you? Here's the link to E-MAIL SENATOR DAMON. Remember to mention LD 1020 and thank him for being so great, hmm?



Chef Cthulhu said...

Doesn't it feel great when a plan comes together? I hope you're successful and Maine becomes the next state to do the right thing.

dolphyngyrl said...

I better get an invite! ;)

laughingatchaos said...

My thoughts:
Heh. You have to drive a school bus. I'm so sorry. Heh...
Did you put this all together?
And I got teary-eyed reading at the bottom that you wanted Senator Damon to marry you and L. I have tried to figure out why gay marriage hits me so hard, why I believe in it so deeply. I can't figure it out. I suppose I want everyone to be as happy and miserable as I am (LOL), but it's more than that. I will celebrate with you long-distance when you and L marry. :)

Kay said...

Wow! What a wonderful post/thing/idea(about the bus)!

You Miss Dawn, are one of my heroes!

Blazer said...

Your Senator does indeed rock!...and so do you. That is more than a little sacrifice you are taking for the team. Good luck on the hearing and surviving your other bus tours. I look forward to hearing about your wedding.

Leo MacCool said...

wow, that is a lot of suffering to drive the bus! but i think this is awesome. is out-of-state support any help? (like, i'm married in mass. & i'm ok?) i hope all of new england has gay marriage soon. your wedding plans sound perfect.

Diane said...

Go get 'em, girl! I'll be prayin for you and L, and for all Maine LGBTs!