For whom the ballot tolls

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Down the street from the pink, Victorian-style home I live in is a bodega on the corner of Haste Street and Shattuck Avenue, appropriately called Shattuck Market. It sells all the things that college students need to hold them over until they can make it to Safeway on the weekends: emergency toilet paper, frozen tamales, Natural American Spirit cigarettes and 24-ounce canned beers — all the essentials, really.

As the semesters rolled on, my late-night snack runs to Shattuck Market turned into a weekly routine with my housemates. We came to discover that this corner store was much more than a midweek pit stop frequented by the local frat bros and track stars. As we ventured past the It’s-It Ice Cream cooler, we found all the hidden gems stacked on the market’s metal shelves — rose-flavored Turkish delights, Persian yogurt drinks and yuzu sodas.

The man who ran the store — “the Shattuck Market man,” as he came to be known for many months — always greeted us with a smile and a wave when we, clad in layers of sweats, came through his ringing doors. He never made us reach the $5 credit card minimum when we slumped in for the $2.50 It’s-Its, and he always noticed when one of us wasn’t there to cure our studying-induced munchies.

A few weeks ago, I had been doing research for The Daily Californian’s primary endorsements. In preparation, I was compiling a Google Doc of other publications’ endorsements, press releases from politicians, write-ups from sponsors, and anything else that had to do with the propositions Berkeley voters would be deciding on by June 5. When 10:30 p.m. had rolled around, I had barely cracked the surface of what I needed to do to even begin to understand what these propositions were trying to say.

So with blurry eyes and slumped shoulders, I decided to take a break. It was late May, and I could feel my freshly sunburned back getting warm from both my frustration and the canicular heat that was just around the corner, so I picked myself up and went down the street for an ice cream sandwich.

I was greeted by the familiar jingle and I waved to the Shattuck Market man, only to see that he had already been waving to me from the moment he’d heard the door open. I put my snack on the counter and as he rang me up, we got to talking. He asked me how my summer had been treating me, and I gave a little exasperated sigh as I made a comment about the research I’d been doing.

Standing there, waiting for my card to go through, I realized how much of a fixture he and these little conversations had become in my college routine. But at the same time, in the year I had been coming down the block to pick up snacks, I never even got his name. Just as he was saying his usual, cordial “goodbye” and “thank you,” I blurted, “I don’t think I ever got your name.”

“It’s Abdi. A-B-D-I,” he said with a smile as he traced the letters in the air with his finger. Leaning against the glass door, I asked him where he was from. He said that he lived 30 minutes from the market, across some bridge whose name I had heard before, but I couldn’t quite put a finger on it.

When I got home, stomach bloating from the mint ice cream and oatmeal cookies, I looked up the bridges that were listed under Regional Measure 3 — and right there was the bridge that Abdi mentioned he crossed to get to Shattuck Market.
If this measure were to pass, by 2025, he and other commuters could be looking at a roughly $16 round-trip commute to work — and that’s just in bridge tolls.

The ballot measure itself is full of references to this magnificent infrastructure plan and that grand transportational improvement, but in the 22 black-and-white pages of the PDF, it’s hard to find the full extent of how this measure will really affect Bay Area residents. After combing through editorials, op-eds and Ballotpedia breakdowns, it was difficult to see where these writers, politicians and policymakers factored in real people. As they built the plans for expanding BART lines and express lanes, they didn’t seem to make a plan for those commuters who’d have to find other ways of getting to work.

In the slurry of information available about bridges, ballots and buses, there is very little mention of people like the local bodega owners who cross into Berkeley to stock their stores with It’s-Its and Turkish delights. I know it’s impossible to factor in the millions of individuals who this one regional measure will touch, but going into the polls on June 5, I’m definitely going to be thinking about that little market on Shattuck and Haste.

Annalise Kamegawa is the opinion editor. Contact her at [email protected].