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Wednesday, April 13, 2005 | I started my day searching for treasure … or at least the map. What began as a quick errand to pick up some pre-printed materials, turned into a journey through corridors and cubicles at the San Diego County Registrar of Voters.

As I slipped into what seemed to be the last available parking space, I glanced up and noticed a handwritten sign taped to the door in front of me directing people to Suite E for maps. Wait – I’m parked in front of Suite Q. Running short on time, I opted for a brisk walk rather than search for a new parking spot. I found Suite E, walked through the door, rang the counter bell, and told the kind gentleman I was there to retrieve my order for governmental district maps. He told me I would need to go to the Cartography department and proceeded to give me directions. I felt like a tourist at Horton Plaza. “Go through these doors, turn down the long hallway, follow the carpet …” As I began my quest I wondered, “Why am I going to Cartography? Isn’t that where they make geographic maps?” I decided that it certainly made sense to keep all the maps in one location.

Before I knew it, I was entering the Department of Planning and Land Use next door. That’s quite a place. Zoning, permits, codes … each section designated by a huge overhead sign. Thinking I had entered a human maze, I felt relieved when way in the back I saw “Cartography.” I raced to the sign and before I could once again ring a bell, a woman stepped to the counter to offer assistance. I repeated my purpose, and she told me that unless I could remember the name of the person I talked to when placing the order (a week ago), she would probably not be able to help me.

Seemingly frustrated with my inability to recall this vital information, she led me to another department where some men started rifling through map orders. Finally, one of them asked, “How much were they charging you for these maps?” “Eight dollars each,” I replied. In a very pleasant tone, he let me know that I was in the Nordstrom section of the county maps department and immediately picked up the phone.

Before I could calculate how much I might have spent on six maps in this department, he whisked me out the back door to a covered alley to rendezvous with yet another county employee.

By this time, I was reconsidering whether I should check the pages of the phone book and draw my own maps, but my new guide seemed to know exactly where I needed to be. She led me through a sea of cubicles and introduced me to John. Feeling slightly exasperated, I glanced at a table beside me and there they were – my maps! (Or at least ones that looked like my maps). John scurried about collecting everything I had ordered and confirmed that my recollection about pricing was correct. I rushed to write my check and handed it to him. He told me I would have to pay elsewhere. Here we go again … I thought. Thankfully, he was kind enough to escort me along the winding path of portable walls and desks to the cashier. Finally, 35 minutes later, I was on my way.

As I stepped outside, I felt like I had jumped from a spinning merry-go-round, but gladly, I had landed on my feet. One thing is for sure … when it comes time to vote in the next election, I’ll take my chances with going to a neighborhood garage to mark my ballot. Oh, and I’m confident that filling in the “bubbles” will be a breeze.

Robin Ruhwedel is the Voice office manager, a woman who juggles many tasks. You can e-mail her at

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