Monday, September 25, 2017

Why? Didn't He Wash His Hands in the Bathroom? - Snapshots from my Seventh Day as a Clinic Escort

(Escort names have been changed to protect their anonymity. Opinions below are mine and do not necessarily reflect those of the leaders who run our team. In other words, if you have an issue with something I've written, talk to me. Absolutely feel free to share. Links to previous entries in this series:  Start here with Day 1Day 2. Day 3. Day 4. Day 5. Day 6. )


"Seriously, don't say that! Knock on wood. Or something hollow."

I grin at Luna's words. It's a hazy morning outside the clinic and once again I'm stationed by the underground driveway entrance, doing my best to ignore the puddle of rancid refuse water left behind by an early-morning garbage truck. I have garage doors that I need to fabricate from scratch and a writing deadline on another project looming as well. My wife kept me up late after she got back from practice last night and I was up early to shepherd my daughter off to a Girl Scout overnight. My knee is aching and my ankle feels as if someone is jabbing little needles into it.

None of that matters. It's 8:42am and The Runner isn't here. My smile widens.

"The very Fates themselves smile upon us, Luna. They have chosen to keep her odious presence away and I defy them to bring her here."

This, of course, is the perfect time for her to appear. But she doesn't.

Not for fifteen minutes, anyway. The floppy hat has been exchanged for a nondescript baseball cap and she's wearing mom jeans instead of yoga pants, but she's here. Plus those crazy wedges that she somehow races around on.

I bow my head to Luna in shame, accepting full responsibility. The Fates are fickle indeed.

* * *

"Is that your bag? No? Okay, is it yours? No? Okay."

The protesters are numerous today despite missing luminaries such as Alex and Luis. Parker and his freshly colored hair rolled up with what I assume is his entire family, including an infant. Crazy Doll Lady is here sans doll but with all the wacko zeal we've come to associate her with. One of the other escorts reports that at 11 or so she stormed into the restaurant next door as it was setting up for lunch and yelled about the audacity they had to have flowers delivered. On the other side of the street is a dude standing with red duct tape over his mouth. It's weird and creepy but at least the spot he's standing in doesn't get seen by most, if any, of the patients. One of Fox News' target demographics sits in a chair by the entrance to the library with a handful of paper. I assume they're religious tracts but they make him look like a guy who's going to validate your parking. I ignore his attempts to engage me.

I'm not going to ignore Hitler's bag, though.

I'm sure he hasn't deliberately shaved his mustache that way and it could just be how his five o'clock shadow grows in, but even the haircut is dead-on Fuhrer. He wanders in at about 9 or so, dragging a travel bag behind him. He greets a few of the protesters and grabs a sign from the plethora Parker has brought. It has the usual misleading photo on front but on the back - truth - it has a misappropriated quote from MLK that mentions - wait for it - Hitler. It almost looks like a campaign sign. He takes it and wanders out to the curb, leaving his bag against the building.

I'm not fond of the protesters but the ones I know don't project as violent. This guy, though, is new to me. He's left a bag against the side of the clinic. In this day and age, can I ignore that?

No. Carol happens to wander over to check up on us at that moment and I voice my concerns. She assesses the situation and is gone, asking the protesters standing near the bag if it's theirs. When they say no she heads into the building and comes out with one of the guards.

We have a pair on duty today and they look like NFL linebackers, clad in tactical vests and armed as well. He wanders over Hitler, who watches his approach with widening eyes. The ensuing conversation appears to put the guard at ease, and he stops by to chat briefly with us as well. Part of me feels foolish for making an issue out of it.

Only a tiny part, though.

* * *

"I don't get it either."

The larger-than-normal number of protesters means that Parker has broken out signs that are new to me. For the most part they're just more of the usual - mislabeled photos, Bible quotes, and outright lies - but he's toting a simple one that features black letters on a while background:

IT IS A FEARFUL THING FALL INTO THE HANDS OF THE LIVING GOD - Hebrews 10.31.

I'm not questioning the source, although pulling from a chapter named Hebrews is pretty ironic given that Hinton was screaming CHRIST IS KING!! in Hebrew at some teenager across the street on his way to synagogue for no imaginable reason other than to be discriminatory. Rather, Luna and I are perplexed by what we're supposed to be taking away from this. This is not an unusual occurrence, given the cherry-picking and contradictory messages that are tossed around here. Earlier today one of them was saying that God knows when we're going to die and there's nothing we can do about it. Does that mean that a drunk driver who plows into someone isn't a bad person but just the instrument of an indifferent deity filling a quota? Or that he knows that an unfair demise waits for some of us but pffftt - whatchagonna do, am I right?

Still, the 'Living God' thing is weird. Are those who fall into his hands going to be tortured? Fondled? Peeled like a banana and consumed? Are the hands weird? Warts, unclipped nails, calluses? If I ask Parker I'll just get told I'm a keyboard warrior dealing in fake news, so it'll have to remain a mystery.

* * *

"OH MY GOD SHE'S SO ADORABLE! What's her name?"

I glance at my partner, surprised at what she's doing. It's good that the mother has brought the infant over here away from the cacophony emanating from the screamer-of-the-moment's amp, and there's more than enough wall for both protester and escort. The baby, secured in one of those hands-free front-carrying devices, grins broadly at Janine. Her mother starts with a frown that slowly softens, perhaps from seeing the absolute joy on my fellow escort's face. After a prolonged pause she offers the child's name, albeit in a grudging tone. 

Janine is delighted. "And look at those little socks! I had socks just like those! You love your socks, don't you?"

The baby seems delighted by the attention and the mother is now edging into almost having a smile. It's kind of a nice moment, maybe.

Except what kind of people bring an infant to a protest? 

Seeing a baby is probably not high on a patient's list of wants, to be sure. But does that make using a kid as a prop okay? The amplified caterwauling from the screamers is almost non-stop and offensively loud, more so for young eardrums. Their signs are more graphic than many people would care to imagine, and yet these young, impressionable eyes see them, drink them in. Will this be her life going forward? At age 5 will they give her a training sign of her very own? Will she live in a house with any freedom of choice at all, or will religion and intolerance be crammed down her throat non-stop. What will that produce?

Maybe not what you think. One of the escorts I've worked with came from a extremely religious upbringing and yet defends the clinic with us. Hell, I was raised by two hard-core conservative parents and yet here I am. Maybe it's nature versus nurture. Maybe it's getting educated or being around people who influence you in a positive way. Maybe it's outrage at seeing women shamed.

Janine is crestfallen when I inform her which one of the protesters is the father. "Really? But she's so cute!"

* * *

"Sure, that would be fine. He'd love it."

Despite the interesting discussions I get to have with my oft-fascinating teammates, for the most part this gig kinda sucks. The fact we have to be here at all just to help women get access to medical care is galling and ridiculous. Being muttered at by zealots who wallow in misogyny and anti-Semitism is not the ideal way to pass a Saturday morning, but it's a necessity. There's not much to make your heart fill with joy.

Unless a passer-by stops and lets you pet his dog.

It's a big Goldendoodle, happy to receive the attention - okay, the adoration - albeit with a very zen manner. His owner is chill as well, and for a few minutes Janine and I aren't working escorts, we're just a pair of friends showering love on a random dog. Licks are given (by the dog). It's a nice moment.

A blue Acura with New York plates drives by slowly before coming to a halt up the road. The Runner is already sprinting up from the south so with reluctance we offer our thanks and head over to the vehicle.

Fluffy and hypoallergenic AF. Super h*cking friendly. 13/10 would pet again without fear of sneezing.

* * *

"Oh, you're going to see me again soon. Bet on it."

The woman speaking is dressed in black, her hair spiking out in a punk 'do. A charm shaped like a kitchen knife hangs around her neck and dark lipstick matches her eye shadow. She stops as she reaches us, shaking her head at the central mass of protesters behind her.

"These assholes. Who do they think they are?" A crafty grin creeps onto her face. "I've got something for them. Putting it together."

She shares the details with us before heading off. In theory it's non-violent, but given how humorless the majority of the protesters are I could see how it might cause trouble. Then again, anything that distracts them allows us to help more patients get by unmolested.

It's a complicated scenario. More support on our side is a wonderful thing, but there's a reason we run with crews of five escorts as opposed to a dozen - the sidewalks here aren't very wide. The protesters here are part of a network, and if they spend a day being made to feel the fool it's likely they'll call in reinforcements. They've got hardcore froth-at-the-mouth types who would make this crew seem like sleepy kittens. Added chaos means more potential stress for the patients to navigate as well. It's a tough call.

Still, I grin a bit as I imagine what would happen if these folks actually follow through. We all float down here.

* * *

"Look, I've told you once so don't make me tell you again. We don't want what you're selling. Go away!"

The Runner is about to create an incident.

Since her late arrival The Runner has buzzing around as if making up for lost time. When she's not scanning the street for slowing cars to race to she watches us for cues that someone's arriving. If she latches onto an incoming patient she will roll out her spiel in its entirety, no matter whether the person is listening or not. By the time we get near the door there's zero chance she can be heard anyway due to the screamers, but that doesn't deter her in the least. I'm not sure exactly whom her diatribes are for, given the lack of acknowledgment she receives. That doesn't slow her vicious, judgmental jabs in any manner. I guess, for her, the thought that her toxic message might get listened to is enough to keep her going.

Today she gets listened to. Too bad for her.

Stop and think about what she's doing: she's approaching people she doesn't know on a street and telling them how to live their lives through a combination of insults, insinuation, and shaming. When asked to stop she ignores the request and continues, pursuing the uninterested party and invading their personal space. It's clear-cut harassment and she does it every week, playing the victim and using her impending lawsuit as a shield. Substitute her for a frat boy and make the scenario at a bar and you'd have to call the bouncers over. Maybe the cops. It's stalking, yet somehow she's convinced herself that she's in the right. Be prepared for a wave of indignation if you dare question her in any way. 

Is it any wonder I ignore her attempts to make nice with me when patients aren't around? Not to me. Your mileage may vary.

If the mother telling The Runner to leave her and her daughter alone has any effect on her at all, it doesn't show. She slips around the back of the little pocket Janine and I have made as we lead them up the street. When she starts talking to the young woman Mom explodes.

"I asked you to leave us alone!" she says, jabbing a finger at the Runner's chest as she squares off and advances on her. "WHY CAN'T YOU LEAVE US ALONE? NOBODY WANTS TO HEAR YOUR BULLSHIT!"

The Runner is backpedaling with wide eyes, but it doesn't take long for her to run out of room and be trapped against a wall. "You can't touch me," she says in her same calm, insidious voice. "I'll sue you if you touch me. You hit me, you can't hit me. I'll sue you."

Mom? Does. Not. Care. She's right up in the Runner's face, still jabbing with her finger but not making contact. "I ASKED YOU TO GO AWAY BUT INSTEAD YOU START TALKING ABOUT WHAT KINDA MOM I SHOULD BE? DON'T TELL ME HOW TO BE A PARENT!"

The Runner's is stammering now, her facade beginning to slip. She looks scared, plain and simple. If it sounds like Janine and I are enabling by letting this happen, understand that possibly five seconds have passed since shit went sideways. As much as I might enjoy seeing The Runner get a well-deserved dressing down, this isn't good for anyone involved.

I manage to interpose myself without so much as brushing against The Runner, no doubt sparing being named as a co-defendant at some point. Mom's angry eyes shift to me. Hoo boy..

"This is what she wants. Any sort of contact and she'll sue. Don't give her the satisfaction."

"OH I'LL GIVE HER SATISFACTION," she says, but at the same time allows me to start shepherding her away. "GONNA TELL ME WHAT TO DO? SHIT, WE'LL GET STARTED ON HER RIGHT NOW!"

We've fallen back in step with her daughter and Janine, moving north. She's still yelling over her shoulder, but The Runner hasn't moved from where we left her. Instead she's got her phone out and is texting furiously, no doubt an update to her lawyer. I'm trying to talk Mom down but she's about eighteen kinds of fired up.

Moments later we draw close to Parker and Hinton, who have been sitting on a section of wall not particularly close to the clinic's entrance. It still allows them to yell at people coming into range, and Parker wastes no time injecting himself into the situation.

"Maybe if you were a better parent-"

Mom abruptly switches from yelling over her shoulder at The Runner to addressing her new would-be antagonist without missing a beat. "BITCH, AREN'T YOU ALREADY BUSY ENOUGH SEARCHING THROUGH ALL YOUR FAT TO FIND YOUR TINY DICK?"

Janine proves to be a professional by keeping a straight face. I do not, bursting into laughter. Parker splutters for a second or two and tries again, but Mom is still rolling.

"DON'T TALK! I KNOW YOU HAVEN'T FOUND ANYTHING YET! GET BACK TO WORK! HAVE YOUR FRIEND HELP YOU!"

Mom's still seething when we get to their car a few moments later, but her daughter bears a weary smile. "That's my Mom," she says, with a trace of pride. They thanks us for being out here and drive off.

I'm walking back with Janine and Parker starts to say something as we pass by. I burst into laughter again at once, shaking my head. He scowls and says something else, but I don't catch any of it. Carol meets us to find out what happened and soon she's laughing too.

Parker attempts to mock our mirth with a sour impression, but that only makes us laugh harder. We manage to stop as a car pulls up to the curb.

Back to work.






Friday, August 18, 2017

I'm Not Like the Others - Snapshots from my Sixth Day as a Clinic Escort

(Escort names have been changed to protect their anonymity. Opinions below are mine and do not necessarily reflect those of the leaders who run our team. In other words, if you have an issue with something I've written, talk to me. Links to previous entries in this series: Day One. Day Two. Day Three. Day Four. Day Five. )

"You said that most lesbians are too ugly to rape. You know you did. Why are you trying to say you didn't?"

Our Lady of the Theater is on fire this morning.

The weather forecast was for gloom and rain but at the moment it's sunny and beautiful, a gorgeous day. The stench of putrid water left behind from early morning garbage pickup isn't wonderful but things could be worse for my partner Rachel and myself.

At least we don't have Our Lady of the Theater tearing us a new one.

Not too much is known about her. It's believed she used to be a costume designer or something along those lines, perhaps on Broadway. She's dressed in comfortable clothes, long hair tumbling down from under a hat. For lack of a better term she functions as an anti-protester, usually stopping by for a half-hour or so to delve into discussions with our sidewalk pals. Today she's been here for an hour and a half and she's driving Parker up the wall.

"I never said that," Parker retorts. He fiddles with his hair, which features light-colored tips. Bleached or natural? Only his hairdresser knows for sure. "You just come out with the same argument over and over."

OLofT isn't going to let him off that easily. "A pregnancy created from rape or incest is an uninvited parasite that's using a woman's body without her permission. Doesn't she have the right to expel it?"

Parker's response is the lamentably predictable 'baby shouldn't pay for the sins of the father' bit of horror, which doesn't deter her in the least. She's got two other protesters roped in via proximity - one is an angry-looking woman that may be Parker's step-daughter, while the other is Mutton Chops. MC appears as if he'd like to be anywhere that isn't within the sound of OLotT's voice and indeed moves about 15 feet away at one point, only to have her follow him to re-engage. She's adept at catching them in logical fallacies about their Bible-backed stances, and it's obvious that they loathe her.

We, of course, love her. She's soft-spoken yet forceful, a sharp mind at work. After chatting with us a bit she says her goodbyes, heading off to the library across the street.

Exit, stage left (not pursued by a bear).

* * * 

"God has shown favor to your womb!"

Has he, now?

The protesters are a little undermanned today, with some of the regulars missing (but not The Runner, dammit). Luis shows up for a few minutes before leaving in an Accord held together by prayer. There's always screamers, though, even if Mutton Chops doesn't take a turn today. Instead Hinton and Parker carry the entire performance, which proves to be a bit taxing on their material. Parker seems to feel it a requirement to have the words 'babies' and 'murder' in every almost every sentence and continues to play fast and loose with scientific facts about development in the womb. He's also thoughtful enough to throw in thinly veiled comments about me when I'm covering the door during his diatribes, slights I assume are designed to get me to react.

Today features the Hinton Show as he sandwiches his turns on the mic around Parker's oratory ramblings. He's letting his flag fly, so to speak. Gays are the target for a while, which is a curious topic to preach about outside of a women's clinic. They're bad, in case you weren't sure. So are liberals, who are responsible for this 'sick liberal world' we're forced to live in (those responsible, take a bow. You know who you are). Women are weaker than men, as per the Bible, and so men have to tell them what to do - I'm paraphrasing here as Hinton's diatribes often wander in and out of comprehensibility. He's all hopped up about Jesus not being second to Mary. I have absolutely no idea what he's talking about and again, an odd subject to be ranting about outside of a clinic.

Hinton also spends time insisting that religion is not a mental illness and it's becoming clear that somebody put a bee in his bonnet, perhaps via a couple of choice comments. Our Lady of the Theater?  Like Parker, Hinton is not afraid to point out my personal shortcomings whenever I cover the door. I'm a horrible writer, it seems, filling this blog with lies and fake news. That's patently false - well, the accusations about deceit, anyway. The quality level is for each person to decide. He also accuses me of writing for glory.

I dismiss that with a smile at first, but as I walk back to my post I mull it over a bit more. Every writer wants what they've written to be read. To say otherwise would be disingenuous, or so I feel. At the same time it has to be said that for most writers I know, it's not an option. The need to put words to paper (or screen) is a sort of obsession. I can't speak for others but I know that once an idea gets in my head it refuses to stay quiet or be ignored. It demands attention. It demands to be told. That's part of the reason I get up every morning at 5am to write - because I both want to and have to.

There's more to this, though. Another aspect of what keeps me chronicling these shifts has been the reaction. I have lost count of how many times I've been asked if what I write is what it's really like, if the protesters truly do behave in such a manner. Always the questions come with an air of shocked disbelief, deepening as I confirm the veracity. It gives people something to talk about and the stories get shared.

Therein lies the reason why I continue trying to articulate my experiences. It's not for notoriety, not for fame and/or fortune. If just one person reads this and decides to become an escort, that's fantastic. If a woman who needs to go to a clinic reads what I've written and understands there are people who don't know her but are there willing to fight to allow her to be able to act on whatever choice she makes with her body, it's all good. I don't know if either of those things have happened, but I don't need to. Escorting is not about me and it never will be. To be honest, before I started this shift I hadn't planned on writing it up, but somehow there's always a wealth of new experiences that start rattling around inside my head, urging me toward the keyboard. And here we are.

Hinton wants me to know that he doesn't hate me and is praying that I repent, although he isn't so overwhelmed with good cheer for my soul's disposition that he stops muttering 'desfruita de muerte' whenever I go by.

I don't have a womb, though, so God can't show me favor there. Bummer.

* * *

"I'm not like the others. I'm a sidewalk counselor."

Okay. Sure.

My partner Denise has gone inside to retrieve the rest of her breakfast - bagels provided by Lexi - and the moment she leaves someone I haven't seen before this morning sidles over. This is usually The Runner's shtick, zeroing in on solo escorts and attempting to form some kind of bond. He's an older guy, grandfatherly, dressed in a blue button-down shirt and khakis. His smile is friendly and his tone jocular. Later I find out he's a regular protester during the week. He opens with a comment or two about the weather, and when I don't respond he drops the line from above in a conspiratorial whisper. 

I greet him with stony silence, eyes watching the street from behind my sunglasses.

"C'mon, I'd like to engage. Really, I'm one of the good guys. My name's Pete. What's yours?"

"Escorts are not permitted to engage with protesters." I don't speak with heat or rancor, my tone disinterested.

"Really? No free speech?" His face holds an exaggerated expression of disbelief, a subtle note of condescension accompanying his words. "That's some organization you have there."

"Escorts are not permitted to engage with protesters."

"I heard that, but really, we can't just talk on this sunny morning? Maybe I could help you see a different way of thinking." He's still sneering as he gestures toward The Runner. "She and I aren't like those people, shouting all the time. We just want to help."

Siding with The Runner is an interesting way to try to win my trust, to be certain. I'm about to repeat my mantra again when Lexi shows up with a big smile.

"Hey! What's going on?" She addresses me directly, ignoring the fact that Pete even exists via words and body language.

I shrug. "I think Fox News took on human form. It doesn't seem to understand that organizations have rules that its members choose to follow."

Pete's face darkens a bit. We're not going to be buddies, it seems. "I don't understand why your people aren't allowed to speak. That doesn't seem right."

To Pete, it probably doesn't. I'm just doing some (ahem) sidewalk analysis here, but I'm going to guess that he doesn't get the point of why we're out here - it's not for us. It's not about us and it never was, never will be. It's about getting people past the bile, hatred, and misogyny, about letting them have the opportunity to make a choice and have access to a medical facility. It's not about being able to one-up a protester in an argument, not about getting the last word in, not about landing a good zinger. I forgot that a few months ago, but I'm doing my best not to let it happen again. It's not about me.

I'm pretty sure that for Pete, it's about Pete. His true colors start to show a little bit later when Lexi ducks inside the clinic.

"Hey, I take my coffee black. Bring me a danish, too."

He finds this to be such a killer joke that he repeats it every time one of the escorts heads for the door - as long as they're female. Charming.

Later he makes another attempt at being chummy with me. "C'mon, man, I'm not like those guys. I'm one of the good ones. Surely you can see that."

"Escorts are not permitted to engage with protesters."

* * *

"Mom, it's not too late to do the right thing."

That's one of The Runner's go-to tactics, working "Mom" into her passive-aggressive verbal assaults on patients and their companions. It takes a special mindset to mix together guilt and shame to be flung at fellow women, but The Runner is more than up to the task. She's the reason Lexi and I are still out here at 11:30am, a good half-hour after Parker and Hinton called it quits. Most of the day's patients are already inside, so she sets her sights on those departing. Sometimes they emerge in command of their movements, other times they're woozy and disoriented. No matter what their condition, The Runner is poised and willing to strike.

"Mom, why don't you be more like your own mother, who loved you enough to give you life?"

That she's saying things like this at all is reprehensible. That she's saying them to people who are leaving the clinic is unfathomable. Can there be any motivation other than to be hurtful? She's just as aggressive and slippery now as she was first thing in the morning, despite being clad in four-inch-thick wedge-heeled shoes. How is it possible for her to not have rolled an ankle by now?

"Mom, if you turn to Jesus you'll be forgiven."

The woman we're escorting out stops abruptly and glares at The Runner. "I'm Jewish," she says.

The Runner doesn't miss a beat. "Here's some literature about where you can get some help, and I have a keychain for you that you might like."

The woman stares at her, probably wondering the same thing we are: did The Runner not hear what she said, or does she simply not care? With an incredulous shake of her head she climbs into a car, shutting the door as Lexi and I box The Runner out. 

As the car pulls away The Runner surveys the empty sidewalk and gives a little shrug. "Well, have a nice weekend," she says to us. "I'm going."

We watch her walk to her newish Mercedes, not budging until she drives away. Even then we wait for a few minutes longer after that, as she's pretended to leave before only to pop back after driving around the block.. She appears to be gone for real, so we head for the door. A patient emerges as we draw near, her head swiveling as she walks out.

"That crazy bitch gone?" At our nods she adds, "How the hell she run in those shoes?"


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Outgunned, Outmanned . . . - Snapshots from My Fifth Day as a Clinic Escort

(Escort names have been changed to protect their anonymity. Opinions are mine and do not necessarily reflect those who run our escorting team. In other words, if you have an issue with what I've written, I'm the one to talk to. Day One is here. Day Two is here. Day Three is here. Day Four is here. )


"Was that for real? Are those people for real?"

The person asking is neither a patient nor an escort but rather a new employee who has just run the early morning protester gauntlet. She's more incredulous than anything else, a bit stunned at what was said to her. They didn't know she was going to work as opposed to being a patient, but that wouldn't have mattered to the protesters anyway. Any woman walking down the sidewalk is fair game. There's a yoga class nearby that starts around 8:30am or so and attendees who pass the clinic on their way there often get an unexpected encounter or two. Rolled-up mats offer no shield, it seems.

The other nurses start relating stories of their own as team leader Athena and I shrug into our pink vests. One emits a short, angry bark of a laugh before shaking her head.

"My child was murdered a long while ago. One of the protesters came up to me in a parking garage at a different clinic I work at. They told me that if my child had lived a good life I'd never seem them again because they'd be in heaven and I'd be burning in Hell."

She pauses for a second before a grim smile splits her care-worn face. "A few years had passed since he'd died, so I was able to deal with someone saying something like that. But if it had been right after he'd been killed, when I was a wreck trying to cope with what had happened?" Another head shake. "Not sure how that might have gone."

There's a moment of silence that seems likely to stretch before she claps her hands and says, "Well, let's get you settled in." She gives a nod in our direction. "Good luck today. And thanks."


* * *

"One of the companions is getting into it with Luis. You'd better get out there."

And so a difficult decision is made for us.

Escorting teams, at least the way we do it here, consist of five people - a leader and four escorts. The leader stays by the door to the clinic while the four of us are split into pairs - one north, one south. The whole thing is pretty fluid - partners sometimes switch mid-shift; one of the escorts can cover the door if the leader needs to do something else; we can act as one if needed, usually in the case of a woozy patient leaving the clinic; and so on. More minions would be unwieldy, jamming the already crowded sidewalk with too many bodies. 

As perceptive readers may have already ascertained from above, today we have the opposite problem. It's 8am and our crew consists of myself, Athena, and . . . that's it. We're in unknown waters here, as this has never happened before. It seems unfathomable that it could, given the influx of new people that we have and the difficulty involved in getting escorting slots. That's not a joke - they're like Hamilton tickets at this point. We're booked through to October right now and the only reason it's not further out is because that's as far as they go.  This shouldn't be happening.

Athena - I've given her this code name because, like every team leader I've worked under so far, she's a combination of wisdom, ass-kicking, and wry humor - sends out the Bat Signal in the hope we can get at least another person to show up. We head out to tell Wyatt the security guard our dilemma, which leads us back to the quote that started this section. With a shared shrug, we head out.

We pretty much have to settle for one of us going out to meet cars or guide in those on foot while the other watches the door. The Runner is here, of course, taking full advantage of our depleted numbers to swoop from side to side to deliver her diatribes of shame. The Uggs have been ditched for strappy sandals that shouldn't provide as much dexterity as they do. It's simply impossible to box her out while escorting alone - I can get between her and an incoming patient, but she merely dances behind and takes up on the other side. It's frustrating, but her antics fail to cause anyone to turn back despite numerous opportunities. The clinic is busy.

Surprisingly, this turns out to be a bit of a boon. There's so much traffic during the first hour that the protesters are hard-pressed to keep up with them. Their numbers are a little off as well - no Alex, no Parker - and Mutton Chops is focused on reading Bible verses through his amplifier. Later he shoots for some sort of bizarre analogy involving internal combustion engines, fire, and God's love, but it all falls apart in the end. Luis is difficult to understand and Hinton's mumbles are often incoherent, so patients who don't get buzzed by the Runner are getting through relatively hassle-free. Maybe the two of us can pull this off for the next three hours or so.

Check that - the three of us. About 9:15 we're joined by someone else, and a few minutes later Dee Dee shows up with another escort in tow. Suddenly we're a full crew because these are those kind of people, the ones who'll drop whatever they're doing on a Saturday morning in a time of need.

"You're blocking me," says The Runner as Cassie and I guide in a patient and her companion.

Yup.

* * *

"You know what you are, that's right. Desfruta de muerte." Pause. "And your articles are horrible."

Everyone's a critic.

Turns out I'm not a Gay Fruit of Death after all, just a run-of-the-mill lover of death. Or at least that's what Hinton mumbles at me from his spot near the top of the buffer zone. He seems a bit listless today, as do most of the protesters who aren't the effing Runner. They're leaning their signs against planters instead of brandishing them (which is illegal, but it's worth bothering the Englewood PD over). The Preacher has his clasped between his knees while he flicks through his phone and it takes three honks before he looks up to be flicked off by a woman in an Explorer, who then favors us with a savage grin. At least half a dozen others will perform the same sort of drive-by during the shift, with one stopping dead in the middle of traffic to scream at Luis. This sends him into a rage, as he has issues with women who have the audacity to speak to him. He charges into the street, yelling a mix of English and Spanish, but all he gets for his trouble is a cloud of exhaust in his face.

He looks back and catches me laughing. "You think that's funny? You think that's funny? Maybe because you're a maricón!"

Maybe. But not a Gay Fruit of Death, which is disappointing.


* * *


"Did you *really* just ask me that? Rude!"

Luis is on a roll today.

Usually a Saturday morning for Luis features an early turn of condemning all of us for a while on his squawk box before sort of fading into the background a bit, overshadowed by others such as Parker and Alex. With those two absent he's decided to be today's headline act. During his amplified diatribe he notes, more than once, that "We all know *they* killed Jesus!" I, evidently, am both a liberal (yep) and a feminist (thank you), and he seems annoyed that I agree with his assessment. He comes pretty close to getting punched in the face by an irate mother of a patient when, after being told the pregnancy is the result of rape, he insists that the daughter is going to go to hell for punishing the potential child for the sins of the father. There's no doubt he wants to get hit. Why else would he be wearing a Go-Pro camera on his chest?

In addition to harassing women, patients or otherwise, he's spending spare moments talking to escorts. At us, really, since we're not engaging unless absolutely necessary. He's keen on finding out my name, which indicates some sort of rift between himself and the other protesters as they already know it. I'm not interested in playing, but after a good 3 or 4 minutes of him asking I shrug and say, "Call me the wind."

"Wind. Okay, Wind. I'm going to be Rush, so I can Rush through the Wind."

Yeah, I don't know either.

"Wind, why are you listening to that woman? She told you to move here and you did. Why?"

'That woman' would be Athena. I had been covering the door while she and another escort helped a patient out to a cab, and when she returned she told me to go back to my spot with Cassie, one of our pinch-hitters. For some reason this has upset Luis.

Well, no, not for 'some reason.' Straight-up misogyny is a safe bet. He wanders over to where we're standing and sizes up my cohort.

"Are you married?"

Cassie tilts her head, a sardonic grin twisting her lips. "I'm not telling you that."

"Oh, okay. Well, are you a virgin?"

There's a few seconds of silence as Cassie and I glance at each other to confirm that yes, he really did say that. Her response, as noted above, only causes the grin Luis is wearing to grow wider.

I shake my head. "C'mon, man. Even you know you can't ask something like that."

"I can't? Oh, I am very sorry," he says, not sorry at all. "I am so sorry. I didn't mean to ask that."

"Oh course you did." I wave a dismissive hand at him. "If she answered no and then yes, you could tell her she's going to Hell for being a whore, right?"

Luis shows his teeth. "Oh no, I would never say that. Didn't you see me apologize? You didn't see it because you're wearing those sunglasses, Wind."

It's difficult to counter iron-clad logic like that, so we settle for walking away to escort a late-arriving patient. Luis has choice words for her, but doesn't ask if she's a virgin.


* * *

.

"Once that I've seen."

I've just asked Dee Dee if anyone has ever gone into the creepy and windowless 'FREE SONOGRAM' van across the street and am floored by her reply. "Really?"

She nods, takes a sip of her water. The humidity is on the rise, turning The Runner's hair into a frizzy mess the shape of cotton candy. Doesn't slow her down, unfortunately. "Yeah, one time. They got someone who'd just come out of the clinic and she went with them."

"Why on earth . . ."

Dee Dee shrugs. "I think she'd been denied getting the procedure because she was too far along."

I nod, mulling it over. Did the woman know she was beyond the first trimester but try to get it done anyway? Or was it all a large, terrible surprise? Either way it had to have been a horrible experience. I'm not shocked that the clinic followed the letter of the law, but would the protesters believe it? Doubtful. 

A car pulls up right outside the clinic and we head over. From his spot Hinton says, "That's right, Deathscorts, get over there and earn your money." As the woman emerges he raises his voice. "You're just a bounty for them, miss. They're just doing this to get paid."

My escorting checks must have gotten lost in the same place as my Soros checks. Arguing with those allergic to truth is pointless, so I keep silent as we escort her past the screaming multitudes.


* * * 

"I don't care what you think. I've been working since I was eighteen and nobody's ever given me anything. I'm a feminist icon!"

So sayeth The Runner, leaving myself and the other escorts stunned into silence.

She takes in our incredulous expressions before making an irritated noise. "Well, I am!" she snarls, before storming away.

So.

Okay. I'm a white dude, getting to be an old white dude. It's not my place to go around telling anyone what feminism is. I do, however, think it might be okay for me to opine on what I think feminism isn't.

It's not shaming other women at a particularly difficult time in their lives or to suggest that they're suffering from severe mental issues.

It's not trying to ram the tenets of your personal religious choices down their throats as they emerge, often woozy and disoriented. At that point you're inflicting nothing but pain.

It's not standing by passively as others on the sidewalk demean, intimidate, and shame your so-called sisters, not looking away as they're called abhorrent names and have graphic signs of embryos thrust in their faces.

It's not claiming to be a feminist but then doing everything in your power to protect their right to choose as long as it's the choice *you* want them to make.

It's not trying stuff key chains of foetuses into unwilling hands, or making vague promises of aid that seem improbable and unlikely in practice.

It's not suing those who choose to help women.

I don't know what you are, Runner, but I know what you're not.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Unfamiliar Territory - Old Man Plays Hockey

There are a lot of things I never planned on being able to verbalize during my hockey 'career' so it definitely felt a bit odd last night to be asking my team to gather around before saying, "Okay, let's take it a little easy on them in the third period."

Yet, by the grace of the Hockey Gods, there we were, holding an unfathomable 5-0 lead against a foe down to seven skaters. Now we'd been exactly where those guys had been before, numerous times. Hell, it was only last Thursday that we'd decided to forget about 12 or so seasons of experience and run around on the ice like 2nd graders playing soccer, getting our asses handed to us by the tune of 8-0.

Of course the ancient relic in goal that night might have had something to do with that. Certainly with the last two goals, which went right through my damn 5 hole and what's up with that?

I digress.

We could have gloried in being the ones on top and rubbed it in, but we didn't. We could have taken advantage of their exhausted defense and kept hanging at the red line, looking for breakaways, but I asked everyone not to (and they did, except for the one time when someone DID EXACTLY THAT. Ye gods. At least the goalie stuffed him). Instead we worked on making extra passes, on skating with the puck a bit, on being defensively responsible.

Well, so-so on the last one.

We weren't perfect last night and indeed committed numerous egregious defensive zone errors, but Chaz was there to bail us out. Offensively we managed to move beyond our usual approach of 'Give-Gary-the-Puck', worked some decent offensive zone carry-in plays, and *GASP* even did some cycling. I know, right? After we scored one goal with dare I say tic-tac-toe passing Chaz was overheard to comment, "That's some textbook stuff right there."

Us? Textbook?

Look, I get it. We beat a bad team with a depleted roster and a goal who suffered from the same shot fatigue that I'm going to claim totally exists and clearly was in play last Thursday. Ahem. But after the previous debacle it was nice to come out and not look like hell. Winning's nice too, but don't worry, we won't let it go to our heads.

Unless we win the next one. A streak? ::fans self::

Monday, June 19, 2017

Ready For My Close Up - Snapshots from My Fourth Day as a Clinic Escort

(Escort names have been changed to protect their anonymity. Day One is here. Day Two is here.  Day Three is here.)

"Yeah, that's him. I didn't recognize him without his pink hat. It's the big keyboard warrior!"

Yep, it appears the protesters read my blog. Hi, gang! It's nice to have fans, I guess?

It's an overcast, slightly muggy day and I'm about to break one of the escorting rules. It's been over three months since I've walked this section of Englewood's sidewalks, due to a combination of high demand for spots and other aspects of life butting in. I had to cancel my April spot for an MS Walk and always had something else going on when emergency fill-ins were needed. We're down one today due to a late, unannounced cancellation, but that's okay because The Runner is nowhere to be seen. I keep glancing around furtively, expecting her to pop up, but in the end we get a reprieve from her presence.

The others are out in decent numbers, though, and at the moment fixated on me. One - I think his name is Alex but honestly, who cares? He's sporting a jaunty beret so let's just go with that -  is making a production of filming me with his phone while haranguing me with a laundry list of complaints over what I've written about the lot of them. I'm not sure if being on camera is supposed to intimidate me or something, but Beret has a smirk fixed firmly in place as he starts to speak. He and Parker keep referring to me as a 'keyboard warrior' and a 'coward,' although I'm not quite sure how standing in front of them makes me afraid in any manner.

Beret is doing some sort of rambling monologue that winds up with him accusing me of using my writing to incite violence against him and his fellow protesters (It should be noted that earlier he told me I needed to 'check my effeminacy,'  possibly because I'm wearing a peach-colored shirt. Who knows?). I make my first mistake of the day by presuming logic holds any sway here and ask, "So you've been attacked? Physically assaulted?"

There's some hemming and hawing, which leads to a quick conference. It turns out someone 'punched his sign,' which I guess is his idea of assault. It's also not an accurate description of what happened, as my wife was there that day and said an escort swept his arm up and hit the sign, possibly by accident. Definitely not a punch, as Beret is claiming. Regardless, I'm in no mood for his pearl-clutching.

"Wow, are you okay? Did you require medical attention from that heinous assault?"

He ignores my sarcasm to launch into a new diatribe about how Christians are the most persecuted people in the world before accusing me of spreading - wait for it - FAKE NEWS. Yes, the ultimate cop-out is being played. "You're spreading FAKE NEWS about Robert! You assume to know what he's thinking and that's FAKE NEWS."

I shake my head. "My assumption isn't fake news. It may or may not be correct, but that doesn't make it fake news. It's not being presented as fact."

"No, it's FAKE NEWS! You're slandering him!"

I grimace. "I'm not slandering him, I'm -"

"NO!" Beret's voice gets as close to a shout as he allows it. He knows - sorry, I *assume* he know, is that better, Beret? - once he starts yelling he's conceded any point he's trying to make. "No, you're slandering him!"

I keep my voice calm and even. "I can't slander him through writing. I could libel him. Not slander. Slander is spoken."

There's a few moments of silence while he processes this before he picks up the 'inciting violence/persecution' thread again. My partner Luna, who is much wiser than I am, starts to engage me in a conversation about something else. I've gone down the wrong path here, allowing myself to try to circumvent the web of logical fallacies being spun. Beret keeps insisting that he wants to have a 'rational conversation' but defaults to 'FAKE NEWS' whenever confronted with uncomfortable truths.

And yes, he admires Donald Trump's policies.

Parker confronts me with his sign of a 'fetus,' claiming it's from 7.5 weeks. If it is it's one hell of a zoom job, as before 8 weeks 1) it's an embryo, not a fetus; 2) the embryo is maybe an inch long at most; and 3) it's 1/30th of an ounce. He's saying 'scientists know' with a very serious voice and I'm debating arguing with him as well but Beret's tirade seems more interesting. He's all worked up about the name 'Mutton Chops' I used in a previous post and sure, I could tell him that it's just a descriptor of facial hair and not an insult at all, but instead I suggest he look it up on his phone. He starts getting wound up again, but suddenly our team leader Carol is between us, looking at me.

"Don't engage with the protesters."

"He engaged with me." I feel like a total dipwad the moment the words leave my mouth, a dopey kid who ate paste because some other kid ate paste too. I'm apologizing even as she repeats herself. Beret and Parker wait until she walks away before taunting me again, mocking me for listening to my 'grandma,' but Luna and I start talking about gaming and before long they wander off.

While they were engaged with me? Two patients were dropped off by the front door and scooped up by our partners, spared the usual vitriol from these two. Didn't plan it that way, but glad it happened. Beret takes a few more shots at me before leaving early, but I don't rise to the bait. Still, I make a note to myself:

Shut up.

* * *

"I can stand wherever I want! How dare you know what's going on inside and tell me where to stand!"

The person hissing at me is in a blue dress and carrying a doll wrapped in a baby blanket. She keeps setting up camp in the buffer zones, where she knows she can't, and seems outraged when we point this out to her in polite tones. I don't recognize her, but Luna thinks she's migrated over from the praying people across the street. 

I mention again that she's can't be there and am met with more scowling. Even when I point out that she's in the actual driveway and might get hit by a car, there's nothing but venom. This is an angry, angry lady. Later she gets cheesed at Monroe, another one of the escorts.

"You're ridiculous and a . . . a . . . I-don't-know-what!"

* * *

"So you're saying that if a lesbian has a baby, God won't love it?"

Walking past, this is the only part of the conversation I catch as Beret tries to splutter out some sort of coherent answer to The Lady of the Theater. She's a local who likes to come out and engage with the protesters. I've seen her around before but as she likes to wade right into the morass by the front door I'm often out of range of their interactions. It's nice to have her around, though.

Other locals wander by as well, in addition to those who honk and wave. A woman in a nice dress stops to ask me why the protesters are allowed to use their ridiculously loud squawk boxes, something I wonder myself. 

Luna, well-versed on the town laws and regulations, fills the both of us in. The woman thanks us for what we're doing and expresses regret she can't join us, as she spends Saturday mornings in temple. I'm glad she leaves without the protesters overhearing her.

Why? Well . . .

Parker yells something at people across the street and I hear Luna growl something angry under her breath. There's a well-dressed couple on the far sidewalk, glancing over with puzzled expressions. Only when they turn back do I see the yarmulke on the top of the man's head. "What is he saying?"

Luna scowls. "More or less he's saying, in Hebrew, that 'Christ is King.'" As she finishes Parker yells the phrase again, this time with a wave of his hand. The man glances over and scowls but keeps moving, ignoring the old fellow with white hair who's been wandering around offering literature to anyone he can get near. Later Luis crosses the street and yells at a family walking along, gesturing with his arms and trying to provoke as they hustle their young girls away.

Sorry - I *assume* he's trying to provoke by chasing after them and insinuating that their belief system is a giant lie. I suppose it's possible he had other motives for yelling at people who had just come from their house of worship and had nothing to do with the clinic, but as a Son of Satan Deathscort I'm not privy to the inner workings of his mind.

* * *

"You probably wish my baby was dead too."

Proving that indeed there's someone for everyone, Parker is the father of an infant. And yes, his wife(?) shows up with the child because the best place for a baby is along a busy road next to people screaming on super-loud speakers. Is he using the child as a prop? Probably not, as despite the location it's a normal thing to walk an infant in a stroller, even if his route just happens to have a turnaround point right where Luna and I are standing.

His words take me by surprise. If I valued his opinion in any way I'd be offended, but instead I ignore his comment and say, "You have a lovely child." There's not much to see - just a little face sticking out - but my sentiment is real. Does he truly believe I would have looked at his pregnant wife and hoped for something bad to happen to their child? Why someone would think anything like that perplexes me for a moment, but then I get it: he actually believes it. 

His thinking likely stems from a logical fallacy - since I support abortions, I must hate children. That's flawed, of course. While the one thing the world doesn't have is a shortage of babies, I am not 'pro-abortion' in any way. I don't sit around rubbing my hands together and saying, "Ooo, excellent, another procedure!" If the need for abortions vanished I would not be regretful in any way. Being an escort is not about myself in any way, shape, or form. If the protesters weren't there I wouldn't be either. None of us would. Our task is to help patients get through the front door of the clinic, past the people trying to shame them, to demean them, to attack them during a moment of crisis. If someone decides to keep the baby instead and heads back out - that's fine too. I'm not going to run after them begging them to reconsider. It's their life. It's their choice. The only reason I'm there is to protect their right to make that choice. It's not about me.  

Why write this blog, then, Mr. Keyboard Warrior Coward? Well, for one thing, I like to write. The main reason, though, is to help. If one potential client reads this and understands that there will be people there to help them get past the screaming, judgmental haters outside the clinic, it's worth it. If someone gets inspired by this and volunteers as well, it's worth it. If we can keep people from being called 'murderers' or having 'Happy Father's Day' yelled at them, it's worth it.

I don't expect the protesters to agree with my sentiments, but that's okay. The people that matter to me do.


Sunday, March 5, 2017

Fruit of Death! - Snapshots from My Third Day as a Clinic Escort

(escort names changed to protect their anonymity. Day One can be found here, Day Two here.)

"Oh, shit, I thought you were one of them. Yeah, you can absolutely walk me past those people."

And with that, she takes my arm.

Much like Dante from Clerks I'm not even supposed to be here today, but my wife has something she needs to do during the time I was scheduled to escort next weekend. Someone was kind enough to swap slots so it's me shivering out here on this blustery March morning instead of her. We're running both light and heavy - there's two women along as observers, but one of the escorts hasn't shown. This puts a bit more pressure on Dee Dee, the team leader, but nothing she can't handle.

It feels a bit odd to be walking along like I'm heading into Prom, but I'd give someone a piggyback ride if needed. We talk about the weather (cold), if the nearby diner is any good(don't know), who dyes her hair (she does), anything to help deflect from the vicious verbal assaults coming from the gathered throng today.

"YOU'RE A MURDERER! DON'T BE A MURDERER! WHY ARE YOU A MURDERER?"

"ARE YOU GOING TO ASK TO SEE THE PIECES OF YOUR BABY AFTERWARDS?"

"YOU'RE A BAD PERSON AND YOU'LL CARRY THE SHAME OF THIS DAY FOREVER!"

"HOW IS JESUS GOING TO FORGIVE YOU?"

We reach the door and she disengages her arm. "Thanks," she says as she slips through, and as I walk past guys muttering 'Homo' and 'Faggot' under their breath (never straight to my face, though) I wonder a bit about her initial assessment of me. My wife had linked me to an article this week that interviewed a couple of men doing clinic escorting. It was a few years old and a couple of the guys pissed me off . One said he felt like he had to because his girlfriend did it and he felt like he needed to be there to protect her.

Dude.

Stop.

Another said that although he wasn't supposed to engage with the protesters he did so anyway because he liked having 'deep philosophical discussions' with them. Nice that he could make escorting about him rather than the actual goal of helping women get past frothing, rabid haters.

Anyway, there was one guy who worried about what he must look like approaching patients. He was like me, apparently - tall, medium build, knocking on the gates of fifty - and wondered if that was the last thing some women might want to see at a time like this. The hope is that the bright pink vest that identifies me as a clinic volunteer is a dead giveaway but then again, this is not exactly an easy moment in their lives. The option of hanging back and letting them approach me is not much of an option, thanks to the fucking Runner. If I can I let my partner take the lead - it's my third time doing this but I've yet to have another male out here with me, although our group has plenty - I do. Today I'm with another first-timer who is making it look like she's been doing this for years. So I'll keep doing what I can and being used to the initial mistrust.

Dee Dee comes out soon afterward, concerned about the linked arms. Once she realizes it was patient initiated and that I was fine with it, she smiles. Next time I'll bring a corsage.

* * *

"You have hate in your heart, you know. Why else would you be doing this?"

Robert is new to me and a bit unsettling. He's saying this to Winger, my partner, who is taking the news about what's clogging her aorta with a faintly amused smile. Winger spent four years as a volunteer EMT in the bowels of one of New Jersey's most dangerous cities, the sort of place where she'd have to get approval from a gang's hierarchy before being allowed to help someone bleeding out on the street. There may be a lot of things in her heart, but hate likely isn't one of them.

"You too," he says, focusing on me. "Such hate. Why so angry? Why do you want to help murderers?"

Robert's eyes glint with malevolent intelligence. He knows we're not supposed to engage and he's baiting us, trying to get a rise. Although this is my first time around him I later learn he's loathed by members of the escort family, a shifty and sneaky provocateur. 

There's a lot of things I want to say to him, believe me, but I cross my arms and settle for a grim smile. He was on speaker for a while playing fast and loose with both the Bible and actual scientific facts, rolling with some very broad interpretations as springboards for his vitriol. 

"I can see it in your eyes, the hate. You need to get it out of your heart, get away from this place."

As I have mirrored sunglasses on he can't tell what color my eyes are, much less what's supposed to be oozing out of them. I laugh for a second, our Swiss Army Knife for their taunts, and finally break my silence as I spot a car pulling up with the slow roll that signifies someone looking for the clinic.

"I'm not allowed to interact with you. So fuck off."

It's not satisfying, but I'm not here to trade one-ups with the broken. 

* * *

" . . . de muerte."

My Spanish is super rusty, but I know what that bit means. I can't make out the rest of what the guy in the hat is muttering at me as I head away from the clinic's front door. He's another regular I've somehow missed my first two times - Alex, or Hinton, or something like that, forgive my lack of journalistic attention to detail but I want to know as little about these people as possible - yet proving to be just as odious as any of them. His hat looks like something you'd see on a kid - spotted with felt ridges that make it look like a stegosaurus is perched on his head - but I'm once again clad in my giant pink pussy hat so who am I to judge?

" . . . fruita de muerte."

I report what I've heard to Winger, who is fluent in Spanish. Given the number of times I've been marked as gay or effeminate today being called 'Fruit of Death' seems eminently plausible. What's a gay death fruit, anyway? Pomegranate? Kiwi? Mango? Winger's not convinced.

"It could be 'desfruta de muerte,' which means that you enjoy death." She shrugs, smiling. Earlier we discovered that we're both former rugby players and broke out the Haka when there were no patients around. I can only imagine what Hinton and crew thought about that. 

But what do they expect from the Fruit of Death?

* * *

"YOU DON'T HAVE TO GO IN THERE! BLACK BABIES ARE BEING KILLED IN THERE! THIS IS AMERICA! THIS IS NOT AFRICA!"

Despite whatever religious trappings they may drape themselves in, the majority of the protesters make no effort to hide their misogynistic and racist values. Despite people of all colors heading into the clinic this particular rant is focusing on black babies. I have no idea why.  The shouter mentions that 'they' killed Jesus, and I don't know if he means the clinic, the escorts, or the black babies. All seem implausible.

"You shouldn't kill your baby!"

A woman has come outside for a smoke and is standing in what's left of the buffer zone, doing her best to ignore the shouting. Her head cocks. Even with my limited time as an escort I know what that could mean, and Winger and I start to drift in that direction. She lets out a long plume of smoke, which is snatched away by the stiff breeze.

"I was raped," she says, turning to face him. "You want me to carry my rapist's baby?"

Hinton - I think it's Hinton - is undeterred. "You shouldn't punish the baby for what the father did."

There's a moment of stunned silence.

"You want me to pay to deliver my rapist's baby," the woman says, "and then raise the kid for 18 years? Are you going to pay for that?"

"We have our pregnancy help center here," Hinton says, and indeed the creepy windowless van is parked across the street. "I know a woman, she's a wonderful person, but she can't have children of her own. She'd love to adopt your baby. I know lots of people like her."

Of all the times I bite my tongue today, this will be the hardest. He's full of it. I want to press him for a name and number, call him on his bluff. Perhaps this guy who was just making sure that black women knew this wasn't Africa has a friend anxiously waiting for a chance to adopt a child conceived via rape from a black woman, but color me dubious. Extremely dubious. The urge to call him out on his lie is almost overwhelming.

Escorts don't interact. I stay silent.

She doesn't need me anyway. "Sure you do," she says, her skepticism as thick as the gout of smoke she sends in his direction. "Sure you do."

Then she heads back inside.

* * *

"Why don't you go fuck yourself, okay?"

The protesters like to say that they're doing God's work, spreading Jesus' word and trying to keep these women from entering the clinic and making a horrible mistake. Their true natures and angry vendettas get exposed when someone leaves the clinic. Logically, at that point the protesters have already lost the battle. It's too late to change a mind at that point. Bells can't be unrung. Yet this is when true viciousness surfaces, when their shaming is the most toxic and aggressive. Note that they have no idea why the patients are inside, and many times they're screaming at women who have just come for a pap smear or a regular checkup.

They don't care. Whatever their motivation might be, they let it all hang out. 

Sometimes they're not met with silence.

"Seriously, go fuck yourself!" I'm trying to help a woozy, disoriented young woman down the street as her mother turns to scream at one of the mob. I don't turn back to see who it is but he's following, still yelling, further escalating the situation. Not sure which verse of the Bible that's from, but certainly not one about compassion.

"Your car is just up ahead," I say, although honestly I have no idea where it is. The mother is continuing to yell but Winger is doing an excellent job of keeping her moving as well. 

"I'm sorry," says the mom, catching up to us, "but when people attack my daughter I'm going to be protective." She looks back as something else is yelled in our direction and counters, "YOU WANT TO FIND OUT WHAT A PISSED OFF GRIZZLY BEAR IS LIKE KEEP WALKING THIS WAY!"

I glance over my shoulder. Robert's there, a ways back yet close enough for me to see his smug smile. He doesn't step our way, though. Just stands there, grinning. 

The car turns out to indeed be close, keeping me from being a liar. We get the daughter into the car, wish her good health and good luck. The mom gives us a quick nod before driving off. 

In front of the clinic Robert is yelling at someone else.

* * *

"You want to hear what she said to me?"

Of course I do. I had covered the door while Dee Dee handled a situation and come back to find Winger having a conversation with The Runner. At my approach the older woman gives me a guarded look before stepping away, fiddling with her pamphlets and cards. We're not going to be buddies, she and I. Last week my wife had been blessed by The Runner's absence, but as if to make up for it she and her fancy boots had been there as soon as we started our shift. I met her ventured 'good morning' with crossed arms and stony silence. 

Winger is yet another escort who is an awesome human being, which is proving to be the norm. As mentioned before, she volunteered as an EMT for years. She also quit a potentially lucrative financial job because of disgust with the industry. Viv, the other escort here today, is an ACLU lawyer. We're booked well into July with people who want to give up their Saturday mornings to be cursed at and called 'deathscorts.' 

"She said there was no reason we couldn't be friends." Winger stops and snorts at that. "Then she suggested that we split things 50-50." 

"What?"

"She said we could alternate. You know, I get the first car that comes up, then she gets the next, and so on."

My jaw dangles for a few seconds. "You're not serious."

"I am! And so was she! This seemed completely reasonable to her!" We're both laughing now. I look around for The Runner and spot her on her phone. This would be the theme of the morning, her effectiveness blunted by what seemed like an endless conversation. At first there's concern she's on the phone with her lawyer over a collision with Dee Dee near the poorly-placed valet booth of the restaurant next door, but speculation turns to the theory that she's talking to someone in the waiting room, trying to dissuade them. This is neither confirmed nor denied, but the number of times we have to dance with her is greatly reduced. Even when she's there she seems off her game, her patter breaking as Winger expertly boxes her out.

Suffice to say we do not embrace The Runner's plan.  

* * *

It's 11:15am, time to go, but a couple of the shouters are still hanging around. Dee Dee suggests we head inside as if we're leaving and see what happens. Lo and behold, the majority of the protesters pack up as soon as we're inside. Like kites, they need the wind of our opposition. We warm up for a bit while making sure they aren't returning, then shed our vests and close up shop, so to speak. The waiting room is jammed and as we head down the stairs a guy comments, "Wow, you must be well-paid since you're already leaving."

I have no idea how to respond to that, the primary reason being that it makes no sense. The fact we don't get paid enters into it as well. For a moment there's a part of me that wants to stop and quietly set the record straight, but it passes and I head downstairs without a word. There's no need to start an argument.

It's not the sort of thing a Fruit of Death would do.

Monday, February 27, 2017

We Did What? - Old Man Plays Hockey

August 16th, 2016. Over 6 months ago. 194 days, to be exact.

That's amount of time since the Scurvy Dogs last left the ice as victors. With me in goal, no less. Small miracle, indeed.

Since then we've had 11 losses and 4 ties. 15 games of not being able to head to the locker room with a cocky swagger or a big grin. It's not like we Scurvy Dogs suffer from thinking we're the '76/'77 Canadians but sometimes it's nice to finish up with the most goals. At least, I think I remember it being nice.

This past Sunday we were playing a grudge match against the hated Wolf Pack. Okay, fine, it's not a grudge match anymore and there's zero hatred involved. We used to be a little salty when we played them - a large chunk of the team consists of guys whom we suffered through our 0-17 House team season who then started their own team but didn't bring us along - but we're happy with our situation and they've proven to be good guys. A win over us would have guaranteed them a playoff spot, while all we could be was spoilers.

Turns out we were pretty good at that. It was, for the most part, a pretty evenly played game. We were sporting one of our new jerseys, which are a yellow that supposed to be Bruins Gold but, uhm, isn't. Also the Scurvy Dog is orange. And the puck in its mouth is brown. These things happen when you order jerseys from Poland. With my family in attendance I was pumped to play and with my balky shoulder rendered painless by some Theramu (what's Theramu? Gonna change your life, my friends, gonna change your life. Should have my account set up in a week or so and then you will indeed find out) I hit the ice with my usual combination of high energy and low talent.

Any Scurvy Dogs victory begins and ends with Chaz, our goalie. Ye gods, he was brilliant. We managed to keep the Wolf Pack from any breakaways but they peppered him with shots all the same. he turned them aside, all of them. Had I been in his place I'm sure there would not have been a shutout and maybe not a win.

We broke the ice 5 minutes into the 3rd, got an insurance goal with 4 minutes left, held on with white knuckles until the buzzer sounded and we has a 2-0 victory. Next week, win or lose, our season ends, and we have to wait a few weeks before starting up again. Was this win a fluke or our things starting to go our way?

Hope springs eternal.

::is beaten to death by teammates disgusted by cheesy line::