Thursday, July 13, 2023


Not Quite the Golden Fleece, But . . .

tl:dr - our daughter got her driver's license. It was an adventure, though.

Tuesday, July 11th 

 - 6:54am -  The morning starts off with the discovery of a teeny weeny problem. In preparation for The Girl's driving test, I had gathered the required documents needed to fulfill this quest the night before. Among other stuff there was proof of residency, her social security card, and the envelope containing her birth certificate. Now I sat here at a few minutes before 7am, with her test scheduled for 9:20am, I doublechecked the contents of the latter. There was indeed a birth certificate inside . . . a photocopy of one. Not an official copy. This was kept in a lockbox. Where the hell could it have g . . . oh, right. The Girl had stumbled into an opportunity to visit Europe as an exchange student, a program resurrected after being shuttered during the Covid years, which required us to immediately scramble to obtain her a passport that would get here in time. The woman at the post office could not have been anymore helpful, right down to giving us a copy of her birth certificate, since the original had to travel with the paperwork and would be returned to us later. Whatever. What else would she need a birth certificate for in the meantime?

Yeahhhhhhhhh . . .

 - 9:04am - The Girl was predictably stoic when I broke the news that she might not be able to test today, commenting that she has plenty of friends who already have their licenses for rides as well as me, always at her beck and call. Have you met The Girl? She is a peerless ball-buster who wields sass like a scorpion does its tail. She is also utterly charming, something I'm hoping she can put to good use today. How charming? Not only is she going on two separate vacations with the families of her friends, but the parents of another of her friends agreed to board the return exchange student so she could go on the trip (we don't have a private room for one in our wee house, which is a requirement). No, wait, sorry, they agreed to take in TWO exchange students, and their daughter isn't even going on the trip? Turns out that our town is a highly prized destination for exchange students, given the proximity to New York City. 

I've gotten sidetracked. This is about driving test chaos. I apologize.

 - 9:18am - We're at the Lodi DMV/test site and there's a moment of panic when I can't find the valid registration for our 2005 Accord hybrid (which no longer hybrids, but that's a story for a different day). It's also due for inspection by the end of the month and is iffy for passing due to the check engine light, but it's the vehicle we have to use because the Prius doesn't have an emergency brake that the tester can reach from the passenger side seat. The panic vanishes as I locate the registration but comes back with a vengeance as I determine there is absolutely no copy of the insurance card in the glove box. Moments later I manage to remember that I have it on my phone (derp) and call it up just as our tester approaches. 

The Girl, meanwhile, has been completely placid and calm. I *know* she's nervous - she has to be - but her expression is one of someone waiting in line at a market. The tester checks my license and the recently gathered car info before I exit the car and go to the waiting area, which contains two fully occupied benches and possibly all of the remaining smokers in Bergen County. 

I can see the two of them talking, passing documents back and forth, but as a couple of minutes go by and they don't head out onto the course my heart starts to sink. They wave me over soon after and, sure enough, the copy of the birth certificate is not acceptable. I'm muttering at myself when he suddenly says, 'But.'

Not always a glorious word, but this time it has potential. Turns out he had the same problem with his own kid a few weeks ago and they solved it by running over to the county seat in Hackensack - one town away - and getting a new birth certificate. Took five minutes, he said. Scribbling on her form, he tells us if we can get back by 11:30am she'll still be able to test today, as opposed to trying to make a new appointment (they are booked out for months - we made this reservation in late January). With hurried thanks, I get behind the wheel and we zoom off to Hackensack aka Salvation Land.

 - 9:34am - The tester had told me he got the certificate 'in the building next to the court,' which is a bit of a problem in Hackensack as there's both a county and a municipal courthouse. I have The Girl look up 'where to get birth certificate in Hackensack' as we drive past the county one. It's taking a bit to get an answer so I pull off the main street onto a side street. Her search pulls up an answer and a map . . . which points to the building fifteen feet behind us. Yeah, baby. We find the health department, fill out the form, and hand it in. Everything's coming up Milhouse!

 - 9:50am - Maybe not. It takes the person in the health department a good ten minutes to realize that our form indicates that The Girl was born in Ridgewood, which is where we need to go to get her birth certificate. It's the next town over from where we live. Sigh. Into the Accord and off we go.

 - 10:02am - We pull up outside the Ridgewood town hall. Those of you familiar with the area might be thinking of asking me, "Say, Kit, that's a really quick time to get from downtown Hackensack to Ridgewood, especially on a Tuesday morning." If you were to do so I would likely have evasive eyes as I mentioned 'The Jersey Slide' and 'tactical usage of breakdown lanes' as explanation, so maybe don't ask. We endure the world's slowest elevator as it takes us to the 5th floor, where the speedy retrieval of a new birth certificate will be exposed as a myth . . . yet five minutes and $25 finds us galumphing down the stairs and jumping back in the car, opting for back roads as Route 17 south had been a parking lot as we zoomed by heading northbound. Victory is in sight. Well, metaphorically. We still have to get back to Lodi

 - 10:33am - We're back in line at Lodi, proper paperwork in hand. The Girl is a little fidgety, finally showing some nerves, and with a start I realize that soon I'm going to lose something that was kind of awesome. Sure, I've spent the past couple of years ferrying her around to the gym, work, her friends' houses, etc., but it's been a radio-off, let's-chat sort of situation. On our Great Southern Tour of Colleges in States I Wish She Wouldn't Attend School In we drove for almost three days straight, and it was insanely enjoyable. I *like* my kid, sass and all, and once she gets her license that's time together that's going to vanish. Bittersweet indeed, but like Vince Vaughn said in Swingers, 'They grows up and they grows up and they grows up.' I'm excited for her as I exit the car (again) and this time, they take off a few minutes later. 

 - 10:38am - The car is stopped on the course and I'm gnawing on fingernails. The Girl had no problem with parallel parking, whipping the car into the space on her first try (they get three tries now, WTF). Could it have been so easy for her because I had her practicing in a space that was only twenty-four feet long as opposed to the thirty-foot one on the test, without her knowing it? Mayyyyybe . . .

Anyway, she started making a k-turn and stopped in the middle of it, likely due to the cones from the parallel parking space being where she'd back up if she cut her wheels the way one normally does in this situation. After a good minute or so she backed straight up instead and finished the turn without incident. As I watched she negotiated the rest of the challenges with no apparent issues, but when they got near the end they stopped again, this time for another minute or two. Finally he popped out of the car, giving me a brief wave as he passed by. I walked toward the car as The Girl pouted and used her finger to mimic a tear rolling down her cheek . . . but she's a terrible liar. After she parked the car we hugged and headed into the building to get her license. I asked her what the delays were.
     - "Oh, we were talking. He's got three rescue dogs like we do, but all of his are pit bulls."

Championship level schmoozer, this one. Hopefully we'd make it home in time for lunch.

(spoiler: we did not make it home in time for lunch) 

 - 11:13am - "You can't be in here."

This is directed at me, as I'm sitting in a tiny vestibule trying to escape the 90+ degree heat. It's a sunny, cloudless day and the humidity is in the 'wet wool blanket' range, and the air conditioning offered in here is adequate at best, but better than nothing. However, the building is for employees and those getting their licenses only, so back out into the heat I go. I'm both hungry and thirsty, and an amble around the property (there are several other buildings on site, none of which I'm allowed in) reveals that there's nobody selling any type of refreshments I can see - not even a grease truck, the presence of at least one was something I thought was New Jersey law. Expanding the radius of my search arc, I discover that the surrounding area is a mix of industrial and residential, severely lacking anything resembling a deli, convenience store, or even a Dunkin Donuts. I decide to head back before I pull another Sun Beats Down card (one for the gamers!) and climb into the oven that is the Accord. With no other option I fire it up and turn on the AC, grimacing as I notice that all of the running around this morning did a number on our gas supply. I text The Girl for an update. 

     - I'm #47
     - What number are they on?
     - #42
     - That's not too bad
     - It was #40 when I came in


 - 12:17pm - I'm sweltering because I've had the car off for a while, hoping The Girl gets taken care of soon. As if she's listening, I get a text:

     - I was at the window and the printer broke while it was printing my stuff
     - What does that mean?
     - It means the printer is broken

I pause and take a deep breath before responding.

     - What does that mean for you?
     - Unknown. There's a lot of muttering and chaos.
     - Can I go get gas before it's resolved?
     - Almost certainly

Okay. I negotiate my way to downtown Lodi, which is heavily developed and will surely have numerous gas stations to choose from. Downtown Lodi does not, indeed, have numerous gas stations to choose from, having instead opted to go with none. Because of my thirty years in the purgatory that was the family business I know of places not too much farther away, and I manage to gas up before I get the Angry Yellow Light of WTF are You Even Doing. I even stop to get something to drink, but am delayed because the cash registers aren't functioning in the 7/11. Rough seas, indeed.

 - 1:27pm - I squeak a little as the passenger side door opens unexpectedly. The Girl has come from a different building, as replacing the printer proved too Herculean a task and instead the license seekers were shuffled elsewhere. Our family now has three drivers instead of two (and as soon as I can get to my computer we'll be able to celebrate Instant Doubling of Your Auto Insurance Premium Day) and I prepare to pass the baton, offering her the keys.

     - "No, you can drive. It's not as exciting now that I'm, you know, a legal driver and all."

Chauffeur for at least one more day, then. I'm okay with that.

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Twice as Nice at the Same Price - Dispatches from Days 53-67 as an Escort at a Women's Clinic

(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 1. Day 2. Day 3. Day 4. Day 5. Day 6. Day 7. Day 8. Days 9/10/11. Day 12. Day 13.  Day 14. Days 15/16. Day 17. Days 18/19/20. Days 21/22/23Days 24-31. Day 32. Day 33Days 34-35. Days 36-39. Days 40-42. Days 43-45. Days 46-48. Days 49-52.)

(Yes, it's been a while. Not for lack of shifts - there's been plenty of those - but rather time. Well over a year between posts isn't great, but in my defense for most of that I was working two jobs - and, for a fun month or so, three jobs to the tune of 65-75 hours a week - and if you mix in another dog adoption - that's three now, if you're keeping count - hopefully it's possible to understand how my ability to get in front of a keyboard for this might have been limited. Bad time for it too, given the wholesale assaults being made by fascists and cultists, but I'll try to do better. As always, thank you for reading and please feel free - nay, encouraged - to share this if you wish. If you know someone who needs help with this issue and isn't sure what can be done please don't hesitate to reach out to me - we have ways to help.)

(Day 56)

"You know, Christopher Yolo, you'd be better off being home keeping an eye on your wife. She's . . ."

Parker is still talking but I've already walked away, depriving him from delivering whatever zinger he's got loaded up. I'm not sure if he's getting my name wrong on purpose to be, uhm, witty, or if he's incapable of reading it off the myriad of court notices that have been swooshing back and forth for the past year or so. Either way he seems irritated that I won't engage or, two hours into the shift, have not spoken a single word to any of them aside from telling Scrubs to get the fuck out of the buffer zone. Scrubs came in to tell me, for some reason, that there is a bag across the street. While we're always on the lookout for potential clinic bombers, I doubt a McDonalds bag 75 feet away is anything more than what it appears to be (spoiler: it does indeed turn out to be someone's discarded meal).

This is my first shift in our Post-Roe world and so far, because New Jersey is a state that cares about the reproductive rights of women, it's been pretty much the usual. The clinic is extraordinarily busy, as one might expect, with a hefty number of out-of-state plates making drop-offs. I've got a full escorting team plus a rookie, who is enduring her trial by fire with wide eyes and a ferocious attitude. When she asks me how long I've been doing this I'm shocked to realize I'm closing in on six and a half years of being told that Satan is my daddy. Time flies when you're shielding patients from religious zealots.

Speaking of zealots, one nice development is that Mr. Preacherman was permitted by the Feds to leave the country to cram his religious beliefs down peoples' throats in other parts of the world, so he and his increasingly violent tendencies are not currently our problem. He's still facing state hate crime charges, but if they decided to drop them in exchange for him never setting foot on US soil again I would sign off on that trade in under a second. And in other legal news, some eighteen months after filing we finally have resolution with regard to the spaghetti bowl of complaints and counter-complaints, albeit a bittersweet one. In essence we all agreed to drop all complaints in order to make everything go away, which is frustrating since pretty much everything they accused us of was malarky they created out of thin air in response to learning we'd filed against them. Having to tell the judge that yes, we wanted to drop the complaints didn't sit well with any of us, but for a number of reasons it was what we needed to do (not the least of which was ending this prolonged nightmare for the attorney kind enough to represent us pro bono). Besides, His Honor didn't offer relocating the protesters to Minot, North Dakota, so our options were limited.

"Maybe you should be home watching your own kids, instead helping someone else kill theirs!"

Parker and his crew love spinning passive-aggressive comments like this, straddling the line between attempted insult and vague threat. Having Stepson tell us over and over that we're 'deserving of death' certainly feels like the latter, and considering the massive amounts of misogyny and homophobia that swirl within him can't be easily dismissed. Hopefully he won't be our problem for much longer, as he's a co-defendant with Mr. Preacherman in the aforementioned hate crime trial. For people purportedly spreading the love of Jesus, they sure do manage to summon up a large amount of bile.

"That's right, Christopher Yolo, your wife is a wicked woman instead of a proper bride of Christ!"

Damn straight.

 * * *

(Day 64)

"What are you doing here? You're not supposed to be here. I don't understand why you're here."

It's not often you can ruin a miserable person's day just by showing up, so I do my best to savor the ones I get.

Due to a request, our escorting group has expanded to cover another clinic in a nearby town. I'm ringing in the first Saturday of the year with Lena, the two of us feeling out the new situation. The town we're in has stricter noise ordinances than Englewood and right across the narrow street from us are townhouses, so at least we won't be subjected to three hours of amplifiers at 90dbs. In addition, the protesters can only have two of them on the sidewalk in front of the clinic at once. This, combined with the noise rules, ensures we'll never have to deal with the Englewood crew and their inflated egos here.

The nonplussed person stammering at our arrival is white (of course), male (of course), and older (not of course, but there's definitely a preponderance of elderly folk involved in this nonsense). He lets us know how he feels about us intruding on his stomping ground by immediately bumping into Lena as we escort the first patient in, allowing her to let him know what 'zero tolerance' is. He remains absolutely agog that we're both here and willing to defy his wishes, and it starts to dawn on me just how incredibly upset he is by our presence. When the a car pulls up in front of the clinic's front door he's visibly irked that we're now in his way, although that doesn't deter him from being judgmental.

"Miss, you've already made one mistake, please don't make another."

Despite knowing I'm not supposed to interact with the protesters I'm not about to let that one slip by, but the patient waves a dismissive hand in his direction and raises an eyebrow to us before addressing him. 

"Don't you have anything better to do, old man?"

"Miss, my wife and I would love to adopt your baby, please let us."

Now she straight-up laughs as she exits the car, walking to the clinic with us on her flanks. 

"Are you serious? You're like what, eighty? Ninety? You gonna share diapers with the kid? Hire a nanny to push both of you in a stroller?" She gives us a wink as she passes through the door. Old Dude stands a few steps behind us, looking like a kid who just got his favorite balloon popped.

If the idea of this at least seventy-year-old dude and his wife being put in charge of a newborn sounds both dangerous and ridiculous, it's only because it is. It's also a lie, as without a doubt the child would be given to a family they approve of, one that would never, ever be deemed suitable parents by the agencies that are in place to safeguard against just such child trafficking. Does that sound like a harsh term to use? Maybe, but that's what it is.

The protesters like to brag about how a few months ago they talked 'a witch and a prostitute/pornographer' out of an abortion and into having the child instead, and how they gave it to a 'Christian' family. With a minimum of digging one can discover that this 'Christian' family used the child's adoption as a springboard to launch a GoFundMe to raise funds not for the kid, but instead for the 'intensive therapy' needed for their 14-year-old daughter, also an adoptee. They also claim that they 'had' to adopt the new child because he was related to their daughter . . . which makes my BS detector sound multiple alarms. Given the levels of religious zealotry drenching the mother's Facebook posts makes me hope beyond hope the attempt wasn't to fund some under-the-radar gay conversion therapy, which is illegal in New Jersey (and should be everywhere). In any case, sidestepping proper channels to give away a child isn't great, especially when one of the agents involved is Mr. Preacherman, a person who likes beating his children so much he invented a holiday for it. As much as that sounds like something I've made it, it is not. He calls it 'Spanksgiving' and thinks it's wonderful.

These are the people who condemn us.

After we deliver her inside our new friend tries to engage us in conversation, becoming visibly frustrated as we ignore him. He wanders across the street to where a gaggle of protesters are standing, a group that varies in size as the morning lopes along. There's a sizable amount of glaring, head-shaking, and pointing in our direction, as the brood appears to be distressed that we interlopers are intruding on their holy labors. One by one they drift away until Lena and I find ourselves with only a single protester standing over by a dumpster, fiddling with her tracts while looking somewhat bored. Not long after that she gives up as well, and when a patient shows up we're able to enjoy the sublime experience of merely pointing at the unhindered access to the clinic's front door. Strangers in a strange land indeed.

* * *

(Day 59)

"You see, Christopher, I'm busy praying for your soul because I want you to see the light, to turn from your wicked path and accept the embrace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will be your savior if you'll allow him to be so, and through his love-"

Scrubs has been following me around and issuing forth this never-ending babble for at least five minutes now. What have I done to deserve this?

Well, that's an easy one to answer. After managing to extract a patient from a car being swarmed by Runner Lite and her fellow harpies, I peeled back once I realized that Scrubs had stuck around to harangue the driver. Scrubs - he doesn't wear the top anymore but while I'd be within my rights to refer to him as Beardy McBeardface due to the snow-white abomination jutting from beneath his jaw, I'm set in my ways - has being increasingly more erratic and unstable as each week goes by. As many of the screamers of old have stopped showing up, Scrubs has gotten to realize his dream of being able to spew hatred and misogyny on the mike each and every week. Lacking either talent, charisma, or presence, he makes up for it by being as repulsive as possible. Keep those feet on the ground but keep reaching for the stars, Scrubs.

During my previous shift one of our clinic observers - folks we brought in to film and record the shenanigans of the protesters so we can be free to concentrate on the patients - had wandered into the buffer zone and, in the midst of one of Scrubs' thundering rages, had the temerity to more or less yawn in his face. To say that Scrub lost his shit would be an understatement - he went from whatever thread of inanity he'd been orating about and shifted to screaming about this woman's impending doom and damnation. Not sure what set her off - his tomato-red face, the veins bulging in his neck, or the ridiculous rhetoric he was targeting her with - but she lost it and started laughing.

Hello, Defcon Five.

Scrubs has zero respect for women, often demonstrated by the way he treats his wife, Runner Lite, as if she were a possession rather than a partner. When one dares to mock him in any manner it's like a match being touched to the fuse of a stick of dynamite. His anger kicks into overdrive as he forgets everyone else out here exists in order to zero in on his new arch-nemesis, and if you think this is something we have used to our advantage you're not wrong. As he spluttered and blustered at the still-laughing observer we eased a patient in without him noticing. It's nice when they make it easier for us.

"But you have to want to fight the wickedness within you, Christopher, you have to stop filling the world with your fake news and instead follow the path blazed by the Gospels, in order to -"

"Scrubs, are you this angry because you've never satisfied your wife before? Not even once?" I give him a pitying smile as he stumbles over his words for a second. "Is that why you get so jealous when another guy talks to her? Afraid that she's reach for something you can't give her?

I gotta give him credit, as aside from the one skip he's still rambling along. His brow is furrowed, though, and perhaps even more importantly he's so locked in on me he hasn't noticed the Camry that's slipped in behind him and delivered a patient. At the last moment he snaps his head up to see my fellow pink-vested escorts shepherding her inside, beyond his reach. With a snarl he turns back to the driver he'd been harassing before, only to see they escaped while he was distracted. I'm the last resort, but as he starts up again I've got my back turned to him, starting up a conversation with my partner Emmy. There's a few seconds of half-hearted bile before he storms away, allowing Emmy and I to crack up together and high-five. Over my shoulder I see him taking his post up by the edge of the buffer zone, Runner Lite dutifully bringing him a slim red water bottle. A match made in Heaven, indeed.

* * *

(Day 67)

"My biggest surprise became my best friend."

Good. Go hang out with your best friend and let everyone else have the same thing you did - a choice. 

To borrow from Mel Brooks and Zero Mostel - 'They come here, they all come here. How do they find me?' I'm back on the two-person shift at Clinic #2, hoping for another fairly easy morning but instead having to deal with folks like this one. Apropos of nothing she's started talking to Emmy and me as if we'd asked her to, which we most assuredly did not. The day has started off the right way, with the old guy from my previous shift doing a drive-by and, after spotting us, not returning as of yet. There's another collection of protesters across the street, but aside from brandishing signs in our direction and muttering their Hail Marys loudly enough for us to hear, they're not an issue at this point.

"I'm a chaplain. Did you know that? Would you like one of my cards? Can we talk about how wrong what you're doing is?"

I'm still sometimes taken aback at the entitlement we encounter on the sidewalk, of these people who think it's perfectly fine to take their particular flavor of myth and try to ram it down your throat as if it's their right to do so. Her claim to be a chaplain doesn't impress me much, as the whole religious-person-in-a-non-religious setting always seemed weird and untenable. She tries to engage us for a while, drifting away as Emmy and I start chatting about weed. When patients show up the chaplain proves easy enough to box out, and we've certainly had to deal with worse protesters before.

One of whom shows up a few minutes later, of course. Luis, he of screaming at brick walls and blowing a shofar, makes an appearance. The guy who went bonkers on a Department of Health worker who tried to hand out free masks during the height of COVID? The guy who once asked a fellow escort if she was a virgin? The guy who was so threatening and menacing that my wife filed a harassment charge against him? 

Yeah, that guy. 

We watch with distaste as he hangs signs drenched with misinformation on his pickup, preparing ourselves for his unbalanced rants. Back before he got entangled in a seemingly endless series of court dates to address the complain from my wife, he was considered someone who was borderline dangerous, an unstable personality promising an explosion that was more a matter of when as opposed to if. On the surface it felt like the results from my wife's efforts were minimal at best - a thirty day ban from the clinic - but aside from the mask incident Luis hasn't been the same. He returned quieter, less strident, less committed. He'd disappear for months at a time, not that we missed him. His reappearance here isn't welcome, and serves as confirmation that the protesters are irritated enough at our presence here to try to turn up the heat, so to speak. Calling in the reserves, bringing back some of the old fireballers. Hellfire and damnation! Old Testament God, the one more interested in killing and revenge than redemption. 

Luis doesn't seem up to it. When he comes over to chat with the two protesters in front of the clinic we're quick to let him know the rules. Based on past events I expect either scorn or anger, but instead he blinks a few times before shuffling back across the street and talking with the crew assembled there, including one guy who shows up late and attaches a camera to a telephone pole. As best as we can tell he's livestreaming himself standing across the street from the clinic, and we make sure we interpose ourselves between his filming angle and the patients we're bringing in. The chaplain has been getting visibly more frustrated as she can neither engage us nor get her pamphlets to our charges, and with a shake of her head she gets into her car and departs, leaving our souls unsaved. Luis takes the opportunity to assume her spot but he's a shell of himself, reading Bible verses in our general direction instead of his antics of days bygone. He makes token entreaties at patients, quietly withdrawing when they ignore his offerings. Before long he's denuded his truck and headed off, not even saying goodbye. Other shifts here have had problems that involved summoning the police, but over the three Saturdays I've spent here so far that hasn't been a necessity.

The group across the street slowly dissipates until Emmy and I are the only ones standing out here. As if on cue, the clinic owner sticks her head out to let us know that all the patients for the day are safely ensconced inside, and we're free to go. With a shrug we bump fists and head off to enjoy the rest of the weekend, leaving the non-descript building behind us.

For now.

Monday, January 3, 2022

We All Knew It Would End Up Here Eventually, Right? - Dispatches from Days 49-52 as an Escort at a Women's Clinic

(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 1. Day 2. Day 3. Day 4. Day 5. Day 6. Day 7. Day 8. Days 9/10/11. Day 12. Day 13.  Day 14. Days 15/16. Day 17. Days 18/19/20. Days 21/22/23Days 24-31. Day 32. Day 33Days 34-35. Days 36-39. Days 40-42. Days 43-45. Days 46-48. )

(yes I know it's been nine months since my last update I'm a bad person)

(Day 50)

"No, no, it's okay. He loves it. He totally loves it!"

The 'he' in question does not, in fact, appear to be 'loving it.'

Aside from their ridiculous signs the protesters that plague our sidewalk don't usually bother much with props. Occasionally Luis will pull out a shofar to blatt, which is an odd choice considering he and his brethren take malicious joy in yelling JESUS IS LORD in Hebrew whenever spotting someone heading to the temple down the street. The Runner (who moved farther away and hardly ever shows up anymore, which might cause me to rethink my belief that there are no gods) had her little plastic foetus keychains but those were more of a, well, souvenir she kept trying to force on people. Occasionally we get one of the folks across the street with red duct tape on their mouths, but by and far there's very few objects beyond the omnipresent Bibles that get bandied about by the screamers.

Mr. Preacherman, though, is cut from a different and far more unstable bolt of cloth. Using a music stand is understandable, I suppose, as having something to leave his Bible on when he darts off to try to restrict access to incoming patients must be handy indeed. He also tried to get away with setting up a largish table 'to hold all the Bibles that he was going to give away' which conveniently (for him) blocked a large approach area to the clinic from the street. The police, at this point extremely well-versed with Mr. Preacherman and his antics, made him get rid of it because he didn't have a permit. I don't usually side with small-town bureaucracy but I'm glad to make an exception in this instance.

Lately he's resorted to a much more mobile kind of prop - his children. As he constantly reminds us he has a half-dozen of them. I don't think we've had the entire gaggle here at the same time but definitely more than a few underfoot on numerous occasions. It's difficult to feel anything but pity for them as they are doomed to be warped by their unstable father, who pays little attention to them as they stand around for hours looking bored beyond words. Today he's got his wife there to wrangle the brood, and that's who he's talking to as he holds a child who's eight, maybe ten months old.

Holding an infant. 

Who isn't wearing any ear protection.

As his father preaches through a loudspeaker that hangs perhaps a foot away from the child's head.

Regularly exceeding 80db.


His wife, doing her best to keep her rising alarm under control, continues to entreat him to hand the child over. Finally, after several more minutes of yelling through an amplifier next to the kid's ear, he acquiesces and gives her the kid just in time to yell at a couple walking in.


How indeed.

* * *

(Day 49)


Kettle, pot, black, etc.

Scrubs has been elevated to having a spot as a screamer each weekend, which I have to assume is because of others who previously held the position no longer showing up. Actually, that's not 100% correct as Luis, he of shouting at brick walls and asking women whether they were virgins or not, has made occasional appearances lately. He hasn't taken the mike, though, and in fact has been curiously (and wonderfully) subdued. I do not ask why.


Scrubs is more than willing to pick up the crazy/slut shaming slack that Luis used to dish out, which doesn't excite anyone. He's monotonous and condescending, labeling anyone who doesn't agree with his Bible-backed 'truths' as some sort of simpleton. That he clearly believes women are second-class citizens is easy enough to discern from his words but even more obvious in the way he treats his wife, the odious Runner Lite. There's no detectable affection between the pair, no sweet moments or stolen hugs. When he's on the mike her job is to make sure he's hydrated and to otherwise stay out of the way because A MAN IS TALKING. 

The underlying rot of their dynamic is never more apparent during one of the many times the police show up - in this instance, at my urging after she and Mr. Preacherman have more than overstepped boundaries earlier in the shift by shoving us from behind and blocking access from the street to the sidewalk. After speaking with me the officer approaches her to discuss the situation only to have Scrubs break off from his oration to shout, "RICHELE, YOU GO STAND AGAINST THE WALL! I'M THE HUSBAND AND I'LL TALK TO THE POLICE!"

This doesn't sit well with either his wife or the somewhat taken aback officer (Dude, have you not been paying attention to what goes on here? Like, at all?) but that doesn't slow him down in the least. "I'M THE HUSBAND HERE! OFFICER, YOU TALK TO ME!"

Suffice to say the cop does *not* agree with the proclamation and instead has the temerity to speak with Runner Lite while Scrub's stands a few feet away, absolutely seething. Runner Lite basks in the opportunity to spew falsehoods on her own - it shouldn't surprise me how willing the protesters are to lie but yet here we are - and concocts a version of what occurred that doesn't bear even the faintest resemblance to reality. Once she hears that two of us are planning on filing complaints she immediately announces her intention of doing the same, which is how Lena and I find ourselves sharing the small reception area of the Englewood Police Department after the end of the shift. The officer in the middle of all this has gone from being mildly irritated at us for choosing to swear out complaints to being thoroughly irked at the protesters, warning them not to interact with us while the wheels of procedure slowly grind along. Mr. Preacherman's repeated facetious offerings of a can of iced tea to the disinterested cop isn't helping their standing, not that they care. Since they can't address us directly they instead have loud conversations tossing mockery our way, laughing a bit too loud at attempted jokes and putdowns. It's a relief when we can stride out without even glancing in their direction.

The antics continued a month later at one of the most surreal Zoom court sessions I've ever been part of - okay, the only Zoom court session I've even been part of. From a hotel room several hundred miles away - I was working a convention - I watch in amused silence as the town prosecutor repeatedly tears into the lawyer representing Mr. Preacherman and Runner Lite (who appears to be alone but I'm fairly confident Scrubs is lurking just off-camera, ready to intercede in case she's called on to say something) over his utter lack of professionalism. The judge tries to seize the reins a few times but it's a good three-quarters of an hour before she's able to get them sorted out and our morass of complaints and counter-complaints is shunted off to the future. Alas, before that legal matter can be addressed Mr. Preacherman decides to up the ante in new and exciting ways.

* * *

(Day 51)

"C'mon, Kit! LET'S GO! I knew you had that fire in you somewhere! LET'S GO!"

I'd like to go. Believe me, I'd LOVE to go. But since the camera-wearing Mr. Preacherman wants me to do so with all of his heart I am not going to go. 

Mr. Preacherman, however . . .

We like to laugh at the antics of the protesters whenever possible but the bottom line is that these are people hell-bent (ha!) on trying to coerce vulnerable women into joining their cult. What also isn't a joke is the escalating of violence in both Mr. Preacherman's rhetoric and his actions. Back in August I was forced to file a complaint against both him and Runner Lite for pushing through me from behind and then blocking access from the street to the sidewalk. But while Runner Lite's response to getting rapped on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper has been to switch to snarky, 'cutting' comments instead, Mr. Preacherman has started spouting more insults and upping his physicality. It's a bit unsettling - not because I don't think I could handle him if need be but rather that he seems a dangerously unbalanced mix of zealotry and mental instability. By his own admission he was bounced out of the military for refusing to take the meds he was prescribed, so I don't think my alarm is unwarranted. A few weeks ago the police picked him up outside the clinic and discovered he was toting a knife. He's often shouted that only answers to the laws of his god and not to those of man. Honestly, he feels like a cauldron ready to boil over.

It doesn't take long for things to reach that point today. From a vantage point ten or so yards away I watch Monroe approach the driver's door of an idling car, letting the person inside know that yes, they're at the clinic, and offering suggestions as to where to park.

Then Mr. Preacherman walks over and hipchecks Monroe out of the way.

There was nothing subtle or accidental about it. When an astonished Monroe steps back to where he'd been Mr. Preacherman hipchecks him away again. Not gonna lie, as I rush over the urge to smear Mr. Preacherman against the vehicle is strong indeed - very, very strong - but instead I get between him and Monroe as the patient emerges from the passenger side, being guided by other members of our team. Monroe and I fall in behind them and I'm asking him if he's okay when it's my turn to get hit, this time a shove from behind. At first I'm so stunned it takes a moment to register but before I can react in any manner I'm pushed again and now, now, my elbow is up and cocked as Mr. Preacherman continues to try to taunt me into making a big mistake. For a moment I think I'm going to let it fly and fuck the consequences but something is screaming from deep inside to remind me that this isn't about me. I let my arm drop as he bangs against me again, preparing to turn and yell at him.

Just yell. I swear.

I think.

"You! Stop! Right now! I see what you're doing!" With a fair amount of surprise I realize the words didn't come from myself or Monroe but rather from a member of the Englewood PD, who has come running across the street from his parked patrol truck. "Back off from them right now!"

Mr. Preacherman, man of God and morally opposed to sin, begins lying instantly. "Officer, I'm glad you're here. They started it by pushing me and -"

The cop isn't buying that. "No, they didn't. I saw the whole thing and it's on my body cam, so what I need you to do right now is back off. Immediately."

Monroe and I keep moving, leaving Mr. Preacherman to his transformation from WARRIOR FOR JESUS to an unctuous, fibbing sycophant crooning his lifelong support for the police. The Englewood PD is quite aware of his shenanigans at this point and my best guess is that his version of what happened is falling on cynical ears. Does the officer really have the incriminating evidence on his camera? If he does, it's not offered up to my knowledge.

That's okay. The protestors aren't the only ones who can wear body cams. And pushing and shoving someone representing the clinic? That is a violation of the FACE Act. FACE stands for 'Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances' and, friends and neighbors, it is a FEDERAL law.

Mr. Preacherman has just fucked around and found out.

It takes a little while to get all the ducks in a row but the FBI raids his house and takes him away just a week or two before he and his family are supposed to leave the US and head to Nepal try to ram his religion down the throats of a new nation of people. There's a lot of back and forth before he's finally permitted to leave as planned with the knowledge that he still has to stand trial but believe me, if he wants to thumb his nose at us and never set foot in New Jersey again I would consider that a fair trade off. For all his talk of having a 'great pro bono' lawyer he posts a GoFundMe begging for help with his legal fees which, as of this writing, sits at about ten percent of his goal. Thought and prayers, sir. Thoughts and prayers.

UPDATE: Mr. Preacherman had his arraignment yesterday (mid-December) and is facing charges for Blocking Access to a Clinic Entrance and Using Physical Force to Injure or Intimidate a Medical Professional. Both carry a sentence of a year in Federal prison. Do I think he'll end up serving time? Probably not, but a ban requiring him to stay away from clinics would be just as welcome. Updates as they happen.

UPDATE ON THE UPDATE (11/2022): Mr. Preacherman reached a settlement of sorts with the government - no prison time BUT he's permanently forbidden to be within 25 feet of the clinic and he also cannot approach incoming patients within 100 feet of the clinic. Is it a perfect solution for us? No, but it's not bad. He's currently in Nepal but was in town preaching just outside of his new forbidden zone while in court for hate crime charges. Yeah, he's a real peach.

* * *

(Day 52)


How would you react if someone screamed that in your face via an 80+db loudspeaker while standing on a patch of sidewalk he wasn't allowed to be in?

Would you feel threatened?

Would you react?

Would you be justified if you did?

Not gonna lie, I didn't see this one coming during my first shift after Mr. Preacherman's arrest by the Feds. He was released on bail and ordered to stay away from the clinic but I'm exactly zero percent surprised when he drives by in the middle of the morning, swerving across traffic in order to brandish a raised fist and howl something incoherent as he passes by. Him being gone means that others have to pick up the preaching on the squawkbox slack, and given how low their numbers have been that unfortunately means that Scrubs is given additional time to spew his hatred, misogyny, and ignorance. He's all about strutting through the buffer zone while he orates and I'm all about filming him as he does so, as every little bit we can pile up against these folks and their utter disregard for the laws that are supposed to apply to everyone will help.

Right now Scrubs is screaming at a guy who had come back in alone, probably to drop off an ID for the person he'd brought. That happens more often than you might expect, and after emerging he's immediately confronted by the ranting, frothing Scrubs. The guy - let's call him Nigel - Nigel seems taken aback and confused by this lunatic screaming at him through a speaker while standing in what's supposed to be a safe zone. He tells Scrubs that he has no idea what his situation is but of course Scrubs doesn't care and continues to berate him. Josie and I step in to intercede, making ourselves a barrier between the two, but Nigel has had quite enough and reaches through us to give Scrubs a healthy shove. Now we're trying to drag him away before anything else happens - Runner Lite is already on her phone calling the Englewood PD - and we shepherd him down the street to try to calm him down a bit.

"How is this legal?" Nigel is from England and seems perplexed as to why this is permitted. You and me both, buddy. "They'd be arrested where I come from for doing this."

We're still walking him from the site of the incident, pausing as he stops short and gives out a large shuddering gasp, wiping at his eyes. Once we start moving again we're joined by Runner Lite, who buzzes around on her phone telling the police that the deathscorts are 'fleeing the scene of the crime.' She continues to harass Nigel, trying to goad him into saying things that might get him in trouble. She's not even trying to hide it. With a sigh we tell her to get lost and bring him back to a location relatively near the front doors to wait for the cops.

The officer who shows up is kind, patient, and appears to be somewhat understanding of how freaked out and upset Nigel is at the moment. After shooing Runner Lite away - she's still flitting about offering her version of what happened - he takes Nigel's statement. We have no idea if Scrubs is going to file a complaint or not but at least there are no handcuffs involved or anyone hauled away for now. We still need to get Nigel to his car and away from here for now but he's parked (illegally, it turns out, but he luckily didn't get ticketed or towed) on a street on the opposite side of the clinic entrance - in other word, if we take the direct route he's going to have to run the gauntlet again.

Uhm, no.

We take the indirect route instead by going the long way around the block, chatting about some of the places he's traveled to and the differences between the US and England. I wouldn't say he's happy by the time we reach our destination but he's definitely in a much better state of mind. We let him know that if anything does come of it he can contact us through the clinic to speak on his behalf. We shake hands and head back to the door to relieve the other escorts who have been covering for us, realizing when we get there that it's well after 11 and time to call it a day. Runner Lite mutters something as we walk past but I can't make it out.

No great loss there.

Be safe and happy in 2022, my friends. 

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Deathscort in the Streets, Hellscort in the Sheets - Dispatches from Days 46-48 as an Escort at a Women's Clinic

(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 1. Day 2. Day 3. Day 4. Day 5. Day 6. Day 7. Day 8. Days 9/10/11. Day 12. Day 13.  Day 14. Days 15/16. Day 17. Days 18/19/20. Days 21/22/23Days 24-31. Day 32. Day 33Days 34-35. Days 36-39. Days 40-42. Days 43-45.)

(Day 46)

"Kit, what's that short for? Kitty Cat? Is your name Kitty Cat, is that what it is?"

Welcome back to recess at your elementary school. There's juice boxes for everyone.

Since the protesters are out here to bully and harass women trying to access a health clinic it shouldn't be too surprising that when facing a dearth of patients to use as targets they lash at out the conveniently located escorts instead. It's a fascinating juxtaposition from their 'we love everyone' posturing when they start to lay into us with all the wit and candor of overstimulated third-graders.

"You played rugby? I don't believe that. That's a rough game and you're way too effeminate for that. You could never play that game."

Alex likes to team up with the Mean Girls for what they no doubt consider scathing mockery, the lot of them giggling as they launch verbal broadsides against myself and my team. As the lone male escort today my character is under attack for 'failing at being a man,' while my teammates are being berated for daring to be anything other than subservient and fawning. THE HORROR. This evokes little more than laughter from them (and a few choice words and/or gestures as well) while my silence denies them the oxygen their fires of hatred thirst for.

"You play hockey now? I feel sorry for your team. They must be so sad to have you because you're probably the worst player on the team."

Not sure how trying to belittle me is an integral part of their master plan to save all the babies but they're going to get in big trouble when I tell the lunch lady what they said to me.

* * *

(Day 47)


He's a little too old for castration to affect his voice so we're assuming The Stepson is doing a weird voice thing on purpose. I don't think our uncontrollable laughter is what he's hoping for.

It's been a few months since we've been out here on the sidewalk - our leaders made the difficult but prudent decision to pull us in November when it became clear that the 'we're all about LIFE but not when it's a virus that's killing millions worldwide' protesters weren't interested in either wearing masks or respecting personal space. However, for once their hypocrisy has worked against them as our volunteer work against their callous disregard for the health and safety of patients allowed the clinic to secure appointments for a handful of the team - in other words, thanks to the protesters being utterly repulsive and reprehensible people several escorts are now fully vaccinated. 

Thanks, cultists! A bit amazed to learn you're actually good for something but it's nice to be surprised.

Anyway The Stepson, clad in two different types of camouflage, has at some point in the interim adopted a new speech pattern that has him dropping in and out of falsetto. If that wasn't disturbing enough he's drawing out random words during his ranting.


At times he seems to be on the verge of laughter himself, but that could just be an early glimmer of whatever potential mental breakdown he's teetering along the edge of. This is someone in his late teens or early twenties who thinks sex is a bad thing. In any case he's having no difficulty working himself into a lather, which is a problem.


I've mentioned before that The Stepson has a bit of an expectoration issue - he spits when he's screeching. A lot. It was bad this summer but now it's much, much worse. Have you watched the Hamilton movie? If so, you might recall that the close-ups of King George show a few globs of spittle on his lips. Now make that a spray, constantly renewing itself, and you have an idea of what's coming from The Stepson's mouth. It's like being around the dilophosaurus from Jurassic Park, and we're doing our best to stay out of his splash zone.


I . . . ::shrug::

* * *

(Day 46)

"Did you hear that car farting? That car definitely farted."

Yeah, I got nothing here.

Things can get a little surreal on the sidewalk, which I suppose is to be expected when you have people there that think it's perfectly okay to demand that women they don't know should be forced to carry a child that they don't want to term. Combine this with the fact that the females who are part of their cult are perfectly fine with being treated like second-class citizens because BIBLE SEZ and it makes for an odd and often noxious stew.

Sometimes it's just plain weird.

"No! You can't take my picture! Stop! You can't!"

Ah, how fragile toxic masculinity can be. The Stepson is completely freaking out because I raised my phone to take a picture of his unmasked face as evidence that might be needed at some point down the road. He breaks his oration to hide behind his brandished Bible, turning away as he further exhorts me to stop. I comply, then lift my arm again as he starts speaking. His rising anger is palpable as he yells at me again. Kid, this is a dance I can do alllllll morning.

It's beyond confusing. The protesters wear Go-Pro cameras to immortalize their rants. Alex has spent the morning recording the speakers with his phone, and they didn't shy away from him. They take plenty of pictures of us, some of which turn up on random social media sites. The Stepson has told me how proud he is to be a 'warrior of Christ,' so what is he so afraid of?

Others of their crew gather around and begin yelling at me to stop, calling me a bully. My mask conceals the broad grin caused by their hypocrisy as I continue to intermittently break his concentration by presenting my phone. As he ascends to new heights of spittle-flecked rage it occurs to me that maybe I should let him know I haven't taken a picture since the first time I raised my camera.


* * *

(Day 47)

"Hey, I have an audience! Street preachers love having an audience. I'd like to thank you for coming down here to listen to me today! How thoughtful of you!"

Yeah, we've got one of *those* guys here today.

There must be a pretty fine line between overweening pride and wanting to be the person constantly exhorting praise and servitude to one's chosen deity. Filming others while also recording yourself would seem to be under the mantle of the former. Sure, one can claim to be posting these sermons/screeds/rants on Youtube is a way to spread the word of your god but it also smacks of LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME. 

Case in point, this guy. DeeDee knows him from previous visits - evidently he's someone often traveling the world to ram his flavor of religion down other people's throats but is in our area for the foreseeable future - and while I'm sure he'd love for me to use his real name here I'm not going to do that. He's wearing a hat that's a half-step up from a trilby and a sporting a Smith Brothers-worthy beard. We're introduced early in the shift when he makes as if he's passing through the buffer before hanging a sharp left and heading toward the front doors. His eyes register surprise as I step in front of him and tell him he needs to leave the zone and, surprising nobody, he proclaims in a loud voice that he's not moving. Fine. I ask him to move one more time and, when he ignores me, request to DeeDee (who is recording the violation) to call the police.

THAT gets Mr. Preacherman moving, as it turns out he was arrested the day before by the Englewood PD and once before that a few weeks ago. Well, now he can enjoy responding to a complaint as well. Welcome to New Jersey, bud. Here's your hat, what's your hurry?

"It's a fetus. Do you know what 'fetus' means in the original Greek? You probably do, as you look like intelligent people, so you know it means 'child.'"

(side note: When I tell this story to my wife, a Classics major, she bursts out laughing before rolling her eyes. Mr. Preacherman is not the expert in ancient languages that he thinks himself to be)

He uses a lot of public speaking tricks like that during the thirty minutes of material he has that gets repeated three times over an almost interminable ninety minute slog. Same sort of weak stuff that Parker favors such as 'Everyone knows,' and 'You know I'm right when I say.' They do love to take the right to choose away. Same lies, mumbles, and staggering ignorance about what occurs during most abortions - forceps? really? - yelled over and over at decibel levels regularly venturing into the low 80s. He's so very, very desperate to have us interact with him but his egregious Biblical cherry-picking fails to lure us in.

"The problem is that you live in an emotional fantasy world where you think what a woman wants is more important than a human life! That's your problem, deathscorts!"

The incongruity and, well, utter hypocrisy of being lectured about living in an 'emotional fantasy' by someone whose entire life is based on a book that, among other fairy tales, insists a dude built a big boat and took a pair of every animal on the planet with him is not lost on me. Believe me, I want to get into it with him. It's been a few months since we've been out here and it was not pretty while we were gone - videos of them stacked three deep around a car and not allowing the passengers to emerge had us counting the days until our vaccinations - but you can't win an argument with a zealot. Instead we note his mounting frustration at our unwillingness to play as we escort patients by.

"It's a womb! Don't make it a tomb!"


* * *

(Day 46)

"I'm going to stay a little longer."

There are certain things you don't expect to hear when you're team leading. This is one of them.

It's a little after 11am and about the time I usually signal to the escorts to call the end of the shift. Most of the patients have already entered by this point of the morning. In addition the restaurant next to us opens a half an hour from now and the owner has proven before that his tolerance for the protesters harassing his diners eating outside is non-existent. They don't like to play without an audience anyway, especially the captive one we present, so they often bail after we do. Today's a little unusual because the majority of them have been across the street for the past half-hour or so, hanging out as they chow down on doughnuts and coffee dropped off by someone supportive of their 'crusade.' At times there's a big show being made of how good everything is which, since I have celiac and don't drink coffee, is not as effective as they might be hoping for.

The person who wants to do some overtime is Marli, a seasoned vet with good instincts. Right before the protesters had scampered off for their treat she'd escorted a guy down to the clinic - I'd raised an eyebrow at her approach but relaxed after she shot me a hand gesture - not something to talk about in front of others that weren't us. Now, thirty minutes later and in the company of escorts alone she fills me in on the situation. A couple is sitting in a nearby car. The wife was flat-out terrified by the protesters and refused to walk past them for her scheduled 10:30am appointment. Marli brought the husband down to discuss options with the clinic and he was informed that the latest spot available was at 11:30am, if they were willing to try to outwait the screaming hordes. The husband said that would work, given Marli's optimism that the undesirables would be cleared out by 11:15 or so like they usually were.

Alas, best-laid plans and so on. After sending the other two escorts home Marli and I take up residence in our off-site (we're no longer mustering in the clinic itself, because COVID) but near-by base, keeping out of sight while waiting for the protesters to scram.

And waiting . . . and waiting . . . and waiting . . .

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the protesters continuing to hang around is that they're not doing their usual annoying crap. Well, okay, that's actually a good thing, I suppose, but not when I'd rather have them gone. Okay I ALWAYS want them gone so that's not helpful but I'd particularly like them to be far away from here now. They're still across the street from the clinic, chatting as they continue with their snacks. Usually moments after we'd vacated they'd have done their prayer circle, taken down their banners, and gone and done whatever religious zealots do on Saturday afternoons. Yet here they are, lingering as time runs down on the couple's window of opportunity. 

11:20. Still there. Marli and I venture out for a quick peek, hoping they've started packing up. They have not, which sets us to grumbling as we go back into cover. The minutes begin to zip by at a torrid pace with no sign of them leaving. C'mon, there's a whole book in your Bible called Exodus! Get out of here already! 

11:25. We're reaching a point of no return, so after shucking our pink vests we casually amble out to the couple's car. Squatting down on the driver's side both keeps us out of sight and allows us to confirm this side of the sidewalk is clear - well, except for one young man who appears to be the son of a protester who isn't affiliated with the main cultist sect (but is still kinda awful in her own right). There seems to be a different sibling from a rotating crew each weekend, all who do the same thing - stand near the buffer zone wearing a sign and listening to music on earbuds. Well, they also surreptitiously carry a clicker to count how many patients come in, which is super creepy and begs a whole bunch of questions to be answered. Still, since they always look like they'd like to be somewhere else and rarely if ever interact with patients or companions we don't consider them much of a problem. The wife is still extremely reluctant to exit the vehicle and it's starting to look like they may have to cancel and reschedule, if possible.

11:28. As if a queen bee has sent out a command to all drones the protesters suddenly begin to pack up with surprising haste. Sensing the opportunity, we ease the couple out of the car and begin walking down the sidewalk at an unhurried pace, Marli and myself chatting with them as if we're four friends heading into town for bagels and coffee. The wife is about as on edge as a person could be, eyes brimming with tears and the knuckles gripping her husband's hand a bone white. We're almost to the door when a startled 'Hey!' goes up from across the way, and we pick up the pace before anything organized can start up. A large bus rumbling by cements our successful journey, and the husband mouths 'thank you' as we close the door behind them. 

Jeers rain down on us from from across the street, As we smile and wave in their direction, they feel like rays of sunshine.

* * *

(Day 48)

"I'm not going anywhere! I have just as much right to be here as you do!"

*Somebody* is about to learn a very valuable lesson.

It's a little after 8am and way too early for this shit, but here we are. Mr. Preacherman - he of the inflated ego and mortifying hat - is already cranking and, at the moment, doing so without the aid of his bullhorn. He's still loud and clearly standing in the buffer zone, something I duly record with my phone's camera. He's uninterested in moving, despite our numerous reminders, and he waves a dismissive hand in our direction when we inform him that we're going to call the police. Perhaps he thinks we're bluffing, or maybe that he is indeed allowed to be in the buffer if we are.

Either way, he's mistaken.

Bringing in the police is not something we want to do but if the protesters' toxic mix of arrogance and entitlement is so great that they can't respect an ordinance keeping a few square feet free for access then they leave us no choice. Mr. Preacherman continues flaunting the rules as he brays on, bellowing at the top of his lungs for a few minutes until additional troops arrive in a shiny new minivan - shaming women pays well, it seems. The Stepson hurries over to Mr. Preacherman and tells him that he'd better get out of the zone because the police are coming (does Shiny New Van have a police scanner? Who knows?). This is met with more scorn and sneering . . .

. . . until two police cruisers show up. Abruptly Mr. Preachman is VERY concerned and runs down the sidewalk to try to talk to them before Lexi can, but they're more interested in talking to her since she's the one who called in the complaint. Hubris in check, he's now pacing around trying to hear what's being said and to insert himself into the conversation, which is not is not going his way. Lexi has brought paperwork confirming that yes, we're allowed in the buffer zone and no, the protesters aren't. A bit later I'm summoned down to show them the video I recorded. One officer is open and friendly, nodding as he watches. The other one looks likes he's sucking on a lemon the entire time I'm there, his responses curt and dismissive. When a supervisor shows up and asks some simple questions we begin to get the idea that while the higher-ups are aware of the ordinance the patrolmen might not have been clued in. 

After a while the police ask Lexi to come to the station and finish the paperwork now, leaving behind an extremely agitated Mr. Preacherman to pace about while The Stepson, who has taken over the bullhorn, struggles along in his place. Maybe it's like being a relief pitcher who needs warmup? He does change up from calling us 'deathscorts' to 'hellscorts' and we are DELIGHTED by our new metal nickname. A good forty-five minutes later Mr. Preacherman suddenly runs past, pausing only long enough to tell The Stepson to keep an eye on the Go-Pro he taped to one of the light posts, before jumping in his own van and tearing off. It doesn't take a genius to know where he's rushing off to in such an agitated state.

(An aside - later he accuses us of 'taking selfies so we can post pictures on Instagram because we're guilty of the sin of PRIDE' which is some epic-level projection coming from someone who films himself with multiple cameras each week but what do I know, I'm just a Son of Satan)

We have fun making banner messages on our phones and holding them up to his Go-Pro, which prompts the remaining protesters to threaten to call the police on us for 'harassing the camera.' Mr. Preacherman returns in the nick of time as The Stepson continues to flag - by now the kid has forgotten about employing that weird-ass inflection thing he was so proud of last time - and hoo boy he's full of 'oh-shit-that-did-not-go-the-way-I-wanted-it-to' energy, doing his best to harangue us and anyone else he can find on the sidewalk. He mocks us for wearing masks since COVID has a 99% survival rate. Pretty odd stance for someone who claims that 'every life is sacred' to take, especially since over half a million Americans have died from it so far, but glaring contradictions are something you get used to quickly out here.

He also leaves me high and dry when, after claiming that I'm a 'fallen angel,' I demand to know where my flaming sword is. Instead he tries to spin that into yet another conversational opener but we know better, ignoring his beseeching hooks. Whether it's his default setting or because of the unhappy outcome of his clash with the law today Mr. Preacherman is even more confrontational than usual, his haughty insufferableness cranked to extreme highs. When one companion steps out to smoke a cigarette he's all over him, trying to bully him into going inside and dragging his girlfriend out. He's dismissive of any and all explanations, which soon puts us into the unfortunate position of keeping him from getting his ass kicked.

As usual, Mr. Preacherman is the instigator. A car pulls up and when a woman emerges from the passenger side we're there to surround her in a sea of pink, guiding her to the clinic doors. By the time we get back Mr. Preacherman is yelling at the car, condemning the driver as a coward and an accomplice to murder. The window rolls down and the occupant begins to explain that if his wife carries the pregnancy to term both she and the baby will die. It's a medical condition. There's no way either of them can survive.

"Get a second opinion."  

There's a moment of stunned silence as the driver processes - or tries to - what just got said to him. When he tries to respond Mr. Preacherman yells it again and now, well, now the guy is pissed. His door opens and out he pops, fists clenched and nostrils flaring. While seeing someone thump one of these sanctimonious ghouls would be satisfying on certain primal levels we can't let it happen because they are so very much hoping it will, their Go-Pros and lawsuits at the ready. With heavy sighs Monroe and I intercede, getting in front of the now-incensed companion and doing our best to talk him down. It doesn't take too much - he understands what we're doing and why - but for a moment the situation feels like it's tilting toward a ruckus. 

As the tension starts to ease the husband makes a sound of disgust and shakes his head at Mr. Preacherman. "What's wrong with you? Seriously, what is wrong with you?"

Mr. Preacherman smiles broadly. "I'm just God's servant, doing his will."

If that's the case, perhaps somebody should check into his god's motives.


Monday, October 12, 2020

Time and Space Have No Meaning Here, Especially When You're Just Making Things Up - Dispatches from Days 43-45 as an Escort at a Women's Clinic

(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 1. Day 2. Day 3. Day 4. Day 5. Day 6. Day 7. Day 8. Days 9/10/11. Day 12. Day 13.  Day 14. Days 15/16. Day 17. Days 18/19/20. Days 21/22/23Days 24-31. Day 32. Day 33Days 34-35. Days 36-39. Days 40-42. )

(Day 45)

"And I'll tell you what, Donald J. Trump better get himself right! Appointing a woman to the Supreme Court? He can't do that. He needs to appoint a man because only men have conviction!"

Nothing highlights your devotion to seeing the scourge of abortion brought to an end quite like railing against the appointment of the frothingly religious Amy Coney Barrett, who would almost undoubtedly be the demise of Roe v. Wade. Almost as if it's not really about the abortions for Alex and the rest of the crew out here. So weird.

Misogyny is never in short supply while the protesters are around, despite a goodly number of their cadre being elsewhere this morning. When I ask Parker where they are he tells me they're at a "men's retreat for abortion," which sounds like a strong contender for the top spot on the Scale of All Things Oxymoronic.

"Ruth Gader Binsburg, she's in a very warm and uncomfortable place right now, you can be sure of that."

Some people who, upon learning that I'm an escort, tell me they would love to do it but wouldn't be able to keep from punching one (or more) of the protesters in the face. I get it.

"Hey, you watch Richard Maddow on MSNBC, right? Richard?"

I *totally* get it.

"Hey, Fake News! What's the name of your blog? Northeastern Regional Overseer was looking for it the other day but couldn't find it."

It's a bit of a logical dilemma he's brought up - how can he call me 'Fake News' if he isn't able to find where my blog is and thus see what's written here? Has he ever actually seen it? Last time Runner Lite told another protester that my name was 'Chip' so maybe they've been haunting someone else. With this crew, who knows? I feel sorry for that guy if that's the case. "Honey, people I don't know are telling me I'm going to burn in a lake of fire, gnash my teeth, suffer with the backbiters. Did we do something I don't remember?"

When I press him (yet again) on what 'fake news' I've written he sputters for a while before claiming that an opinion I gave about his brother wasn't true . . . as if an opinion is subject to a veracity test. Not sure how you lose a web address - is using Chrome an affront to God? - but I'm not inclined to make his life any easier. His frantic typing (and assumed Googling) doesn't provide him with what he's looking for, and his inability to find a site he's claimed to have visited before is no doubt some sort of Deep State conspiracy.

Maybe Richard Maddow had a hand in it.


* * *

(Day 45)

"At three-and-a-half weeks the baby has a heartbeat!"

It's a shame when Parker can't keep his lies straight. To be fair (toooo beeeee faaaaaair), he's got a lot of them to keep track of.

Since my first day on the sidewalk almost four years ago (!) Parker has espousing the flat-out lie that an zygote/morula/blastocyst has a heartbeat at two-and-a-half weeks, sometimes more than once per preaching session. It's laughably untrue but that never stops him from trotting it out. I'm a wee bit curious as to why he'd switch up the timeline, but not enough to ask. He's a polished orator so the question is more of whether his ignorance is willful or due to lack of knowledge. I'm not all that interested in finding out as, of course, he's not wearing a mask.

"Go ahead and ask Toys R Us why they went out of business! Could it have been because of their support of murder mills like this one? Because there weren't enough kids to support their business?"

Well, no. While they were getting clobbered by Walmart, Amazon, and other giant retailers that sold toys, the main reason is because it was carved up into pieces by capitalists who had bought the company and then saddled it with the debt from its own purchase, which is weird and sad and uncool and somehow not illegal. Parker's information likely comes from this comically bad 'article' that is jammed full of lies and propaganda, something wouldn't deter him in the least. Hell, that's a feature, not a bug.

"We don't have hate speech here! We love everyone and want to save you."

Indeed. I assume that's why the week before The Stepson, while preaching, sneered at Black Lives Matter and offered 'Dog Lives Matter' instead. Loads of compassion there. 

It's okay. No matter how they dress up their lies and intolerance we know what they're saying.

"We're out here fighting against abominable sorcerers!"

Well, most of the time.

* * *

(Day 44)

"Listen, I'm not lying when I say you're looking down on me. After all, you're much taller than I am."

Ye gods. I've got a wannabe comedian. Send help.

The fact that this conversation is taking place at all isn't my fault, for once. Victor (I know his name because he made it a point to introduce himself) is new to me and a late arrival this morning who decided he needed to be in the buffer zone while saying hello to the other protesters. When I politely - okay, semi-politely - okay, fine, not super aggressively - ask him to move he introduces himself and launches into a barrage of pedantry. It's not quite as irritating as he might be hoping it is but certainly I'm not enjoying countless insipid questions designed to draw me further into some sort of deep discussion when all I want to do is get him to move three feet to his right.

Just when I think his obstinance is going to drag on long enough to draw the guard out of the building he says that he understands what I'm asking him to do. Moving a few steps away, he looks up at me and asks if this is good. When I nod he asks to continue our conversation, at which point I body-shield him from the sight of the patient who had come up behind him. Once she's past I walk to the other side of the buffer zone, lean against the wall, and enjoy a marked lack of nitpicking.

* * *

(Day 45)

"Look, I'm just saying that you seem to have a lot you want to talk about. So why won't they let you take a turn on the speaker?"

So, yeah, I'm doing that thing I'm not supposed to do and engaging with one of the few Mean Girls here today. She - this one hasn't done anything memorable enough to earn a nickname yet - has been standing on the edge of the buffer zone doing that conversation-with-herself-out-loud thing that seems to be one of their go-to staples. Armed with the absolute certainty provided by youth and inexperience she's kept up a fairly steady patter of something - I'm not paying attention so I have no idea what she's going on about - and when she pauses for breath I ask the logical question posted above.

Her first response is continued silence, which is most welcome. When I ask again she looks away, so I turn to Parker and tell him to give her a turn. He makes a couple of faces and waves a dismissive hand in my direction. In the past his response on this subject has been 'God's house in is order' but he doesn't offer that one up right now. Palms up, I ask him again to let her speak.

Looking discomfited if not actually uncomfortable he shrugs and, with a total lack of conviction, says, "She can speak if she wants to." 

I spin back to her and gesture at the speaker hanging on Parker's chest. "Well? Go get it!"

Still not looking at me, she clears her throat and says, "God put men on Earth to speak for us."

At times in my scribbled blathering here I've referred to the protesters as 'cultists,' which may or not have been believed by those reading. If those words didn't chill you to the bone and convince you my terminology is appropriate I would suggest reading them again. Here, I'll repeat them:

"God put men on Earth to speak for us."

This is a young woman, late teens or early twenties, who has completely surrendered herself to the notion that she's not equal to men. When did this insidious brainwashing take place? Was she raised this way, essentially programmed from birth? Or did she wander in at a later date, maybe brought along by a friend, and decide that free will and respect were things she no longer required? Does she intend to spend her entire life subservient, hoping and praying for a man to come along and control her every thought and movement?

There are some battles we can't fight for others. With a sigh, I shake my head and walk away.

* * *

(Day 45)

"That's disgusting! You Deathscorts are depraved!"

It's near the end of the shift and I think everyone on both sides is looking forward to getting out of here. A car driven by an older woman pulls up by the buffer zone, likely the patient's grandmother. The passenger hops out and, bracketed by my team, zips inside so quickly the protesters don't really have time to harass her. Perhaps frustrated, they target their vitriol on the driver, who listens for a few moments with a calm expression on her face.  

Then she cranks her stereo, blasting 'WAP' and drowning them out.

Crowe and Karina, two of my fellow escorts, immediately jump next to the driver's door and start dancing. The woman inside is laughing and bopping along as well, all of which appears to be both disgusting and enraging the protesters. Alas, much like the Pride flag flying on the flagpole across the street at the library, there's nothing they can do about it but seethe. 

The driving bass beat does not convince the moniker-less Mean Girl to throw off the shackles of her oppressive religion and join in. Not today, anyway.

There's always tomorrow. We can hope.

* * *

Going to break from recapping for a moment to make a plea. Almost four years ago the American political landscape changed in a monumental and catastrophic way. Our country has declined both internally and externally, becoming a shell of what it should be. In less than a month we can address this grave misstep and make it nation to be proud of once again.

Please vote to take power away from those who wish to control women and their bodies. I understand if Joe Biden is not your preferred candidate - I was big on Liz Warren myself - but now is not the time to sit out or make a 'protest vote' because you didn't get your unicorn. I do not think it's hyperbole to say that if those currently in power are granted four more years it will be the end of a great many things we hold dear. 


Vote blue.

Thanks for reading. Stay safe out there.

UPDATE: WE DID IT!!!! Thank you!