(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 21/22/23. Days 24-31. Day 32. Day 33. Days 34-35. Days 36-39. Days 40-42. Days 43-45.)
"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.
* * *
"PSYCHOPATHS WORK HEEEEEEERE! THEY ARE MURDERERS AND THEY ARE EEEEEEEEEEEVIL! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEVIL!"
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.
"YOUR MIND IS BROOOOOOKEN BUT JESUS CAN HELP YOUUUUUUUUU! JESUS CAN GIVE YOU A NEW MIIIIIIIIND YES HE CAAAAAAAAAN!"
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.
"GET OUT OF THERE! GET OOOOOOOOOOUT OF THEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEERE!"
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.
"YOU ARE GOING TO SPLIT HELL WIDE OPEN! DO NOT SPLIT YOUR LEGS WIDE OPEN!"
I . . . ::shrug::
* * *
"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.
* * *
"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!"
* * *
"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.
* * *
"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.
Plus, NO SWORD.