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.

FFS.

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.

"YOU ARE PARENTS OF A CHILD, HOW CAN YOU DO THIS?"

How indeed.


* * *


(Day 49)

"CHARLES 'THE DEADMAN' DARWIN WAS, AT BEST, A COMPLETE MORON!"

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.

"YOU LADIES THINK JUST BECAUSE YOU BEHAVE LIKE WHORES YOU CAN COME HERE AND ERASE YOUR SIN OF FORNICATION! YOU WILL LEARN THAT'S NOT TRUE WHEN YOU FACE THE LORD!"

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.


* * *


(Day 52)

"You are a MURDERER! You have BLOOD ON YOUR HANDS and you will NEVER BE A GOOD FATHER!"

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)

"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::


* * *


(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.

Nah.


* * *


(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!"

Whatever.


* * *


(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.

Plus, NO SWORD.






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. 

Please.

Vote blue.

Thanks for reading. Stay safe out there.


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



Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Been Away So Long I Hardly Knew the Place - Dispatches from Days 40-42 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. )

(This time the long delay between posts wasn't my fault. Blame the virus! Our leaders made the right decision to stay away for a while, much as it hurt to leave the sidewalk undefended. As always, thanks for reading and please feel encouraged to share - Kit)

(Day 40)
"While these deathscorts weren't around we saved a child from being murdered here. I know it's not right to say but in that way COVID-19 has been a blessing."

I am constantly asked if I make up any of the things the protesters say and I can assure you that I don't.

Not even this one. 150K+ dead but sure, it's a good thing.

It feels weird to be back out on the sidewalk, close to four months since we chose to stop due to the pandemic and our unwillingness to expose the escorts to possible exposure. That's a legit concern since maybe two out of the fifteen or so protesters here today have bothered to wear masks, which is why we've limited this trial balloon of a shift to team leaders only. We're not messing around either, as evidenced by the following (disclaimer - since I wouldn't want to be guilty of the 'fAke NeWs' the protesters groundlessly accuse me of I must point out that the picture is from my most recent shift [Day 42] but features the same PPE):
You might think that since they're not bothering to wear masks the protesters would do their best to social distance from the patients but no, it's business as usual for them. This forces us to shift up our tactics a bit - our original plan was to spread out and guide the patients in from afar, but it quickly becomes obvious that the protesters have no qualms about behaving like parasites and so we become, by necessity, a bit more pro-active. I guess being 'pro-life' doesn't preclude being a vector for a highly infectious virus.

A weird thing is that the protesters seem almost pleased that we're back out here, given the endless chirping of brainwashed mumbles emanating from the Mean Girls that are clearly intended to make us feel shame or something. When I'm reminded that Satan is my father it almost feels like a homecoming, if my home was a place filled with controlling misogynists spouting an endless torrent of lies.

"Let's talk about Adam and Eve in the Garden and what they did wrong."

If only PPE covered the ears as well.

* * *

(Day 42)
"Would you be whiter, much whiter than snow? There's power in the blood, power in the blood!"

I'm not sure, but I think they're trying to recruit vampires.

The above is being sung by an older guy with a thick Germanic accent, which is giving me a real Franz Liebkind vibe (it's from a movie called The Producers, kids. Go watch the 1967 version, thank me later). The screamers haven't started up yet on this grossly humid morning and our erstwhile songbird is belting out tunes with a dirge-like intonation. 

"ARE you ready, ARE you ready, ARE you ready for the judgement day?"

I'm struck, yet again, by how miserable the religion of this cult offshoot appears to be. Unless it's a joy focused on glorifying their god, it's taboo. Combined with the vision of Heaven they've presented me with, which is pretty much about continuing to do the same worship and praising that they do now but on a different plane of existence, it seems so . . . bleak and colorless. Do the Mean Girls even know what they're missing in life, or aware of what they'll be subjected to as future brood mares within this sect? Sure, they're allowed to harangue me on the side, but aren't they curious as to why they aren't allowed to take the microphone as well? It's depressing to witness.

"I will cling to the old rugged cross and exchange it some day for a crown."
::stops singing::
"Yes, and the reason we have this coronavirus is because of abortions!"

I've been polite and quiet during his concert, even respectful, but at this I burst into laughter. How can I not? Their disconnect with reality is too much to take sometimes, and while I felt no compulsion to interrupt his singing I'm not about to allow bullshit like that to go unchecked. Problem is, I can't stop laughing because it's just so absurd. 

He's not pleased. "You laugh now, but he who laughs last is the last one laughing."

It is *really* difficult to wipe away tears through a face shield.

* * *

(Day 41)
"Yes, I will spit on you! You deserve to be spit on!"

Love thy neighbor, indeed.

One of the many nice things about the buffer zone is that if I stand with my back against the building wall on a diagonal from the current screamer it puts about six feet or so between us. It helps to lessen the impact of their 80-90 db rants and, in the case of The Stepson, keeps me out of his spittle range. And ye gods, there's spittle.

The Stepson is probably either in his late teens or early twenties, a volatile combination of youthful arrogance, religiously-induced ignorance, and what must be overwhelming sexual frustration. He channels all of these things into his unhinged screaming, which usually equals or surpasses the lunacy offered up by Luis - no mean feat. He's big on repetition and sweeping arm gestures, which caused him to both hit and expectorate on Dee Dee the previous week. Both were unintentional, but as evidenced to his above response to my request that he try not to spit on me, he doesn't care. He had also tried to wave away hitting Dee Dee saying, "It doesn't matter that I touched you." Given the way women in their cult are treated it's hardly surprising that he has that dismissive attitude.

I'm not interested in either getting hit or spit on. "Can you take an extra step back? You're not even wearing a mask."

(I'd like to digress for a moment to mention that the Englewood Department of Health sent an employee out this morning with a box full of N95 masks to basically beg the protesters to wear them and that, upon spotting him, Luis promptly freaked out and ran across the street to confront him while waving a finger at the others to keep them from putting them on. Luis isn't only anti-mask, he's anti-hand sanitizer as well. Yeah, I don't know either.)

This earns me a look of contempt. "God holds my breath in his hands."

What does one say to that? Should mention that his god might not want him to spread disease to his other creatures? That he shouldn't play god himself? It would all fall on deaf ears, which reminds me to put in my earplugs as he starts shouting. At least I'm out of the splash zone.

* * *

(Day 42)
"Has it ever occurred to you that other people might consider you calling them 'murderers' offensive as well?"

The police are here for their second visit this morning. 

We didn't call them either time.

Today's shift has been, in the most scientifically accurate terms available, coo coo for cocoa puffs. Part of it could be because of the temperature - it's already in the mid-eighties and humid AF by the time we take our positions - but maybe it's just because the protesters are who they are. I mean, I don't even know where to start with trying to recap today. The cops, I guess?

Police #1 - Dee Dee and Marillion are trying to escort a patient through the screaming lunatics, who of course are neither respecting distancing nor, for the most part, wearing masks. At the chokepoint created by a streetlight pole and a planter both Alex and Marillion go for the same spot and bump into each other. Marillion keeps going while Alex stops and begins to scream bloody murder. Claims he's going to call the cops, which we dismiss because there's no way he could be serious.

Turns out he *is* serious and the police show up deal with his complaint of being hit by Marillion, who stands an even five feet tall and weighs maybe a hundred pounds, if that. The police are not invested in this and after a little while tell us all to behave before leaving. I burst into laughter as Alex stalks by me. Marillion is immediately renamed 'Bruiser' and long may she reign as the Terror of the Sidewalks.

Uber driver - A SUV pulls up by the front and discharges a patient. The driver is descended on by the Mean Girls, who launch into their usual you're-as-bad-as-the-patient-is schtick. The driver tells them that she doesn't believe in abortion but she's an Uber driver and needs to be able to put food on the table, so here she is. 

This proves an unsatisfactory response for the Mean Girls, who redouble their efforts. When the driver protests that she's a Muslim the claws REALLY come out as their misplaced sense of superiority takes over and they switch from shaming to converting.

When she drops off someone else later they're even more livid. Hell, fury, scorned, etc.

UFC Fighter: After earlier attempts to engage me in conversation prove fruitless Alex begins to ask me about my UFC career - what's my record, have I lost recently, did I tap out, etc. He's fairly insistent that I'm a fighter, which is both flattering and bewildering.

I have absolutely no idea what he's talking about - maybe he only read the title of my last post instead of the recap itself and drew the wrong conclusion? I mean, FFS, I'm 52 years old, which is a little beyond the optimal age to compete in bare-handed gladiatorial combat, but it's tempting to create a career for him on the spot. Alas, despite their instance that I am fake news (and never taking me up on my offer to show me exactly what I've allegedly lied about in these posts) I do not do so, merely continuing to ignore him.

Allow me to bare my soul here, Alex - I do not now nor have I ever fought in the UFC. My nose has been broken before, sure, but not in the octagon. Those folks are crazy.

Police #2: The protesters manage to tick off the wrong guy, an absolutely huge dude who is incensed by the time he gets his now-weeping SO inside the clinic. I try to calm him down a bit and he assures me he's fine, but when he comes back outside he starts screaming at the protesters. Loudly.

They do not care this and scatter (except for Scrubs, who is a good foot shorter than the guy, but he gets pretty much ignored). Big Guy keeps up the bellowing and strangely enough it turns out the protesters don't like to be on the receiving end of shaming, as opposed to being the ones dealing it out. For a good ten minutes they go back and forth, and while it wouldn't be fair to say Parker runs away from him he does move with a bit of alacrity to a spot up the street a good sixty feet away and stays oddly quiet. When Luis breaks off and heads across the street the Big Guy follows him, engendering panic among the others and invoking the second call to the police. This time three cruisers show up to find a scene devoid of any confrontation. Luis comes back and soon after so does the Big Guy. There's lots of talking, some yelling, but nothing much happens. The protesters are upset about the language he used and claiming that they were offended (Parker and his wife brought their toddler here for the morning, earning them early votes for Parents of the Year), and there's a considerable amount of pouting when the officer offers up the quote that started this section. Apropos of nothing, Alex tells the cops that the deathscorts want them to be defunded. It does not appear to have the effect he's hoping for.

I wander over to the Big Guy as things settle down. He says that he crossed the street because Luis told him he was going to preach by the Big Guy's car in that passive-aggressive way he has of baiting people, which didn't happen as Luis ducked into the bus stop shelter when he saw he was being followed. Does it sound like something Luis would say? Absolutely, but as I didn't hear it myself I can't comment on the veracity of the Big Guy's account.

I wouldn't bet against it being truth, though.

And finally: It's near the end of the shift and we're all wilting under the intense heat and humidity. A woman the protesters appear to know pulls up in a pickup truck and gives them a few boxes of ice pops, which they devour with relish. Not long after that a guy in a car stops in the middle of the road and calls to them.

"You're all warriors (or something like that, it was hard to hear). Let's do the Lord's Prayer."

And so they do. After he drives off the protesters are excited, happy that instead of the usual middle finger they get from passing cars they've had a moment. The car behind him creeps forward as a young woman leans out the window.

"I think you're all assholes and I hate you. Fuck you!"

Mean streets, indeed.

Stay safe out there.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

And in This Corner, Standing Six-Foot-Two-Inches and Weighing in at One-Hundred-Ninety-Four Pounds, From the Fighting City of . . . Dispatches from Days 36-39 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.)

(yeah there's no set schedule anymore, stuff sometimes happens and when it does I write about it. Be safe, be well, and be happy. Thanks for reading and feel free to share.)

(Day 39)
"'LITTLE GUY?' 'LITTLE GUY?' OH, YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT!"

Turns out Scrubs is a *wee bit* sensitive about his height.

In my defense, I'm in no way looking to get into a scrap (or two) this morning. Not that I would have time to even if I so desire. The sidewalk is pure bedlam, with over two dozen protesters doing their best to make things impassable while pretending that they aren't. Not sure what got added to their cornflakes this morning but from the get-go they're been aggressive, confrontational, and agitated. Not that those are new traits emerging, but the combination of vitriol and high-energy appears to be approaching fever pitch.

No doubt much of that is due to the buffer zone, which still sticks in their collective craw like a popcorn hull caught in their back teeth. Parker starts the morning off blatantly standing in the opening closest to the street, ignoring my protest. He moves over enough to allow passage when confronted by one of the clinic guards, but he's still in violation. We dutifully take pictures that will be forwarded to the city council, each one of their childish nose-thumbings serving to further bolster our case for the buffer zone to be equipped with protections that carry the legal equivalent of sharp teeth. It's doing my best to protect the sanctity of the area that leads me into having someone bellow into my face - uhm, chest.

I'm try to shoo Parker's stepson - a tall, lanky kid who drank all the kool-aid, made another pitcher, and drank that too - out of the zone. He's screaming at the door while walking through at a snail's pace, something he knows he's not allowed to do. His pace increases as I get behind him, clapping my hands and yelling at him to move it along. As we get to the edge Scrubs says something - I have no idea what - and drifts into the zone himself, getting in the way. I allow myself a half an eye roll and say, "Out! Out! You too, little guy!"

As indicated above, this off-the-cuff remark punches Scrubs' buttons and sets him off. Now he's stepped in front of me, chest all puffed up and spittle flying from his mouth, as he starts screaming about a variety of things - I don't catch most of it, but I'm pretty sure I'm threatened both physically and with eternal damnation. My response is a smile, which serves to make him ever more apoplectic. He's full on-ranting at me now, which is fine as two more sets of patients with companions slip by while the protesters focus on me. Scrubs is practically speaking in tongues by the time some of the others pull him away. Runner Lite, his wife, is staring daggers in my direction. At least the stepson is out of the buffer zone for now.

Settling back into my post, I thank my amazing team members for staying on point while things almost dissolved into a live game of Street Fighter. I'm glad it didn't descend into violence - nobody needs that - and the surge of adrenaline I hadn't realized had kicked in begins so subside. The possibility of a sidewalk brawl appears to have passed. Scrubs won't find his desired fisticuffs on this sidewalk.

Not today, anyway.

* * *

(Day 39)
"YOU CAN'T HIT AN OLD MAN! YOU HIT ME! I'M AN OLD MAN AND YOU HIT ME!"

Oy, here we go again. 

To the immediate south of the clinic's entrance is a fairly high-end restaurant. Over the past few years they've been expanding their presence on the sidewalk: tables; plants; valet parking kiosks, propane heating towers; and so on. All their stuff reduces the amount of open space available, which doesn't help us much. The fact they open at 11:30am is a boon, though, as the owner has zero patience for anyone bothering his customers and is no doubt partially the reason the protesters break camp before then. Still, navigating obstacles isn't much fun, especially when the sidewalk is jammed with shrieking cultists.

Coming from that direction there's a choke point right at the edge of our buffer zone, a narrow passage delineated by a large planter and one of the gas towers. While the impediments can be useful for scraping off unwanted tag-alongs like barnacles from a ship they make for very close quarters indeed. Before the return of the buffer zone it was even worse, as Parker would do his best to claim a spot on the side of the planter closest to the front doors. Given the piss and vinegar the protesters seem fueled with this morning the narrow passage has become a hotly contested sort of no-man's-land. Staying there would impede passage, something they know they aren't permitted to do, but they're not above pausing in the space while we're ushering patients through or making sure they can squeeze into a flanking position. Wary of the ever-present threat of litigation via The Runner, we do our best to avoid contact. Given how we're outnumbered and crammed into tight quarters, that's not always feasible. Arms bump into arms, hands against coats, elbows against signs. It happens. 

As evidenced by my earlier confrontation with Scrubs, hackles are already up. Each time we bring someone through the bottleneck it feels like the space is getting smaller, more constricted. As two of my team start bringing a woman and her companion our way the protesters surge in that direction like hyenas sensing an unguarded carcass. I move as well, back toward the street with left arm extended, trying to set a human barrier for those who are incoming. I'm leaning forward and a little off-balance when I'm solidly struck just inside my left shoulder blade by what I assume to be one of the protesters' signs. 

There's no thought, just reaction. I straighten up and throw my shoulder back. My intent is to get the sign off but there's much heavier contact than expected. The caravan of escorts and patients starts to stream by and - and suddenly I'm getting screamed at.

Again.

I turn around to discover Angry Grandpa in my face, livid and yelling at the top of his lungs. I've detailed his grossness before, and it's safe to say he hasn't become any more palatable as time has marched on. Evidently he was the person who'd run into me from behind and whom got knocked back when I'd reacted. Words are pouring out of him, the specifics of which are lost on me, but the gist of it is that he's quite displeased. Other protesters have crowded in behind him and joined in the cacophony, some insisting that I'd hit him on purpose.

Given the circumstances I make what could - well, should - be deemed a poor decision and state that I didn't deliberately hit him because if I had he'd be flat on his back several feet away. My intention is to clarify that any contact between us was accidental but yeah, I didn't phrase it well. There's another twenty or thirty seconds of shouting from the lot, during which I offer to get the security footage from the clinic and let us all see exactly what occurred. There are no takers for that offer - just more vitriol - and, not seeing the point in standing there any longer, I make a dismissive hand gesture and walk away.

There's more sporadic shouting but for the most part it seems over as I retake my position of standing between Parker's stepson, who is on the loudspeaker, and the clinic. He doesn't like this at all and tells me numerous times during the interminable hour-plus he spends screaming that it's illegal for me to do so (it is not). I don't think Angry Grandpa is going to try anything but from time to time I mark his location, so I'm not startled when he approaches me after the stepson takes mercy on us and shuts the hell up. I'm not sure what's going to happen but . . . an apology? That catches me off guard. .

He's contrite, ashamed for whatever it was he said to me, and now I find myself thrust into a strange position. Do I stay silent? Do I tell him to piss off? Do we hug it out? I don't like him and likely never will, but being out here on the sidewalk isn't about me or my preferences. The patients, here for what will likely be one of the most difficult, stressful, and upsetting days of their lives, need to encounter less drama, not more. Anything with even the slightest possibility of engendering a small modicum of peace out here is more important than how ruffled my feathers might be (which by this time is 'not at all,' as I can't remember much, if any, of what he said).

I accept his offered olive branch and we exchange 'shouldn't have happened, just an accident' before shaking hands. For a moment I'm almost tempted to raise my opinion of him, even just a little.

One of the protesters, a young woman who earlier was kind enough to inform me that I was going to hell unless I changed my ways, comes over to check on Angry Grandpa. His eyes light up as she asks if he's okay.

"I'm fine, honeybunny! How are you?"

Eww. Nope.

* * *

(Day 39)
"See, she's crying because she doesn't want to go in there!"

There's lacking in self-awareness, sure. But this is some next-level shit.

As a CIS white guy I will never have to know what it's like to have to run a gauntlet of people screaming at me because they think they should be the ones making decisions about what I do with my body. I'll never have to endure being shamed from all sides, having propaganda thrust in my face, being told distortions and straight-out lies by those who seek to add me to their flock. I won't suffer trying to head home, perhaps a bit woozy from the procedure, and being mocked and reviled, cajoled into regret at a vulnerable moment. To witness it shift after shift is maddening, infuriating, revolting - but it's nothing compared to what it must be like to be the focus of their toxicity.

As escorts we only spend brief moments with the patients, tossed together for a journey of a few dozen steps. It's a somewhat impersonal relationship by necessity, as expediency is often more important than familiarity. Still, there are times when a personal connection behooves the patient, a way to help us calm and prepare them for the seething mob of repulsiveness they're going to have to pass through. Every person is different, and so is what they require. Some wave us off and stride through the protesters as if they weren't even there. Others rely on earbuds, drawn-up hoods, or, most often, us.

Maya, today filling the role of an escort but also one of our best and most experienced team leaders, emerges from the clinic. Moments before she'd gone in with a young woman leaning against her as the rest of our crew, myself included, got them there with a shifting, moving caravan besieged on all sides. Angry Grandpa states the above and we marvel at the utter denial of reality it must require to believe that. Maya shakes her head and I notice a stain on her vest, a dark spot high on one side of the pink material. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that it's from where the patient's face had been pressed against her on the trip in, the moisture from her tears.

It's possible, via my inadequacies as a writer, that sometimes I don't cover every aspect of what takes place on the sidewalk. By dint of the narrative the focus almost always remains on the protesters, the patients and companions, or both. Their interactions, existing on several levels, provide the conflicts that make for a compelling story. They're ones I wish didn't exist to be told, but that doesn't make them any less real. Along that same vein, escorts are real people with real emotions as well.

(::Cue sad music:: 'Tonight, on a Very Special Episode of Dispatches . . .')

Weak attempt at humor aside, it's impossible to look at a tear stain left behind on an escort's vest and not be affected. It doesn't help that the cause for them are all around us, still braying, still arrogantly refusing to accept that what they want us to believe is altruism on their part is instead bullying of the worst kind. At most I'll be at two shifts a month, and given our rotating pool of escorts it's difficult to spend enough time with any of them to feel comfortable claiming that I know them well. Will this trigger someone's PTSD? Will someone have a breakdown in front of the jackals that surround us? Do I even have time to attempt some sort of emotional triage before the next patient arrives?

It's a complicated dance but when I catch Maya's eye she understands what I'm asking without needing to speak and, with a shake of her head, waves me off. If it's gotten to her she's far too savvy to let her guard down in the midst of such antagonists and besides, another patient is already on her way in our direction. The rest of us join the duo bringing them in.

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.

* * *

(Day 39.1)

Above I said that Scrubs seemed to be looking for a fight. Well, the week after my shift, he got one. 

According to others (I wasn't there) Scrubs was saying some pretty awful stuff to a woman after she'd exited the clinic. Her husband took exception and, to put it in simple terms, laid him out.

That's a bad thing.

I'm not going to pretend I care about the day-to-day well-being of the protesters. I abhor the things they do and say. They represent so many of the aspects that are wrong with organized religion. They're sad, pathetic people who think they'll find happiness by controlling others and bending them to their beliefs. They repulse me on numerous levels.

That being said, violence should never be the answer.

I am, if anything, surprised it took this long for this to happen. I had a hand in preventing The Runner from getting clobbered a while back and while she's made me consider regretting it numerous times I still know it was the right thing to do. The sidewalk is already chaotic enough without mini-brawls, and having folks throwing hands at each other is not going to make getting patients in and out any easier. 

That's it. I don't have any snarky asides or snide comments to tack on. While I can understand why the husband became irate enough to attack, I hope it proves to be an isolated episode.

Stay safe out there.