Monday, October 12, 2020

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

(Escort names have been changed to protect their anonymity. Opinions below are mine and do not necessarily reflect those of the leaders who run our team. In other words, if you have an issue with something I've written, talk to me. Absolutely feel free to share. Links to previous entries in this series: Start here with Day 1. Day 2. Day 3. Day 4. Day 5. Day 6. Day 7. Day 8. Days 9/10/11. Day 12. Day 13.  Day 14. Days 15/16. Day 17. Days 18/19/20. Days 21/22/23Days 24-31. Day 32. Day 33Days 34-35. Days 36-39. Days 40-42. )

(Day 45)

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

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

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

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

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

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

I *totally* get it.

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

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

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

Maybe Richard Maddow had a hand in it.


* * *

(Day 45)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, most of the time.

* * *

(Day 44)

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

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

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

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

* * *

(Day 45)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

(Day 45)

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

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

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

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

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

There's always tomorrow. We can hope.

* * *

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

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


Vote blue.

Thanks for reading. Stay safe out there.

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

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)

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)

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.


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.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

When the Bar Goes So Low It's Almost Underground - Dispatches from Days 34-35 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 33)

(YES I know I previously said I'd get recaps out more quickly by doing them after each session regardless of length and YES that was my intention and YES I know that this one has two days crammed into it and YES that wasn't my intention but life can be busy sometimes and YES I know I'm blessed with readers who will forgive me for this transgression and the others that will likely follow. Be safe, be well, be happy. Thanks for reading and spreading the word - Kit)

(Day 34)
"You know, these Deathscorts, these people want to ban AR-15s yet they're out here protecting abortions, which are the same things! Both are used for murder!"

Yeah, it's going to be that kind of morning.

The sidewalks are PACKED this morning with protesters, including the Northeastern Regional Overseer who is batting leadoff and providing the hot, piping false equivalency that's evidently an important part of a well-balanced breakfast. One of the other escorts informs me the reason we have NRO and some of the other guest screamers is because at this time of year they're working their way north to be able - and I swear, I'm not making this up - to protest the Haunted Happenings in Salem on Halloween. I guess it shows diversity to take a weekend off from shaming women to focus on trying to cram your religion down a different set of throats. Are they allowed to have candy apples while they're there, or are those also tinged with iniquity and sin?

Then again, maybe I'm misjudging them. Perhaps they'll spread love, tolerance, and understanding all over Massachusetts.

"Gay couples can't have kids! And there's no such thing as a 'gay' child!"

Well, maybe not.

The indifference with which NRO and the others say such callous and hurtful things tends to undercut their proclamations of concern for everyone's well-being. While they claim to be devoid of hatred there's a fair amount of bile and barely-muted anger thrown our way, although with the buffer zone reducing interaction that has lessened a tiny bit. A fire can't thrive without both fuel and oxygen, but that doesn't stop them from sputtering along, trying to get us to engage. Homophobic comments like the ones above are intended to set us off, but at the same time they're showing who they are. We're outside a women's health clinic and they are ostensibly here with their claimed objective of 'saving lives,' so why are they instead ranting about sexual orientation? Why are those preaching from a book that calls for understanding and love for all advocating intolerance and non-inclusivity?

Perhaps there's a method behind the madness that we, as outsiders, aren't privy to and thus can't fathom. A master plan that works on several levels, the oratory version of four-dimensional chess. An intricate and cunning blueprint crafted to influence minds and sway hearts with existential questions designed to force us into deep contemplation.

"You know what? Men can't have abortions!"

Or maybe it's just a bunch of dudes who get off on trying to shame women.

* * *

(Day 34)
"I see you laughing, and I know what it means. It's not what you think, no, it is not what you think."

Ye gods, I think Parking Meter Guy is back.

Given the sheer number of protesters infesting the sidewalk today I figure we'll have rapid turnover at the mike, but little do I know that the screamer taking over at 9:30 has been booked for an extended slot. Tall and thin with a shaved head, he seems vaguely familiar as he launches into his spiel with a voice reminiscent of the one informing you that the white zones outside the terminal are for picking up and dropping off only. I think he's this guy, whom I haven't seen for about two years and have missed exactly zero percent. It doesn't take long for his patter to become judgmental, somewhat nasty and, during lulls with no patient intake, laser-focused on the escorts.

"Your laughter is nervous because you hear my words and they cause turmoil inside you. You're laughing to keep from admitting that I'm right."

Realizing his freshman-year-Intro-to-Psych stuff isn't going to goad either Greta or myself into violating the non-confrontational stance required while we're within the buffer zone, the Reverend (as I later learn he has been dubbed) aims his toxic words on the clinic and those inside as he prowls along the outer edge. After a bit I move to stand in front of him, with my back turned, to try to partially muffle his sonic river of hatred and shame. When he moves a few steps to the right I mirror him, and so begins a dance that stretches over the next ten minutes or so. Our waltz ends when this gentleman, who when not predicting hellfire and damnation has been letting us know he's loves us and trying to save us, holds his powerful speaker up by my ears.

This is when I remember my industrial-strength earplugs, sitting next to my alarm clock back home. Sure would be nice to have them right about now.

It's loud, but my hearing is already lousy and so we continue this stupid game of Aural Chicken Dancing. It ends a few minutes later when our northerly escorts bring in a patient. While we're getting them inside, the Runner-Lite continues to yell at them as she cuts through the buffer zone. This is patently illegal and, given that we have the laws about the zone posted for all to read and have made sure that they understand them, likely intentional. I make shooing motions with my hands as I loudly and firmly remind her that she can't be doing what she's doing.

Her outrage at being scolded is palpable. For the next hour she bounces from protester to protester, angrily gesturing in my direction as her mouth moves a mile a minute. I don't care what she's saying and anything that distracts her from harassing patients is a bonus, but it proves to be the opening act for the rest of the circus. The Reverend, still droning on, follows her example by walking across the upper tip of the zone while still orating. I yell, he ignores me. We record him from several different angles, realizing that this was planned act of defiance against the defenses used to protect others from their abuse.

How very noble.

He continues to cross back and forth, still spewing malice coated with the thinnest veneer of feigned compassion. After all, what are we escorts going to do? Yell back? Wave our fists in frustration? Stamp our feet?

In the distance, a siren begins to wail.

* * *

(Day 34)
"What I know is that when I walked up here you and the others were blocking the sidewalk! You know you're not allowed to do that, so make room and don't do it again!"

What? The police showed up? Imagine that! What *ever* could have brought them here?

::blinks innocently::

The officer that's showed up already looks irritated beyond words, although he's doing a good job of being polite and courteous. I can't blame him, as this has to be an unwanted and wearisome visit, but the effect his presence creates is what the situation requires. The Mean Girls are trying to complain to him about something but he's still focused on how they were restricting ingress. When he's done with them our security guard talks to him for a bit as the protesters huddle in clumps, casting furtive glances his way. They're not afraid - this is not the first time the cops have been here, not by a long shot - but it's definitely changing the tenor. I, for my part, am more than willing to keep to myself unless he approaches me. While I might be this week's team leader it's not like I'm wearing a badge or epaulettes as identification, and as I had the guard call it in I'm more than content to let the two of them chat.

It always feels strange and a bit unsettling to have the police show up. This is the first time they're here at my behest, as I've only had a few shifts as team leader with the buffer zone so far. I hate to bother them - they almost certainly have better things to be doing - but aside from setting up trip wires there's not many other options available for me.

As the officer moves on to talk with what can be considered the 'brain trust' of the protesters, the Reverend launches back into his patter. He crosses through the zone again, at which point I become aware (somewhat late to the party, to be honest) that he would LOVE to be arrested for this. Exposure, notoriety, 'street cred' among those in their movement, another legal case to claim 1A rights violations - all features in their book as opposed to bugs. Sure, the Go-Pro cameras most of them sport allow them to post their toxic harangues online, but video of one of them being led away in handcuffs would make for a red-letter day. Past legal scuffles have demonstrated that the shadowy entities that fund this so-called crusade would be there to provide counsel as well. The lawyer who represented Luis also litigated for the couple demanding the removal of New Jersey's ban on conversion therapy.

Yes, the protesters love all of us, as long as we're the *us* they want us to be.

Since the patrolman seems focused on easing tension the Reverend's antics go unnoticed for the moment, denying him his martyrdom. We keep filming, the footage saved for the civic and legal battles that loom in the future. His insistence that everywhere is 'God's ground' indicates that he feels he can break any law he wants as long as it's in the Lord's name which, in a perfect world, would land him on an FBI watch list. Then again, in a perfect world we wouldn't need to be out here every Saturday morning.

Out of the corner of my eye I see Runner-Lite hopping around while she speaks to the officer, but it's not until she angrily points in my direction that I realize she's imitating what I was doing in front of the Reverend. I don't possess a law degree but I feel confident that I'm in the clear here, which is confirmed by the sour twist of her lips as the cop says something to her before walking away. The glare she sends my way causes me to laugh, which triggers the Reverend to accuse me of self-doubt once again. It's a vicious cycle, indeed.

After a few more brief conversations the officer heads back to his car, gaining refuge from the lot of us. The Reverend stomps through one more time but his heart doesn't seem in it, and soon after he shuts off his mike. Maybe he can find the arrest he wants up in Salem.

Do they still use stocks?

* * *

(Day 35)
"Sorry for your loss."

Sometime you have to wonder how a person can become so incredibly broken.

If you've been reading these entries from the beginning you're aware of how vile the protesters are capable of being. This morning, for example, the Northeastern Regional Overseer shouted "WELCOME TO AUSCHWITZ!" at a pair of nurses on their way into the clinic. Escorts endure a never-ending litany of verbal abuse from the so-called Christians, much of it straight-up projecting: we're racists (uhm, okay); we're misogynists (wut); we're worse than a murderer who only killed one person (yes, this was said in all seriousness, which is part of the reason my wife and I will never escort at the same time for fear of our children being made orphans); we're liars (says the same person who, after sprinkling holy water on the sidewalk and telling the demons to begone, states that a nearby Planned Parenthood is shutting down - an unfounded lie); we're effeminate (that's me, it would appear); we don't know our place (that would be every woman who dares to be out here instead of being home waiting on a husband hand and foot); we're entitled (as the Runner rolls up in her brand new Mercedes); and many others as well. Refusing to accept their would-be labels is a necessary survival skill. Being the loudest does not make them correct.

"Sorry for your loss."

How long it takes for an escort to become dismissive of the taunts and insults sent our way varies, but I can't imagine someone lasting very long if they couldn't. For people who say they're trying to spread the love of Jesus Christ they seem eager to try to reduce young, frightened women into tears, to shame and mock those doing nothing more than claiming control over what to do with their own body. A screamer, new to me - young, dressed in duck hunting camo, and of course male - starts off his time on the amp by calling out a woman's name and then saying her brother is out here and doesn't want her to kill his niece or nephew. Is this real or just part of an act? Given that he doesn't return to it again in any way leads me to believe the latter is the case, but who knows? Is there anything these people won't say in their attempt to tell women what they can and cannot do?

"Sorry for your loss."

I get the reasoning as to why they attack so vociferously as patients are going in. I don't approve, but at least it makes sense. They are trying to dissuade, to take control, to make inroads into luring them into their church under the auspices of providing assistance. As of late they've been pushing the narrative of 'We'll have a gender-reveal party for your baby!', which sounds a bit odd coming from old men who seconds earlier were telling the whopper of a lie that there's a detectable heartbeat at *eighteen days.* The Runner referring to patients and companions as 'Mom' and 'Dad' respectively is repugnant beyond words but at least I can grasp the (loathsome) logic behind it.

"Sorry for your loss."

That doesn't explain the comments fired at those leaving the clinic. What's the point? Beyond arguments based in ignorance that certain procedures 'can be reversed,' there's no tangible reason for the protesters to interact with patients once they emerge. All they can do at that moment is try to inflict guilt, remorse, and pain. What sort of petty, emotionally stunted people would traffic in such behavior?

"Sorry for your loss."

Runner-Lite, evidently, as she was the person who yelled this at a patient as she was leaving. I keep thinking that as a whole the protesters have hit rock-bottom, but they continue to prove me wrong. This isn't yet another attempt to lure vulnerable women into their religious sect; it's not The Runner offering the facade of kindness after being utterly repulsive to them when they arrived.

"Sorry for your loss."

It's nothing more than a bully picking on someone when they're perceived to be in a moment of weakness. It's a comment crafted to cause guilt, designed to inflict pain, intended to invoke remorse. It cannot reverse the procedure, make someone pregnant again, or make it as though the morning had never happened.

"Sorry for your loss."

It comes from someone who believes that she is better than others because of her belief in mythological beings, ones who purportedly advocate for love and understanding. Her way of expressing this faith is by showering scorn and hatred at those who are seen as sinners through the extremely narrow vision of her worldview. Smug and arrogant while wrapped within her mantle of intolerance, she spews bile like this at people she's never met. She wants to control their choices and, being denied that, resorts to lashing out in a toxic manner.

"Sorry for your loss."

Minutes after saying that she's chatting with Bad Dye Job, the two of them laughing and having an animated conversation that features a great deal of hands being waved about. It's clear she's not going to dwell on what she said, that she saw nothing wrong with it, and will likely do it again in the near future. Perhaps her deity is real and, when she passes, will pat her on the back for her zeal and righteousness. Or, maybe, at some point she'll have a moment of self-reflection and realize that what she said was horrible and that she is horrible too.

"Sorry for your loss."

The odds are pretty stacked against that, I fear.

Stay safe.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Hey La, Hey La, My Buffer's Back! Dispatches from Day 33 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. )

"So, why do you support a pedophile?"

Sometimes not being allowed to respond to protesters is a feature, not a bug.

Our buffer zone is back (for now) and I hadn't realized how much I missed it. Standing inside the yellow-lined semi-circles which bracket the doors once again was made possible by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit by reversing the previous ruling. This is by no means over - it's likely that The Runner and her rabidly anti-choice lawyer will continue to fight tooth and nail to the bitter end - but for now the half-circle of peace and sanity is back.

The return of the buffer means that escorts within it have to keep their political and religious feelings to themselves - in other words, Kit needs to shut up. We're wearing pink vests instead of our rainbow ones and my Pride flag stays in the center console of my truck. I'll miss the both the fashion and the versatility of the cape, but since being here isn't about me it's a pretty great trade-off.

"Hey, you know, I believe in climate change now! I do. Don't you want to know why?"

Have I mentioned how much we love having the buffer zone back?

This is not to say it's transformed the area outside the clinic into a hassle-free zone - the protesters have a large turnout today and the sidewalk beyond the lines of yellow paint (and one hastily scribbled chalk line) is crowded. While they're not allowed to preach, demean, harass, or shame within the buffer they are allowed to pass through. Parker makes a production out of it, slowing to a glacial pace and once pausing to ::shudder:: shake his rear in what I assume to be what he considers an act of defiance. I (semi)politely ask Hinton to move his sign when he sets it down just inside the the line while taking his turn as a screamer, and multiple times I'm forced I to shoo a woman in a long skirt who, horror of horrors, appears to be fashioning herself as a protege of The Runner. Ye gods, nobody wants that.

Speaking of, the fleet non-respecter of both personal space and the phrase 'please leave me alone' isn't putting so much as a single manicured toenail within the buffer. No doubt operating under strict orders from her lawyer, she avoids it as if she's playing The Floor is Lava game, screeching to a halt at the zone's edge. She won't pass through it at all, choosing to get around it by looping out through the handicapped parking space in the street instead. When she's not busy trying to make people take plastic fetus keychains she's jabbering into her phone, glaring at the buffer zone with what one would assume to be burning hatred.

"Hey! Fake News! Are you on Epstein's list?"

I turn away, shaking my head. Ridiculous questions can die lonely deaths outside the yellow lines.

* * *

"'Mommy! Please don't take me to this murder mill on Death Row! Please, Mommy!' That's what a baby in the womb would be saying if he or she could speak."

Yeah, Parker is getting extra weird this morning. 

It doesn't take very many shifts on the sidewalk for one to realize the protesters will say anything and everything that occurs to them. Some are planned approaches that have been honed and polished, either in practice sessions or through repeated usage out here: The Runner referring to patients as 'Mom;' Parker giving out ridiculously inaccurate fetal development timelines; Alex and his semantic games; and so on. You do your best to tune them out and not let them get to you.

"Mommy! Give me life, Mommy, don't take me in there past these deathscorts to be ripped to pieces! I'll be good!"

Part of me wonders, as I stand in the buffer zone listening to a grown man who bears more than a passing resemblance to Sgt. Schultz from Hogan's Heroes pretend to be a 'womb-baby,' if I should be horrified by this behavior. It's difficult to get beyond the utter absurdity of hearing rhetorical commentary from an imaginary ball of cells having a pretend conversation with its host, but at the same time it's quite disturbing to think that someone thought about this approach, considered it a good idea, and took the time to suss out some sort of script. 'Pleading Zygote' does not feel like off-the-cuff improv.

Parker has much more to say in this role but most is lost to the wind as we have a rush of incoming patients. You'll just have to imagine the rest yourself.

Or don't.

You'll be happier if you don't.

* * *

"I want to talk to the young woman who went inside this factory of death before!"

Angry Grandpa's obsession with youthful women may not be the creepiest thing about him, but - 

No, wait, it is. There's other stuff as well, to be sure, but his focus on that particular age bracket engenders its own level of ickiness. He's becoming more of a fixture lately, an unwelcome addition to the unwanted menagerie. Given his glasses and pornstache he's been tagged with 'Groucho,' but I find it difficult to besmirch a great comedian's name like that. I've mentioned Angry Grandpa in passing before, noting his predilection to pepper most of his interactions with a healthy dose of 'sweetie' and 'honey.' It's easy to discern that he finds himself quite witty, and as some sort of karmic retribution for something I did wrong during some existence in my past we're being treated to him on the mike today. Oh, joy.

This is not to say we haven't already gotten wayyy too much info from him this morning. Our Lady of the Theater has spent a good ninety minutes engaging the protesters and while most of the interactions are barbed Angry Grandpa seems quite happy to brag about his life before he 'found God and became humble.'

"In the 70's I smoked pot! In the 80's I did coke! And women, well, I did really well with the ladies, let me tell you!"

Gah. Evidently he was quite the rapscallion who lived a hedonistic existence until ::GASP:: he realized his wicked ways and turned to God for redemption. How very convenient for him that his redemption came *after* he'd spent decades doing everything he wanted, free of judgment. No doubt the timing had nothing to do with advancing age and fear of divine retribution drawing nigh.

His turn on the speaker is unremarkable except for the disturbing focus on young women, be they patient, companion, or escort. He keeps beseeching one who went inside earlier to come out and talk with him, reinforcing the fact that they have never believed us when we tell them that they are an unintelligible drone at best in the waiting room. What do we know anyway, we're all just godless heathen deathscorts.

Having tuned him out, it takes me a moment or two to realize when he's finished. Handing the speaker off to someone else, he takes a moment to look around before proclaiming to nobody in particular, "I was great!"

Guess he's still working on the 'humble' thing.

* * *

"I'm not here to judge you. We're not here to judge you. None of us are going to judge you."

Do you get a discount if you buy your cognitive dissonance in bulk?

I'm doing slow twirls within the buffer zone, arms extended as I savor the empty space, not paying much attention to the current screamer. It's late in the morning and a quick consult with the guards has let me know that almost all of the scheduled patients have already arrived. The protesters have more or less settled into ragged clumps of conversation, occasionally remembering to brandish their signs with a notable lack of vigor. The Runner is still prowling about with her protege, while Q-Tip stands on the far corner extolling the virtues of Jesus to passing cars. A tall, skinny kid hovers along the the yellow line, mumbling something at me during pauses in the current oratory that I can't quite make out. I'm okay with that.

No dramatic ending awaits on this day, no great story to tell. It's just another shift on another Saturday, another display of bravery and kindness from my fellow escorts in the face of intolerance and hatred.

Speaking of . . .

As far as the screamers go, this part of the morning is more or less a dumping zone for the less-polished to be given time on the amp. The guy - of course it's a guy - on there now is so unremarkable he hasn't even earned a nickname yet, a short dude given to scowls and stares. His delivery included lots of pauses that are meant to be poignant, I suppose, but instead keep making us wonder if he's done or not. Right now he's focused on Aimee, who has worked the door the entire morning with nary a complaint. Looking in his direction has given him what he supposes is an opening.

"Again, I'm not going to judge you." Pause. "You're a sinner, you lead a wicked life, and the choices you make mean you're going to hell."

No comment.

May all your days contain some sort of buffer zone.