Wednesday, July 19, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

And so a difficult decision is made for us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


* * *

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

Everyone's a critic.

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

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

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

* * *

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

Luis is on a roll today.

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

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

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

Yeah, I don't know either.

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

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

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

"Are you married?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *


"Once that I've seen."

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

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

"Why on earth . . ."

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

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

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

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

* * * 

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Unfamiliar Territory - Old Man Plays Hockey

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

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

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

I digress.

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

Well, so-so on the last one.

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

Us? Textbook?

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

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