Monday, December 18, 2017

In My Judgment, You're Being Way Too Judgmental - Dispatches from My Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Days as a Clinic Escort

(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. )

(Note: This entry spans three separate escorting shifts and may jump around timewise. A couple of shifts were quiet and rather than try to stretch each one out, I put them all here.)

(Day 10, Day 11)
"I'm not going to move. This isn't your sidewalk. I can stand wherever I want."

For once, Parker is correct. Our buffer zone is no more.

We have The Runner to thank for that as a judge ruled in her favor. We assume the town attorney either didn't show up or didn't care, as the judge's comments seem to indicate that she had no idea how small an area the zones actually occupied or how The Runner's 'protected 1st Amendment rights' are more often than not targeted harassment. It was front page news in the local papers and attracted attention from some in town who had been unaware of the situation, but for now there's naught we can do but accept the ruling and adjust. The FACE Act still makes it illegal for the protesters to block access to the door but Parker is more than happy to plant his girth by one side of the entrance, accompanied by his oversized sign of a greatly magnified embryo.

To counter we've added a couple of extra escorts each shift and had one or two of us join the team leader by the entrance. I'm there with Lexi, Queen of the Streets, on this dank, chilly December morning. Sunlight makes a brief appearance before being swallowed up by the clouds and vanishing. Would that we could get the same results for Parker.

"You can't hit me. Don't hit me! You can't make me move and if you hit me I'll call the police. I have rights."

Parker is saying this to Lexi, who is well short of half his weight and guilty of nothing more than standing her ground. This will be a recurring theme for the morning as Parker keeps bumping into Lexi with his sign and blaming it on her. Somehow that doesn't happen when she and I change spots. Strange, that.

Working the door means standing in front of the screamers all morning, but for the most part that's not a problem. Parker does an hour's worth yapping armed with about twenty minutes of material and ends up repeating his shtick, lapsing into personal attacks on escorts when he runs out of steam.  For the most part the removal of the buffer zone isn't too awful.

Well, except for The Runner, of course. She's now extremely aggressive, perhaps emboldened by her legal victory. If escorts are side by side she'll thrust her arm between them or over them, hand checking them as well. As I watch she darts in front of a couple leaving the clinic and stops dead in front of the patient, forcing the woman to sidestep as The Runner offers her a brochure. The woman dismisses her with a wave but The Runner continues to pursue and harass, muttering threats of further lawsuits at the escorts who skillfully intervene, all the way to a car parked a good two hundred feet away.

But the four square feet on either side of the clinic door were impeding on her 1st Amendment rights? Okay.

* * *

(Day 10, Day 11)
"Who's a good boy? Are you a good boy? Uhm, he's a boy, right? He is? AND HE'S SUCH A GOOD ONE!"

We love it when people bring their dogs by.

It is, sadly, a bit of a rarity. It shouldn't be, as we're on a main street just a couple of blocks from the center of town, but I wouldn't be surprised to learn that people avoid the area on Saturday mornings. Insanely loud speakers mixed with gruesome placards and folks trying to force their religious beliefs on you is not much of an enticement. Still, every once in a while we get lucky and right now my partner is squatting down and getting her face painted with kisses from our new friend. 

"Oh sure, you have enough love to give to a dog but not enough to stop the wholesale murder going on inside! How terrible a person you must be!"

We have a new screamer, and he's a real peach. I have no idea who he is but his spiel is sub-par, regurgitating tired tropes like the attempted correlation of what Hitler did to the Jews to abortion and also how we're playing God by the ongoing slaughter of any unborn with Down's Syndrome. On this sunny Saturday morning after Thanksgiving he's the only screamer who's showed up, and thus is all they've got to supply noise pollution. 

Oh, and he brings his family.

There's a wife and two little girls, one maybe two or so, the other around five. Mom likes to leave her stroller in inconvenient spots to hinder passage but the effectiveness is blunted by the fact that the kids are clearly bored and restless after maybe thirty minutes of listening to Daddy drone on at deafening levels. This means Mom is constantly in motion with them, walking them past the horrific posters their cohorts are brandishing. As the morning drags along there are numerous mini-meltdowns, which is hardly surprising. I'd be hard-pressed to imagine a less fun way for small children to spend their Saturday mornings. 

They're clearly interested in the dog but the owner turns around and goes back the way that he came, unwilling to subject his pal to the loudspeaker. He's not the only person I've seen make this choice, and in fact during my next shift I have insist to Lexi that I've got the door covered so she'll walk down to the corner to meet the pup being adored by our south-based escorts. Parker, apropos of nothing, takes the opportunity to remind me that I'm a 'keyboard warrior.'

It's okay. I can hear the delighted peals of Lexi's laughter from where I'm standing.

* * *

(Day 11)
"That's right, you can't bully me anymore! You lost! You and all your bullies lost!"

So. Parker is the nominal leader of a gang of people who gather every Saturday outside of a women's health clinic. While there they scream at women they don't know, call them names, and attempt to heap shame on them. They do their best to impede their path to the door, try to force literature on them, and do their best to intimidate the escorts who are protecting the patients.

And yet, as Parker has just insisted, *we're* the bullies?


I'm used to stunning examples of cognitive dissonance on the sidewalk, but this one is probably going to mount the podium and be given a 'Best in Show' award. The sheer hypocrisy involved staggers the mind, but that's par for the course. Irony takes another pummeling as Parker accuses me of being judgmental. I'm not saying I'm not but you know, pot, kettle, and so on.

I call him on it and he flips to a page in his Bible that says that God wants him to judge sinners, which is in direct contradiction with one of the Commandments on the painstakingly-crafted sign Luis is toting around (It has a mistake on it and I want to ignore it but the editor part of me keeps twitching so I give in and tell him. He, of course, accuses me of lying. I can't win). When I mention that Parker goes off on another tangent and it's kind of difficult to hear him over the sonorous droning of Muttonchops reading scripture on his speaker (during which he says that the story of Jesus healing a blind man is 'generally accurate historically'). I tune both of them out, watching my fellow escorts helping a woman out of her car up the street as The Runner jabs literature over their shoulders.

Yep. Bullies.

* * *

(Day 9, Day 10, Day 11)
"We encourage our male escorts to enter into friendly dialogue with the male protesters. We've found it tends to distract them from patients."

It's the Saturday after Thanksgiving and I'm paired up with a visiting escort from another clinic based in NYC. I'm not sad that we have a low turnout of protesters but it must make our beat look like a cakewalk to Amber. She laughs and acknowledges the date probably has something to do with it. 

I'm not surprised the tactic works for her escorts because as a dude myself I can admit we love to explain things to other people. I wouldn't be gung-ho to try to implement that with our group even if it were up to me. (It's not.) Given that The Runner's freedom of speech rights were upheld we're legally allowed to speak our minds as well now, but for the most part we don't bother. We're not trying to convince the patients of anything - we're just here to get them to and from the door. As I've said numerous times before we're about defending their choice, not trying to make it for them. 

As for the protesters, our policy remains to avoid engagement as much as possible. It's what we agreed to when we signed up, but also long experience has taught us the futility of trying to have an intelligent discussion with Parker and his ilk. When confronted with logic protesters usually implement some or all of the following tactics:

 - quoting Bible verses, as if a collection of poorly-written fairy tales provides pertinent facts;

 - shouting down any argument;

 - Ad hominem attacks or a Straw man;

 - dire warnings about what's going to happen when we face God and/or the Lake of Eternal Flame, which sounds nice and toasty right about now;

 - the final refuge of the intellectually devoid - screaming 'FAKE NEWS!'

Today Parker is insisting that 'ANY' doctor can tell me that the moment of conception means that there's a heart, lungs, etc. This, as even people who haven't been to medical school can tell you, is simply not true. Despite my desire to stay aloof I can't let it slide by.

"No doctor would ever say that, Parker."

"ANY doctor!"

"No, actually, none of them would. It's not true. Science supports the truth."

"Oh, science is FAKE NEWS!"

And that's what I get for engaging.

* * *

(Day 11)
"Oh, chu know what chu are, my friend?  Chu know? I gonna tell chu what chu are!"

Luis is cranking this morning. CRANKING. With Lexi and I both covering the door we've doubled his usual audience and the garbled sentences are flowing like some fine, incomprehensible wine. Here's what we are:

 - SON OF SATAN! As Lexi is a DAUGHTER OF SATAN as well, this means we're long-lost siblings! We throw up our hands at our discovery and embrace. Luis does something between a laugh and snarl as he shakes his head at us, which brings us to the next thing we are:

 - MOCKERS! That's fair. When you stand in front of a loudspeaker for three hours and get told all of the horrible things you are, at times you feel the need to question whether or not they're that bad. For instance, he also called us:

 - FORNICATORS! Guilty as charged. Not with Lexi, but certainly with my wife, who is also a fornicator. He makes it sound like such an evil thing to be that I almost feel sorry for him. If that's the viewpoint of the god he chooses to worship, no wonder he's so angry all the time. Oops. There's the mocking again. No doubt because I'm also a:

 - DEMON! Yes, we're demons. And Luis doesn't talk to demons, so he ignores us and yells at the clinic doors for a few minutes before refocusing our way.

"Wait. Luis, I'm confused. You said you won't talk to us because we're demons but now you're talking to us. Which is it?"

"Chu are a demon and I don't want to talk to you but I have to talk to you!"

"Hmm. I didn't expect it to get so existential. Can we set up a system? Maybe raise your right hand when you're talking to us and your left hand when you're not talking to us?"

At this point Luis either vapor locks or pops a circuit breaker, standing there for a few moments just grimacing and twitching. We're wondering if we've broken him when he sloughs it off and let's us know that we we're:

 - FOOLS! We're told this numerous times during our shift. We don't pray the same way we does, so we're fools. God doesn't like fools. Know what else He doesn't like? It's us and our roles as:

 - MURDERERS! ASSASSINS! DEATHSCORTS! If this is true we need to talk to our union because neither Lexi or I have seen a single paycheck for all of our contract killing. The claim that escorts get paid is one we hear all the time and untrue. We're volunteers. The security guards get paid, as they should. At one point during the morning Parker calls Cliff a 'fake security guard,' which makes no sense as Cliff is an actual security guard. When reminded of that Parker switches to attempts to belittle him instead, which ends with the two of them doing some verbal peacock strutting. It's not surprising that this sort of thing happens around me because clearly I'm:

 - CURSED!/A CURSE! Yeah. I'm confused as well and ask Luis to elaborate. Am I cursed, or am I a curse? He ignores me and since we don't have a system in place I don't know if it's because I'm currently a demon or not. Lexi is of the opinion that I'm both, because jeez, just look at me. Every time he pauses to take a breath during his amplified oration I ask him for clarification, but receive no reply. I stay true to my task and finally Luis breaks off mid-sentence and screams, "BOTH! CHU BOTH! CHU CURSED AND CHU A CURSE!"

Lexi was right. But was I supposed to take the word of a Daughter of Satan?

* * *

(Day 11)
"What's that all about?"

Lexi jerks her head to the north. We've got a three-person escort crew up that way, one of them a rookie who is doing a great job. About thirty feet away from them a car has pulled over and a woman is clambering out of the driver's side, heading in their direction. From where I'm standing I can't see anyone else in the car, so it doesn't appear to be a patient. She's got something in her hands and my first instinct is concern. Then - 

I can see what's she's carrying. It's a box of coffee and a bag emblazoned with the familiar pink and white of Dunkin' Donuts. It's too far away for me to hear but it's easy to see the words 'thank you' as they're spoken, and laughs all around. She heads back to her car and moments later one of the escorts comes our way, goodies in hand and presumably a smile on under her scarf. On a cold and miserable day it's a lovely gesture, even if we have to be worried about it being tampered with. 

It wasn't. Thank you, anonymous person. Peace and love to everyone - especially my fellow escorts - this holiday season from your favorite Satanspawn/mocker/fornicator/demon/fool/murderer/assassin/deathscort/curse/cursed.