Thursday, April 12, 2018

Just Wait Until He Finds Out About the Initiation Branding - Dispatches from my Fifteenth and Sixteenth Days 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. )

(Day 15)
"Yeah. But we have to wonder why."

It's quiet outside the clinic this morning, startlingly so. None of the screamers are here - not a single one - and even The Runner is a no-show. Aside from a few of the quiet ones who hand out pamphlets and the somewhat loopy Q-Tip, the protesters are largely absent.

And that has the security team on edge.

The above response came after I noted the light turnout to Jesse, the retired cop who often stands at the doorway with us. At first glance it seems a blessing, although Jenner, the first-timer working the door with me who signed up because he's heard how hellish it is out here, seems mildly disappointed. The two guards take turns circling the building, looking for suspicious packages or bags. It may sound a little paranoid, but we're less than a month past someone driving a truck into the entrance of a Planned Parenthood a few dozen miles away. There's a long and shameful national history of clinics being bombed and doctors murdered, so the concern is warranted.

Jesse glances around as he talks about some of his experiences on the police force, probably spotting things I wouldn't even know to look for. There are other countermeasures in effect as well, ones that surprise me. For obvious reasons I won't reveal them, but knowing they're being employed helps to put us at ease. I wonder if I'm actually seeing more Englewood PD cars than I usually do or if it's just easier to spot them with the mass of protesters between myself and the street..

I swap stories with Jenner, getting to know him as we kill time. My team leader Fiona looks just as mystified as I do, having never had a day like this in her years of escorting. As we easily walk patients past the skeleton crew of protesters not one of us finds cause to complain.

* * *

(Day 16)
"We will help you. We have the resources and we will be there for you. You will have support and money for your baby."

After having my last shift devoid of any and all screamers - it was so blissfully quiet - it appears I will not be as fortunate this time. Parker started with his predictable, "The Bible says" right at 8am and it's been non-stop preaching, promising, and shaming since then. By coincidence I'm at the door with Jenner again, who is having a much different experience than he did during his maiden voyage. The sidewalk on this brisk morning isn't swarming but it's crowded with faces new and old. Given we expected Easter-related shenanigans - the protesters had evidently showed up the day before, which was Good Friday - we've got an extra pair of escorts as part of the team. A couple are rookies, but with our numbers we're able to get them paired with experienced hands.

Conspicuously absent among the protesters are the Mean Girls, not that they're missed. In fact it's a mostly male crew, aside from the mother that always shows up with one of her sons. Which one she brings varies but it doesn't matter as they all stand near the door wearing a sign, remaining silent while using a clicker to count the number of patients that enter. Not creepy at all, that.

The Runner is here, of course, in all of her odious glory, and soon Q-Tip appears as well, wearing a pin emblazoned with Trump's face and doing her "Yay Jesus!" cheers. Still, that's only three out of well over a dozen protesters, whereas a couple of months ago we were seeing 50/50 splits. I could probably coax a vague answer out of Parker if I cared enough to ask, something along the lines of 'God keeps his house in order.' Maybe they're preparing for Easter dinner. Any excuse that keeps them away is fine by me.

Hinton's still cranking along on his speaker, promising the sun and moon to patients who change their minds at a decibel level well above legal limits. His dinosaur winter hat is gone, replaced by a tan baseball cap. Ah, the joys Spring brings.

"Your baby is a gift from God. We will help you with food, and diapers, and many things. We'll make sure you and your baby have everything you need . . . "

Wait for it.

". . . for about a year or so."

Ay, there's the rub.

I've heard from other sources that the support from the anti-choice groups and the so-called 'Crisis Pregnancy Centers' tends to be much less substantial than promised (as shown in this excellent segment on Last Week Tonight, which includes research done by one of our own) but this is the first time one of the screamers has admitted that if these women believe what they're being told and completely alter their lives to keep a child that they don't want things aren't going to be all sunshine and pixie dust. For a moment I feel as if I should commend Hinton for showing some moral character but then I glance over and notice the kid he brought with him, maybe ten or eleven years old, standing by the street and holding an anti-choice sign.

Never mind.

* * *

(Day 16)
"Deuteronomy 22:5 clearly states that a woman must not put on man's clothing, and a man must not wear women's clothing!"

It seems that our Evangelical buddies don't care for new escort Evan's scarf. 

Thank goodness for escorting. How else would I have learned that the Bible is not just a book of worship but also a fashion guide? The more sonorous of the Creepy Twins is currently droning along on the speaker, but he's being superseded by Parker and Luis collectively losing their shit over Evan. He's mirroring Fiona's floater position, halfway between the clinic entrance and the outlier escorts, which makes him close enough to draw the wrath of the screamers.

Why? Well, he has the audacity to be stylishly dressed. He looks - 'dapper' comes to mind, but that's kind of a fusty old word, so let's go with 'chic' - chic, well-appointed, from his debonair haircut to his natty shoes. The scarf in question is red, white, and, if the protesters are taken at face value, standard field gear for gays in the service of Satan.

They've decided that Evan must be a homosexual, something they often accuse me of being as well. If you think the enjoyment they derive from wallowing in their misogyny is repugnant you'll be even more disgusted by their overzealous intolerance for gays. When they project their bile at the women entering the clinic it's always with the caveat that they're only doing so because they want to save both the baby and the mother. In the case of the latter that means converting her to their theology. There's hope for her. Maybe one day she too could stand on this sidewalk and shame other women - not with a loudspeaker, of course. Still, she can be redeemed.

There's none of that for Evan. It's clear that he makes them extremely uncomfortable and they're content to interpret Bible passages in a way that allows them to condemn him. There aren't any *actual* passages in which their Lord and Savior Jesus condemns homosexuality, but they seem to share the mindset of the late Billy Graham, who had this to say about the subject: "Sometimes it is said that the Bible does not contain any words of Jesus about homosexuality, and therefore it must be acceptable to God. However, the Bible does not record sayings of Jesus about a number of other sins either." No, Billy. Absence of evidence and all that. Logic dictates that they should accept that Jesus has no issues with homosexuality, but they are more than willing to ignore truth if it doesn't fit their rhetoric. Instead they embrace the contradiction of preaching Jesus' love while spewing fear and hatred at the same time.

The interesting aspect is that they clearly think men should feel shame if they identify as anything but hetero. It explains why they've used gay slurs on me in the past and why they're targeting Evan today. They're assuming, based on his appearance, that he's gay. Whether he is or not, I have no idea. We haven't had the opportunity to get to know one another yet and it's not something that just pops up during the couple of minutes we're gathered inside before starting the shift (which I haven't done for the last four shifts or so, instead staying at my post on the door and just having them bring a vest out for me instead). In any case, his orientation can't be wrong. He is who he is and that's okay. The problem is theirs.

Evan seems to take their attempted mockery in stride, unruffled as he flanks a patient who has emerged from a car that's pulled in front of the restaurant. She's joined by an older woman, presumably her mother, who came armed with a glare that could melt steel. As we reach the door her gaze falls on Evan and she gives a small nod.

"I like your scarf."

* * *

(Day 16)
"You're going to die someday! It's true! You're not going to stay young! Look at the wrinkles you have already!"

Jenner turns to me, an expression of mock horror on his face. "He's right. I'm decrepit. Do we have any walkers inside?"

The rookie is getting a baptism by fire that he didn't experience last time, the swirling chaos and non-stop noise fest provided by the protesters. At the moment Creepy Twin #1 is on the squawk box, telling deathscorts how horrible we are. He accuses me of being particularly wicked because there's too much fornication in my life but leaves me hanging when I yell "DAMN STRAIGHT" and hold up a hand for a high five. As he rattles on about how terrible a thing premarital sex is I notice that he's lacking a ring on his left hand.

Ye gods, it explains so much.

Later in the morning he buttonholes Jenner for a long and passionate personal sermon about how Jesus is the only answer. For everything. Both Fiona and I are prepared to tag in if he gives us a distress signal, but he waves us off. When CT#1 finally moves on Jenner looks over at me with raised eyebrows. Welcome to the party, pal.

The Runner greets him as well, pulling her usual act of trying to befriend the newbie. That doesn't last long as she, in the midst of shaming a mother and daughter heading into the clinic, completely blocks the doorway for the grandmother who has also emerged from the car. Jenner spots this and boxes the Runner out. There's contact, mostly due to The Runner being oblivious to the fact that someone's behind her and trying to get past, and the self-proclaimed 'absolute feminist' starts muttering at him as soon as she tells the grandmother that she needs to be a better woman. She doesn't notice that the grandmother looks to be considering introducing The Runner's head to the pavement, and I do my best to gently but firmly cajole the matriarch to be with those who need her most right now. With an angry shake of her head she does, and yet again an escort has attained the dubious success of keeping The Runner from getting her ass kicked.

She finishes berating Jenner and turns back toward the clinic, talking to the closed door about assembly lines, being a good mom, and why it's even worse to be here with tomorrow being Easter. Jenner and I asking why she's excited about a day about the German Goddess of Spring clearly annoys her, compounded when we insist the day is all about candy and start discussing our favorite kinds.

She does not attempt to bond with Jenner again.

* * *

(Day 15)
"Why don't we ever escort the same shift together?"

It's early on a Saturday morning, way too early to be up, yet we are and I've just posed that question to my wife. I'm procrastinating about getting up, as a warm bed filled with spouse is much more alluring than the frigid sidewalk festooned with protesters that awaits me. Our kids are autonomous enough to survive a few hours without us around and while it's not the ideal marital activity to engage in I'm somewhat curious to see her in action. 

She cuts to the heart of the matter, the way she often does. "Because I'm not willing to take a chance on our kids becoming orphans."

My initial instinct is to scoff and dismiss her caution, but for once I keep my mouth shut and think before speaking. As noted earlier in this entry clinics do get attacked. The protesters I've encountered don't appear to be violent but there's no way to be sure about that. Religious zealotry and misogyny combine to make a passionate brew, one fraught with potential difficulties. My wife, a veteran of several years on the sidewalk, can recount tales of escorts being followed back to their cars, of protesters standing behind vehicles so they couldn't back out, and so on. Parker keeps trying to get a rise out of me by saying that he's been talking to my wife and that she seems much smarter and more highly educated than me (When Fiona overhears this at a later date she laughs and says that she's never heard my wife say anything to him beyond 'fuck off'). They'll get personal with us, throw verbal darts, try to get us upset and off-balance.

Violence might not have reared its ugly head for us so far but we're not going to tempt fate. With a single sigh and a string of muttered curses I leave the embrace of both blankets and wife to paw around in the dark for the clothes I set out before I went to bed. Date Night won't be strolling on the streets of Englewood, it seems.

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