Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Summertime and the Lying is Easy - Dispatches from my Twenty-First, Twenty-Second, and Twenty-Third 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. Days 15/16. Day 17. Days 18/19/20.)

(Day 21)
"They're going after them again. Watch the door. I'll be right back."

With that, my Team Leader darts across the street, weaving through traffic.

The Mean Girls are stalking a couple and Ronnie's had enough.

It's hot and humid, the default setting for this summer, and I wipe sweat from my brow as I watch Ronnie make it to the other side. One of the usual Mean Girls - Sad Eyes - showed up this morning with a friend sporting some sort of hat - trilby, fedora, I don't know, I'm no expert - and together they've been super aggressive so far. Their ranks are further bolstered by a young couple - her with long hair in tight cornrows and a propensity to hold her protest sign upside down; him tall, awkward, and given to low-talking in my general vicinity so that I'm not sure if he's trying to engage me in conversation or chatting with himself. He moves about five feet away and begins mumbling what sounds like an inner monologue, questioning how I could do what I'm doing and so on. At times I can make out questions but he never pauses, so I don't know if I'm supposed to respond or not. He seems satisfied to ramble on uninterrupted, so at least one of us is interested in what he has to say.

The subject of Ronnie's concern is a young couple with an apparently shaky grasp of English who had the protesters set upon them like a pack of starved hyenas the first time they tried to approach the clinic. While we've been blessed with a lack of The Runner the Bread of Life gang has more than taken up the confrontational mantle in her absence. Spooked by the yelling and perhaps not comprehending that the people in the pink vests are here to help, the couple turns around and retreats, disappearing around a distant corner. After a while they try coming in from a different direction but once again flee after being spotted.

Now they're across the street, walking past the Mushrooms and the other Catholics. They keep looking in this direction, clearly wanting to come over but intimidated by the religious mob. Sad Eyes and Bad Hat peel off from the group and head over, and seeing them buttonholed is what sets Ronnie off. There's a animated conversation, words drowned out by distance, traffic, and the droning of the shouter currently on speaker. After a bit the couple crosses the street with Ronnie, but pause by the southern corner of the block. About thirty seconds later one of the security guards, an ex-cop who radiates calm and professionalism but also clearly isn't interested in taking shit from anyone, emerges from the clinic and makes his way down. Flanked by three escorts and the guard, the pair finally makes their way inside.

As I shut the door behind them Ronnie takes up the post opposite me, and for the first time in several sessions of having had her as my team leader I spot actual anger in her eyes. She shakes her head, glaring in the direction of the Mean Girls.

"They were lying! Flat out lying! They told her the procedure is very painful, and that the discomfort lasts for days! That's not true." Ronnie takes one deep breath, then another. "Sorry. I was already upset with the way they were hounding them but when I got over there and heard what they were saying, well . . ." She trails off with a wave of her hand.

Mumbles comes back over near me and starts up again, but is quickly drowned out by a produce truck that has pulled up to supply the restaurant next door.

That's okay. I'm sure I can guess what his message is.

* * *

(Day 22)
"There's murder going on behind those doors! Babies are being murdered and you Deathscorts are out here because Satan is your father! Satan was the first murderer! Oh, he's a murderer, the very worst!"

Is he, though?

Over my past few shifts I've been trying to lessen the amount of interaction I have with the protesters. Pseudo-debates littered with their logical fallacies and outright falsehoods are pointless in the first place, and aside from distraction engaging with them seems foolhardy. It can be frustrating to let their grandiose lies go unchecked or to ignore when they project and refer to *me* as 'fake news,' but that's not why I'm out here. We escorts are essentially their only audience - their sermons are unintelligible in the waiting room, a vague murmur easily drowned out by a TV. When they're bragging about someone from a year ago who changed their mind and had the baby instead, it seems clear that their shaming and harassment tactics have an extremely high failure rate on their own and don't need me shooting my mouth off.

Still . . .

For people who refer to and quote the Bible CONSTANTLY they seem to have curious gaps of knowledge, intentional or not. Despite the fact I'm certainly no scholar of the Scriptures, Parker's statement about Satan's murderous ways seems off to me. It's late in the morning on another scorcher and there's not a patient in sight, so I figure that maybe it's okay to relent just a little.

It's not, but I do it anyway.

"Who did Satan kill?"

Parker pauses in his oration, donning a smirk. "Have you never heard of Job's children?"

"Yes, but he was commanded by God to do that, no? In that insane bet where they destroy Job's life, torture him, kill his kids, and so on? Was he supposed to not obey God?" If I'd been more well-versed I would have remembered that the kids got resurrected anyway. Mea culpa.

There's a pause that draws out as Parker is clearly trying to bring up other instances of Satan murdering but perhaps finding himself unable to do so. I wait patiently. When the silence is broken it's not Parker but rather Alex, who's sidled up near my elbow.

"Satan crawled into Judas' heart and caused him to betray Jesus, which led to Christ being murdered by the Romans."

I tilt my head and give him the hairy eyeball before turning back to Parker. "So, anything else?"

He pulls his mike back in front of his mouth. "Satan is a liar, the greatest of liars, much like you and your fake news."

I lean back against the wall as he takes off on another tangent. It appears that Satan is not the serial killer they've made him out to be.

Wonder if there's any other people they falsely name 'murderers.' Hmm.

* * *

(Day 22)
"Look at this guy, out here trying to get attention. Just like when he puts all that fake news in his little blog."

The anti-choice folk are not fond of my new cape.

I must give credit where credit is due. Evan, one of my fellow escorts, showed up a few weeks ago wearing a Pride flag as a cape. The fashionable clothing he sports draws their ire in and of itself, but the flag proved an absolute lightning rod. It seemed logical to get one of my own to show support for his bravery and strength.

So I did. 

I've become aware that Pride flag capes are extremely useful in a number of ways. For instance, it hangs down far enough in the back to protect my legs from harmful UV rays. You become a better beacon for people trying to find the clinic entrance - 'Walk toward the guy with the rainbow.' Also, it turns out that if you hold the flag with the same hand of the arm you extend out, it forms a barrier that's difficult to get cult-related propaganda past. Hard to see though as well. All in all, a pretty handy bit of apparel.

"Hey. I gotta show you something."

When Alex says something like that while reaching into his backpack, there could be cause for alarm. However, it turns out he just wants to accessorize as well. 

"So, does this make you angry?" He's sporting a large grin as he pulls out a MAGA hat.

I frown. "I mean, it does in the sense that it exists at all and because of the idiot it stands for, but I'd always figured you folks as Trump voters."

He shakes his head as he zips his bag up. "I didn't vote for Trump."

That's right. He's told me that before. He's a Cruz guy, which is somehow worse. "Then why do you have the hat?"

Alex flashes a smile. "To trigger you guys," he says as he waves it in my direction. With that he heads off down the street to try to provoke the pair of escorts stationed there.

Yes, *I'm* the one looking for attention.

* * *

(Day 23)
"Take a look at all these deathscorts out here and what do you see? They're all white! They're here to help murder black babies! What does that say about them?"

87, 84, 88.

When Parker blows his racist dog whistle, he blows it with volume.

I'm not ruffled by Parker's tirade - while I haven't conducted a detailed analysis on the ethnic breakdown of today's team, he never trots out this tripe when we have obvious PoC in our ranks. The more pressing issue is the noise level, particularly for someone like me who spends most of the morning directly in front of the speakers worn by the screamers. It's amazing that such little boxes can be so effective at amplifying hate and ignorance, which just goes to prove not all technological advances are good ones.

"Any doctor will tell you that at conception all the baby's parts are there!"

88, 83, 87.

Maybe he thinks that if you tell a ridiculous and easily disproved lie loudly enough that magically makes it true?

As per this study, exposure to a decibel level over 85 is considered unhealthy. I've installed a sound meter on my phone and the results are somewhat disturbing. He's regularly spiking over 85 today and it doesn't feel like he's got his amp turned up as high as it usually is. A few shifts ago the police showed up early to tell Hinton he had to turn his speaker down, but aside from the visit by the health inspector/noise control who showed up during a convenient-and-not-at-all-suspicious lull by the screamers the protesters generally crank their speakers as high as they'll go without creating feedback. Since city ordinances allow them to begin using amps at 8 o'clock those of us stationed in front of the doors are exposed three hours of listening to the equivalent of a power drill.

Is it sad that I'd prefer the screeching of the tool?

"Adultery, fornication, blasphemy, homosexuality, you're going to have to stand before God for your sins!"

89, 86, 92.

Spreading the word of Jesus through threats and intimidation tactics brings Parker to the level of a hair dryer, which seems appropriate given the amount of hot air he's blowing around. It makes for a wonderful juxtaposition a few minutes later when he winds down and, with a fortuitous break in traffic, we're given a few moments of relative silence.

Moments later the cars are rushing by again and the moment is gone. It was nice while it lasted.

* * *

(Day 23)
"See, that sign above the entrance - 'Reproductive Rights Center' - that's a lie. There's nothing 'reproductive' going on in there, there's nothing but children being slaughtered."

The Pastor believes this, I think. Not sure if his ignorance is due to being na├»ve or harboring a willingness to remain in that state, but either way it's wrong. Indeed, they do provide abortions. Pretty damn up front about it on their website. Of course, it also lists all of the other services they offer, from birth control to checkups and so on, but that doesn't fit the Pastor's agenda and so he isn't talked about.

Instead he's on a lengthy diatribe about the Creation myth which, judging by his comments, he believes to be true. That humans came from an all-powerful being who made them to be pets and kept them ignorant. That genetic evidence be damned, we all came from the same two people. That a serpent made us be bad, although if Adam and Eve never got 'knowledge' then how would there have ever been other people?

He believes in a fairy tale - a bad one - and wants to use it and other ridiculous stories to force other people to live their lives the way he thinks they should. I cannot be the only person who finds that frightening. They way they lie and try to twist scientific fact to support their groundless positions is alarming - wrap yourself in your faith and you're justified. You're doing God's work by spreading his word. Is it still considered spreading if you're trying to ram it down someone's throat? Or using it to wrap them up in chains they want no part of?

That's a question I don't bother asking. I don't need a fruit from the Tree of Knowledge to know that answer.