On gray, rainy mornings things tend to go askew. We spend our walks up the sidewalk being careful not to get poked with an antis’ umbrellas, dodging puddles, watching for clients and knowing that it is usually going to be a bit longer out in the weather. Accidents, traffic delays and poor visibility add extra time to the clients drive to downtown.
Inevitably, one or two of the clients will be running late. Extra pressure to find a close parking space and check in for their appointment time adds to the stress of the morning. Toss in a dozen or so protesters with Bibles, prayer beads, pamphlets and multiple graphic signs to navigate around and things can really crank up the pressure for most clients.
This morning a late-arriving solo client hurriedly pulled into the parking lot of the crisis pregnancy center next door to EMW. She took the nearest open space, got out and fairly dashed down the sidewalk into the EMW without as much as acknowledging escorts or protesters alike.
We always advise parking at one of the paid lots or meters in the area. The privately-owned parking lot behind the CPC does not cost any money, but it is most certainly not free. Escorts are not allowed on their private property to let the clients know this is not the abortion clinic. We feel helpless as we watch clients who upon realizing their error try to leave. The people from the center come out to greet them and manage to loiter in the way; prohibiting access for them to move their car and leave, while “counseling” them, sometimes to the point of tears. One of the more vocal women has even stood in the way of a client shutting her car door unless they slammed her with the door in the process.
In her rush to get parked and into the clinic, this client parked a little too close to the cars along the front of their building. A person from AWC approached the escorts and stated that the car was blocking a staffer’s car and the client had to come out to move it right then. We all felt that this was a two-fold issue. Of course the car might be in the way if the other driver had to leave immediately, but with a tiny bit of maneuvering once the car next to it left they would be able to get out with ease. We thought the other reason was they did not get an opportunity to “counsel” her with their views on what is the right choice for her.
Were we thinking too deep into their ulterior motives maybe?
I went into the clinic waiting room and quietly explained the situation to the client. She looked up with a clipboard full of papers and a pained look on her face and said “I’m already late. I just don’t think I can go back out there and listen to them say those things to me again. Can you please move it if I give you the keys?” “I will try,” I told her. “They can be very hostile and uncompromising with escorts.”
A quick decision was made to take off my vest and not represent the escorts. I would go as an average person on request of the owner to move their vehicle. Keys in hand, I walked down the sidewalk to the parking lot. At their property line I was met by several staffers from the CPC. I explained the client asked me to please move her car as she was busy filling out paperwork and already running late. A reasonable person would have understood the situation. After all, the goal was to move the car out of the way ASAP. Right?
“No, absolutely not, that would not be a good idea. She must move it,” I was told. Were they afraid I was going to go on a bumper car style spree and damage other vehicles on the way out of the parking lot? Perhaps key a few doors for the fun of it on the way past? Were they concerned about the liability of letting someone other than the owner drive the car?
No, of course not. They did not want me to move it because they wanted another chance to talk to the client. They can talk to me all they please. I don’t engage. I don’t care what they have to say. It has no impact on my life or who I am as a person. Their opinions of me matter not one bit.
As I walked back up the sidewalk I talked with the other escorts about how to best prepare her for moving the car with the least amount of conversation and stress for her. At the same time I was thinking in the back of my mind, what sadistic pleasure do these people get out of harassing people with their tactics?
I went back into the waiting room and explained to her that they would not permit me to move the car for her. They asked that she be the one that moved it. With that, a tall man seated behind us stood up and said that he had overheard the entire conversation and he would move the car for us. He explained the CPC staffers would have nothing to say to him. With that statement, I think I heard the whole waiting room exhale in relief.
She quickly agreed and we gave him the keys. I walked back with him to show him which car it was and where to best park it for her. As we turned the corner, the staffers turned with anticipation only to be surprised as this gentleman purposefully walked over to the car, got in, started it up and left. I could barely suppress a smile as I thought of this man, who did not know either one of us, stepping in with one small gesture that spoke volumes of his compassion for others in times of need.
Thank you sir, whoever you are. Your simple act of moving a stranger’s car meant more than many of us could convey that morning.