|My over-arching mantra when I escort at the clinic is that it will never become normal. I will not allow what happens on that sidewalk – the judgment, the pretentious audacity, the misogynistic, racist moral taunting – to ever feel status quo or shrug-worthy. To do so would be a disservice to the clients, a sort of trivializing of their walk to the clinic. True, a lot of clients walk into the abortion clinic just as they would walk into any other doctor’s appointment. But it is their walk to trivialize, or fret over, as they see fit.
Humans adapt amazingly fast. I’ve heard it said that if you slowly raise the temperature of a bath tub, a person won’t feel the heat before they boil to death. So we’ve come to know what is “usual” at the clinic, what to expect from the protesters, the clinic, and the atmosphere on the sidewalk. I know most of the protesters by name and share that information with the clients. It humanizes the asshats, shows the clients a soul and maybe even a conscience that probably won’t reach out and hurt anybody today. I like to think that the sense of what is usual, the idea that escorts are not freaked out or worried about what is happening on the sidewalk reassures the clients, gives them a space to feel empowered and supported by the folks that see this circus everyday.
And just when I think I know usual, this happens:
I shot this video right after talking to a couple heading to the clinic. The client declined my offer to walk with them through the protesters. I had to stop filming because a client and companion pulled up to the last available meter on Market. I took a couple of deep breaths, softened my shoulders and gave them a little wave. The passenger barely cracked the window to be able to hear me explain I was a volunteer with the abortion clinic and ask if they were going to the doctor this morning. They nodded but the sewer fire was way more interesting.
“Did they do this?” asked a trembling voice from the back seat.
Fire and toxic smoke doesn’t usually flume from sewer access holes, not even here in Louisville, so I wasn’t really sure what the hell was going on.
“You know, I really don’t think so.” I said to the dark back seat.
The passenger whispered through the window to me, “She is already scared to death and we pull up to all this! Lord, what we gonna do?”
“Well, that’s what they want you to be, the protesters want you to be scared. They want this to be as difficult as possible for you. And that sewer thing, that’s just a bonus for them. But I’d be happy to walk in with you if you’d like” I reeled off wondering where in the hell all this calm was coming from.
“Yes, please!” came the voice from the dark back. The passenger and client emerged from the car and slowly made their way up the sidewalk. There was the usual crowding in and stopping in their path on the sidewalk. And the usual sidestepping and unheeded no-thank-you’s.
And then there was the awning, and then the door and the thank you and the take care…
I suppose some days are more usual than others.