The morning was cold and dark and I was nervous. My partner had been escorting for a few weeks by this time so I had heard some stories, learned some names and I hoped that would help calm me. Then we parked and I saw the number of protesters lining the sidewalk and I knew calm was too much to hope for.
I don’t do well in confrontation, my heart races and I feel shaky and I shut down a bit, so I was very relieved to learn that all I had to do was stand and open the door for clients. I thought I could handle that easily; then a street preacher mounted his box. He was speaking at the top of his voice about god and judgment and the blood of the innocent.
It seemed to agitate people. The protesters started moving around and whispering to each other, the prayer line started chanting ‘Hail Mary’s’ and my heart started racing. In a way the cold helped me because I could hide behind my hat and gloves and scarf, but goodness he was loud and I honestly wasn’t sure this was something I could do.
Then I recognized the preacher’s voice and I stole a glance at him to confirm (I was working really hard not to look at anybody before that). This was the same man who preached and protested at the Zombie Walk for at least the past two years because, I guess next to homosexuals and abortion god hates zombies most. . . or maybe he loves them and hates our mockery of them, I really don’t know the logic. I found his presence at the Zombie Walk ridiculous and that gave me the space to think of his presence on the sidewalk in the same light. I laughed a bit, and with that the anxiety seemed to wash away.
I reluctantly admit I had fun that day. Once I opened my eyes to the absurdity of the preacher I saw it everywhere. The preaching, the dubious “facts”, the pleas that sounded a lot like insults. How could anyone say these things and expect to be taken seriously? Expect to change someone’s mind? Expect to be called on for counsel? It was like the protesters were performing a farce just for me.
When we left to meet everyone for breakfast I was practically giddy, until I heard how horrible the day was for others. Since I was only manning the door I was sheltered from the physical and emotional bullying tactics faced when you walk with a client. I had dealt with this for one single morning, while these wonderful people had been slogging through the muck for months and years. I left breakfast feeling selfish and shallow. How could I find humor when people were hurting?
It took me some days and a few more mornings escorting to realize my reaction was alright. I know my stressful, horrible days are coming. I think that’s inevitable when you do something like this. I’m only human.
Each escort has to find their way to cope on the sidewalk and I’m very lucky that I found out early that my love of the absurd and my sarcastic inner voice are going to help me. They are what I will fall back on when the morning seems especially dark.