When the woman handed me an orange vest and explained where I could be of service as an escort my first day on the sidewalk, it was the culmination of years of following this blog and hours of studying the Points of Unity. She explained the property line, that the antis could not cross it, and that I would need to help maintain a spot through which clients could walk because the antis will try to block the entrance. As I took up my position, she then leaned over to me and said, “Oh, and we all go to breakfast afterwards, you should join us.”
Two things struck me:
1. Really? You just met me – like, you’ve laid eyes on me for all of about 120 seconds – and I’m already a fully-fledged, breakfasting member of the escorting “club?!”
2. Really? We do things like go eat breakfast after listening to these yayhoos (the antis) shouting for an hour and a half? It seemed like such a dichotomy, the atmosphere of the sidewalk and a lovely Saturday breakfast.
That first morning, I giggled to myself as I stood on the property line maintaining access to the clinic door, realizing I had assumed a Wonder Woman pose, taking at times an unnaturally large stance. Like lions, the antis smelled fresh meat: three female antis ganged up on me at one point, screaming about – something, I don’t know, I was ignoring them; one male kept trying to use his height and testosterone to nudge me further aside. I channeled my inner Linda Carter that morning as I stood on the property line, breathing deeply and utilizing my well-practiced “gaze to nowhere” when the antis attempted to engage me. An important Point of Unity is to de-escalate, I had learned that from all the time studying the blog, and engaging with them would not serve to de-escalate.
My first morning on the sidewalk, a Saturday, was pretty straightforward. We had enough escorts to be paired up in each of the places we like to cover and I had one job: keep a spot open from the sidewalk to the door. But when I showed up on a weekday morning, the situation was a little different. While there weren’t as many antis, and it wasn’t as loud, there also weren’t as many escorts. We had to be more mobile and fluid in our efforts. It was a little intimidating, because I wasn’t yet familiar with the routines on the sidewalk, how to watch for clients, or what to say to them. For awhile, I preferred to stay at the door in my Wonder Woman pose – I knew what to do there. Eventually, I became familiar with what to do and what to say as the other escorts coached me and patiently answered my questions.
Through my first couple of weeks, the other escorts kept reiterating a point that has become my mantra: we are here to offer clients a place of calm in the chaos. Sometimes, especially when the antis really get in a tizzy, I have to return to that mantra. Engaging with the antis will not serve to create calm for the client. Rushing to reach a client before the antis does not serve to create calm for the client. And also, I can only do what I can do, and we all have a limit of what we can take. If I am in a tizzy, that does not serve to create calm for the client.
Most mornings, I am not lucid or pleasant until at least 9 AM – what can I say, I’m a night owl. But the mornings I volunteer as a clinic escort, I get myself up and ready to deal with whatever craziness the antis have for us that day to be at the clinic by 7 AM. This is a small miracle. But here’s the deal, after all my talking about support of reproductive rights, I finally decided it was time to put my feet where my mouth is by standing on the sidewalk as a place of calm in the chaos. And maybe one day I’ll show up with silver bracelets, a golden tiara, and tall red boots. What will the antis say then?