by Stacey Spiehler
I don’t speak for all of the escorts, but I do tend to get the same reactions from most people when I tell them what I do. Most people start with compliments, like “brave” and “heroic,” to which my response is:
Because I am a really awkward person when it comes to accepting compliments.
Invariably, the person’s next statement is anger at the protesters and telling me that they would just spend all day yelling at them. “I don’t know how you do it.” This was my thought before I started doing it too, because I have never shied away from a public confrontation. Feel free to ask my perpetually embarrassed husband. From people who leave kids/animals in cars to that guy playing a casino game with his phone on LOUD in the doctor’s waiting room, I have never hesitated when I feel the need to let someone know they’re being a jerk.
I don’t know why I’m different at the clinic. Maybe that’s the only place the Holy Spirit is able to shut my mouth. When a patient is present, my singular and concentrated focus is making her comfortable while she’s being harangued and yelling back at a protester will not accomplish that goal. My method is starting out by telling the patient that the people on the other side of the fence are going to call out to her and that she doesn’t have to talk to them or take their literature if she doesn’t want to; it’s totally her choice. Then I talk to her about the weather or something else equally neutral loud enough that she can concentrate on my voice and tune out the protesters.
Another escort, Derenda, has her own method. She carries a boombox with her, turns it on a rock station, turns it up, holds it high, and walks with the patient. That drowns out the protesters and makes them maaaadddd. (She accepts donations of batteries for that boombox.) James will strategically cough every time the protesters start up, just “ahemhemhemhemhemmmm” the entire way. HILARIOUS. Laurie and Sarah will sing musicals in unison across the parking lot from each other. We all have our own ways of irritating the protesters without talking to them and without making the patient feel uncomfortable. Most of the patients laugh at “ahemhemhemhem” too.
The whole process is over in about a minute if they park in the parking lot. We don’t have a whole lot of spots though, so sometimes we have to walk them a block or more, sometimes followed by a protester (or many) the whole time, but usually at least having to walk directly in front of a protester. That’s a little harder. I just keep reminding the patient that she doesn’t have to listen to them if she doesn’t want to and do you know if it’s supposed to rain? If we have to walk past Roy, I offer them my headphones. Most of them have accepted, so I turn on Pandora and we have an easy stroll. Roy hates that, boy oh boy. I like to think I’m responsible for a few of his hemorrhoids.
Now, when there’s not a patient present, it’s a different story. Some of the other escorts will engage the protesters. It’s entertaining to watch. Laurie and Sarah, I think, have memorized everything on Wikipedia and Guttmacher and will make protesters look stupid and walk away frustrated every time. James has a very distinct look on his face when he’s talking to protesters that makes me giggle – it’s very “how dumb are you?” I have a very strict do-not-engage policy, because as a former anti-abortion extremist, I know that I’d just be spinning my wheels. I didn’t even engage when this guy was yelling in my face about going to Hell. I didn’t even respond when one protester read the article about me in the Clarion Ledger and decided to exploit my ectopic pregnancy for her own gain. “Stacey, just because you killed your own baby doesn’t mean you have to help other women kill theirs. Would you kill Ace” (my son) “too? Stacey? Staaaacey. Staaaacey. Staaacey. STACEY.”
Girl, bye. I have 7 years of experience of ignoring “MomMomMomMomMomMomMomMom,” so I just played Words With Friends and listened to Pandora the whole time. She has left me alone ever since, though, so that’s a pretty good return on investment, don’t you think? That’s not to say I didn’t mutter “f*** off” under my breath, but I certainly wasn’t going to give her the satisfaction of hearing me.
I do get extraordinarily annoyed when they try to film patients or take pictures of cars in the parking lot, but I keep my Southern Grace ™ when I’m yelling at them and say “PLEASE do not film our patients, this is private property, THANK YOU.” Other than that, I cannot think of a single time that I’ve wanted to yell at one of them.
Have I convinced you to join us yet? (Am I sounding like a cult leader yet? Eeeeeexcellent.) If so, contact me on Facebook or Twitter and I’ll point you in the right direction. I am a very high-anxiety person and I am relaxed all day at the clinic so I assure you, you can do it.