Today was my last day escorting for Planned Parenthood of Western PA. This week’s been a lot of “lasts”: my last final for college (“Origins of the Arab/Israeli Conflict: 1880 – 1948”), last grading (“How to Get a Job”), last time walking into the College of Fine Arts, dropping a form off at the Dean’s office, buying a bagel in the library. Every time I log into the Andrew system for CMU I wonder if this is the last time I’ll need to remember the bit of poetry I use for my password.
It’s been like two weeks of ripping off bandaids–it feels good because I’m advancing and growing, but stings a little. My last morning of escorting was nearly perfect: I was tired, and grumpy on the bus, and on my way out of my morning bagel run a group of jock-y protesters tried to get on my case. Then I got to meet some new escorts and hang out on my favorite corner: the one with the most patient traffic and most poor protester behavior.
We spent the entire morning entertaining each other: one of the escorts is a nuclear engineer and she told jokes about how people don’t understand the exponential decrease in reactor energy at Fukushima. The protesters yelled about Mother’s Day. A client’s companion needed a smoke and she hung out with us and gossiped. Several bystanders thanked us for out work; one glared at us and said, as she walked quickly away, that she “doesn’t believe in killing babies.” (Gracefully handling drive-by snark is just a perk of the gig.)
I’m signed up to escort in Boston, where the clinic requires a year-long commitment from volunteers but said that with 5 years of experience they might let me slip in for a summer. Escorting with Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania during undergrad let me pray with my feet: it was uncomfortable and awkward and scary and probably did more to cement my commitment to women’s rights than any class or relationship.
“During my second year of nursing school our professor gave us a quiz. I breezed through the questions until I read the last one: “What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?” Surely this was a joke. I had seen the cleaning woman several times, but how would I know her name? I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank. Before the class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our grade. “Absolutely,” the professor said. “In your careers, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say hello.” I’ve never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Dorothy.”–Joann C. Jones