Friday, November 09, 2007

Report From the Line. Part 6.

Today was a memorable day on the line for several reasons. There was mass picketing at our site today, as it is one of two areas that gets a surplus of traffic. People from other locations are asked to volunteer to join us for one or two shifts per week. Generally visitors like coming to our site, as there are plenty of distractions that seem to make the time pass quickly. We've seen a diverse range of reactions from drivers- everything from enthusiastic waves to something we like to interpret as the "You're-number-one!" sign. There have been a few who have supplemented their sign language with unsavory comments. Unfortunately for a few among that group, we've got a cop in an unmarked car ready to chase folks down and offer citations. I've seen that happen on a few occasions, and I can only imagine the indignation that results. One guy yesterday actually got half way out of the passenger side window to shout his eloquent criticism. Shame on me for wishing he would have been clipped by a road sign.

With all the extra strikers showing up today, we received an influx of interesting treats and refreshments. I used to think I loved donuts, but after four weeks of staring at them as the only form of sustenance- I think I'll be passing on the delectable dough for awhile. Imagine the pleasure that piqued my stomach when I saw an aluminum tray full of chicken wings and a big bowl of meaty chili. This was the goodwill of the temporary, and it took me about two minutes to decide to dig in... even with my typical concerns about proper digestion. The stuff was tasty- and lent a faintly festive touch to the occasion. There were new partners for conversation as well, and that meant I wasn't checking the time every ten minutes.

So everything pointed to a relatively smooth Friday, and that's how the first half of the shift progressed. I even took an extra smoke break with a couple of the newbies. We caught up with the news from the other sites. Apparently one woman, who had claimed to be sick and was thus malingering her way off the lines, completed a marathon in another city. We also discussed the various eccentricities that our co-workers normally keep hidden. All the time together has led to a fair share of unexpected and unlikely associations. I've learned a lot about people I never would have guessed. Remember the snake skin that I mentioned was tied around my car antennae a few weeks ago? It turns out that a strait-laced science teacher did it as a prank, and then was too embarrassed not to cover up his deed with explanatory tall tales. Oddly, learning the true story behind the gesture has made me like him more.

Because the bulk of the shift was pleasant, I was taken by surprise when a community member pulled into the school parking lot, and proceeded to deliver a monotone rant to the mass of teachers standing about. Most everyone was employing the same strategy as me- trying to ignore her and avoid eye contact. The lady was dressed in loose clothing, and had somehow not noticed that her pants were unzipped. When informed about that, she responded that they weren't her clothes anyway. She was a singularly unpleasant creature to look at. Although she was not employing vulgar language, many of those closest to her seemed to be increasingly unsettled by her presence. She droned on and on until a few people began to motion the security guard over for assistance. The woman was trespassing, and nobody wanted an ugly incident.

Next a cop car pulled up, and the policeman began to question the interloper about her intentions. Believing that all would soon be acceptably resolved, many of us turned away. But it only took a few more minutes before the cop began to give her a field sobriety test. This went on for a bit, and then the officer grabbed her by the arm and starting escorting her in the direction of her car. This is when she started resisting... shoving and trying to break away from his grip. Unbelievably, we actually watched the small-framed policeman employ a clumsy take-down procedure in order to restrain her. The wrestled on the grass. She was flopping around like a beached whale, her sweatshirt riding up to expose her pale white belly. It was a nasty sight. We tried to move our line back to screen the view of passing cars. The woman fought all the way to the police cruiser, and refused to lower her head for clearance as she was pushed into the backseat. Someone heard her yell, "I haven't drank one cent!!" This is when the jokes started.

I quipped that this sort of thing was the natural outgrowth of homeschooling, and this observation was met with a tension-relieving round of laughs. But deep down I found the entire sordid occurrence pathetic. I pictured the lady drinking at a bar in the afternoon, feeling frustrated about this conflict that has torn apart a community. In her inebriated state, she obviously thought that she could do something about it. I would hazard a guess that she never anticipated being arrested for D.U.I., resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct. I wondered what her husband and kids would feel when they found out about the incident.

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