If you asked my husband, he might say my least favorite words are “We need to sit down and talk about this.” While a good conversation is a wonderful thing, my credo is “Don’t listen to what someone says, watch their feet.”
Perhaps that’s why, upon seeing the announcement in November for the Women’s March on Washington, I reserved my first bus. There must be others who prefer action over talking because the bus was filled within 12 hours of my posting it on Facebook, with a 50-plus person waiting list. When I called to reserve another bus the prices had doubled, but that’s capitalism.
That Saturday I boarded a bus with 48 other Chapel Hill travelers and headed for D.C. As we approached the capital and encountered other marchers, we saw many intrigued faces glancing at us. Many onlookers were doing that funny wave with their hands flipping quickly up and down to the left and right – the way you indicate “so-so” when someone asks how you’re doing. It’s the universal symbol of, “Eh.” We thought perhaps it was a special wave for marchers.
We turned into Union Station and staffers ran up to our bus. The driver opened the window and said, “I have a parking permit!” The one who seemed to be in charge said, “Yeah, but what about your bus?” It seemed we had lost some crucial part while traveling and one side was nearly touching the ground, thus explaining the strange wave everyone was giving us.
Even our bus leaned left.
It was a short walk to find the crowds. Well, we thought we had found “the crowds” but like loaves and fishes, they kept multiplying. There wasn’t a place where there wasn’t a crowd. Let me tell you a little about women who march:
Everyone brought two of everything, “just in case.” Strangers offered hand sanitizer, tissues, Band-Aids, whatever you needed. They even brought garbage bags and set them next to the containers on the street for when they got filled.
There were many moments of sudden eruptions of excitement that had us saying “What just happened?” On one occasion the source of the excitement was truck full of police in riot gear. We were excited that our march triggered the need for such a truck. Before long the police were wearing pink hats and posing for pictures with us.
Marchers are an honest bunch. I dropped cash. I dropped my credit card. Every time, someone tapped my shoulder and said “I think you dropped this.” I could have had gold bullion in my clear backpack and no one would have touched it.
They are a hygienic group. There were only five out of what – half a million? – who offended my olfactory senses. Yes, I counted.
If you’re ever feeling lonely, go to a march. Everyone is so friendly. I marched with strangers, talked with strangers, had dinner with strangers and felt a sense of good will usually reserved for kind acts during the holidays.
They are sincere as the day is long. The signs alone expressed such genuine concern and in many cases, outright worry. Whether it was clean water for someone’s grandbabies, well-funded schools, reproductive rights or inappropriate grabbing, each sign was handmade and revealed a piece of each person’s heart.
Toward the end of the march there were bleachers for those with disabilities. There sat women in their 70s and 80s with canes and walkers. They were literally, “raising canes.” Each of them offered their salute and a cheer as we walked by.
These were the women who were allowed to be nurses, social workers, teachers and secretaries; other careers were off limits. They had to put up with all sorts of bad behavior in the workplace and weren’t even allowed to have credit cards. Their job applications asked about the date of their last menstrual cycle.
They did disproportionate work in the home. Child rearing was, for the most part, their job, along with the cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping and all other household duties. When they asked their doctors how to stop having so many babies, they were told to “tell your husband to sleep on the roof.”
There has been much discussion about the march; some don’t approve. I take heart from those women in the bleachers who faced tremendous disapproval from both men and women. They fought for women’s rights to buy our own houses, cars or boats; to sue employers who fire us for being pregnant, to prosecute men who raped us, even when it is our own spouses, and one day, God willing, to get equal pay for equal work.
Mary Carey lives in Chapel Hill with her husband, two sons and two dogs. You can reach her at email@example.com