Sunday, 3 May 2015

Deery Me

Turkey Street, Enfield, outer London.

This blog gives me the opportunity to publish anything that I find interesting on my travels, whether related to skeptical issues or not.  A couple of weeks ago (23/4/15) on a relatively small area of grass opposite an urban railway station I saw this lovely creature roaming wild.  Turkey Street station is not far from Epping Forest, so presumably this is where the deer roams.  A local person told me that she had been there the previous year but hadn't grown much since.  I think this is because she is a fully grown female fallow deer, which don't get particularly large.

I was surprised at how comfortable she was with humans.  She even allowed me to stroke her.  I've never been this close to a wild deer before.
The obviously has to forage for food.  Here she found a lollipop in the grass and spent a number of minutes eating it.  She seemed to be enjoying it, although I don't know how good it is for her.
Who loves ya baby?

Friday, 1 May 2015

Skepticab's Brush With The Sex Industry

Photo of random escort girls, as chosen by Google
In my role as a Harlow cabbie I took a job today taking a woman to a nearby hotel.  I assumed she was a hotel employee and that she would be changing into her work uniform when she got there.  Having asked her what time she started work, she said that she worked for herself.  "What do you do?"  "I'm an escort"  "Oh, okay!"

I imagine the name she gave to my cab company may not match the one on her birth certificate, but customer confidentiality is important so I'll add an extra layer of protection and shall refer to her as, er, Candide.

The subject of her work interested me as it's something I have no experience of and only a limited understanding.  I am not judgemental and am very interested in what people do and the choices they make to get through life.  This set up a very intriguing conversation.

We chatted for half an hour or so, during which I learnt a number of things, such as the difference between a prostitute and an escort.  As I understand it, you enter into an agreement with a prostitute for sex and you get some of her/his time as part of the deal.  With an escort you pay for time, which may or may not include sex, subject to mutual consent.  This makes it a legal trade apparently, unlike prostitution.  I can certainly see that there is a fundamental difference in the position it puts the sex worker re vulnerability, given that there is no guarantee of sex.  However, I would have thought a frustrated male expecting sex might be a particularly dangerous creature, but having a hotel security guard in the building is a bonus.  An escort working from home doesn't get this support.

The area of security for the women and men working in the industry is my biggest area of concern (given that I know sod all about it).  My main interest here though is about the safety of the people in the profession, not about what they do.  I suspect there are horrible things going on, but I can only judge on what I see for myself.

So, Candide works in a hotel and pays for a room at the standard(ish) daily rate.  The hotel is aware of what is going on.  Some of the staff are clients, the most senior one gets a discount.  Candide doesn't buy drugs, although if a client gives her some she might partake.  Apparently some escorts do rely on drugs, which is apparently a highly dangerous road to go down and results in just chasing money to buy more drugs.  It sounds like Candide has her head screwed on (pun intended).

Now of course, whenever I take someone to or from a hotel I'll be wondering whether they are a sex worker or not.  You can't really ask outright but I don't want to be thinking that about people, not because it's dirty, but I wouldn't really want people thinking that about me.  Definitely a subject of conversation to broach carefully!

Although it sounds like a lucrative profession I felt awkward about asking Candide how much she charges, possibly because I didn't want to sound as though I was interested in using her services.  I'm definitely not a potential customer of anyone in the the industry, by the way.  It might have just been my British awkwardness about asking someone how much they earn, which seems bizarre given how she was telling me what she does for certain customers.  Apparently on the days she works she's happy to come away with between £400 and £1400.  I don't know how many days she works though.

Candide raised a very good point that, although she doesn't tell her family what she does for a living, she does tell some of her friends.  The standard reaction is of moral indignation.  However, when she tells them how much she can earn, their objections on moral grounds often disappear.  We agreed it smacks of hypocrisy.

The subject of age came up.  She is in her late twenties and has had other careers, including as a dancer.  She has a client in his 70s who she just spends time with now, as she only has sexual relations with men aged 17 to 57.  It hit me that I am only five or so years away from reaching this threshold.  Luckily it's not the slightest bit of an issue, other than to my self esteem.  But it still made me feel old (I'm 52!)

I appreciate that I am very naive when it comes to this line of work, however I really appreciated having the opportunity to have this conversation.  Being in my own space definitely helped; there's something about a cab environment that lets people open up about themselves in a non-threatening way and I appreciate Candide's candid approach and not looking for custom from me.  I wish Candide well in her career; not a route I would want to go down myself but I can see why some people choose it as a short-term profession.  Candide's long-term partner is a former client, who accepts her chosen career although she said he would like her to do something different, but recognises it would be hypocritical to insist, given how they met.  That's for them to work out though, not for me to judge.

I really enjoyed our chat during the journey.  She made the very good point that her job is mostly talking to people, with other things thrown in for free if she chooses.  It dawned on me that I chose driving a cab as a profession for the same reason.  I love it because I get paid for driving round talking to people.  The main difference is that I don't offer anything else.

Paul 30/4/15

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Are you a Christian man?

So far I've been asked this question twice.  The first time was a woman I drive sometimes from church to church, so to be asked that question is reasonable as it establishes whether we have a shared interest in Christianity.  As it happens I do have an interest in it, but only from the point of view of skepticism.
Scene of the crime

It was the second woman who asked me the question that was of interest.  Early one Friday evening in March I got a job to pick a woman up from her house, take her to a supermarket in Harlow town centre, wait and return.  In the cab I tried to make conversation but gave up very quickly as she wasn't very talkative and had clearly had a drink or three already.

After a period of silence she asked me out of the blue: "Are you a Christian man?"  I replied that no, I was not religious and thought nothing more of it.

When we got to the town centre she said she would be back in five minutes and went off before I could get her to leave a bag or something as collateral.  I waited and waited, as instructed, then rang the cab company to find out where she had got to.  I followed instructions from them, which involved waiting a total of over 30 minutes before giving up.

From my point of view it would have been much better if she had just run, which would have put me about £4.00 out of pocket.  By getting me to wait she ended up preventing me from working for a whole hour, which was very frustrating on an evening where cabs are much in demand.

The key point of this post is to look into why she asked me whether I was a Christian man.  I can only assume that she planned to do a runner unless I declared myself to be a Christian, which would be a bizarre interpretation of Christian teaching.  Does it imply she was a Christian? Would her actions have been different if I had given a different answer?

I shall probably never know the answers as I am unlikely to recognise her again, having only had one or two quick glimpses of her.  When people get in the back of the cab I often don't get a good look at them, especially in the dark.

We discussed this on the Skepticule podcast, episode 92.  Available at 

Paul Orton, 27/4/15