always been a follower, liking to be given a task which I
can see through to its conclusion, and then get praise for
a job well done. I was always the good girl-I let my younger
sister be the rebel; my obedience and compliance showed up
so much more effectively in contrast to her tantrums and defiance.
at an early age that being self-employed was not for me; it
was too important to receive an "atta girl" from
a parent substitute, a boss, or a group leader. At the age
of 47, escaping a 25-year marriage when the children were
off and independent, I got a degree as a tech writer. I then
joined the work force-four hours from home, near Boston. I
wrote ad copy, pulled together slide presentations, worked
as a copy editor for two defense-related companies. I never
showed much brilliance, but usually did a "good job,"
and, for the first time, supported myself. Two layoffs were
traumatic, but I kept on plugging. Only when both parents
and my estranged husband died, and a love relationship of
fourteen years collapsed, all within eighteen months, did
I leave Nashua and return home after fifteen years.
years passed, and my first independently purchased home, a
Woodstock geodesic dome, was sold. I purchased a modest modular
home in an unfashionable area a half-hour away in Greene County.
The IRA given me by my late husband, that I thought would
last me for life, was no longer so strong, I was eating into
the principal, and my California daughter, Laura, said at
the rate I was going, I could only afford to live for seven
more years! I was trying to decide if I really had to go back
to work, which Laura told me I should do, in addition to scaling
down my standard of living.
I moved I'd been a part of a group attempting to rid Woodstock
of a CVS drugstore, which swooped in to take the place of
the local Grand Union supermarket when the latter corporation
went belly-up. Woodstock now had no supermarket, but we already
had another drugstore, an Eckerds, just across the street
from the proposed CVS. Our impassioned letters to CVS, reprinted
in the Woodstock Times, and our attendance at Town and Planning
Board meetings, and other efforts went unrewarded. Every letter
we sent to CVS was replied to by the same form letter, saying
how CVS wanted to be a good neighbor, blah blah.
the building, and was preparing to open. For four months I'd
been living a half-hour away from Woodstock in my new home,
with a fine independently run supermarket five minutes away.
I was asked by Toby, the woman who had spearheaded the anti-CVS
movement, if I would mobilize people for the Woodstock picketing
as I said I would some fourteen months earlier. Now that I
was a distance away, I thought I'd only be peripherally involved,
but I was so touched to be asked I said yes.
me often that I had never attempted to get a group of people
to do anything for me before, but I was so certain of the
rightness of the mission, there was no doubt in my mind it
would be a success. I decided that every day, seven days a
week there would be four shifts of two hours each, starting
at 10 a.m. and ending at 6 p.m.
given a list of fifty names and e-mail addresses of people
who had been involved in the cause for many months, and I
added some new names to it. Toby had additional names of people
who only wanted to get e-mail from her so they wouldn't be
subject to unwanted e-mail spam or computer viruses. When
she received my e-mail for the troops, she would forward it
to her list. My intent was to have each time slot filled by
at least two picketers, so that no one had to picket alone.
believe that with seventy five or so people who were actively
interested in getting rid of CVS, that I couldn't get fifty
to sixty people to commit to two hours a week. If someone
couldn't make her time slot, she would try to get someone
to exchange with her, or, in a pinch, I would fill in. I planned
to kick off each day by sticking four "Boycott CVS"
signs in the ground in front of the CVS building, and would
make sure that the first two people showed up, possibly checking
in during the day to see how things were going, and then,
at the end of the day, I would pick up the signs stuck in
the ground so they wouldn't be picked up by CVS employees
or by the few anti-anti-CVS people.
weekend, two days before CVS was scheduled to open, was the
gala kick-off of the anti-CVS effort, and we hired a professional
actor whose main gigs consisted of appearing at events such
as ours in the character of an old-style, bible-thumping minister,
Reverend Billy. He would, in a loud voice augmented by a bullhorn,
protest the greed of the large corporations whose aim is to
gobble up small towns, eventually causing the town's small
businesses to fail. There were shouts of "Hallelujah,"
"Mercy," and "Amen" scattered through
the crowd of over a hundred people. I signed up several people
for the picketing that was to continue for weeks, months...as
long as it would take for CVS to leave town.
found that I had two picketers in only a few of the two-hour
slots, a few single picketers in a few slots, and numerous
slots with NO picketers signed up. Undeterred, I would start
the day putting out the signs, then I would picket by myself
until the first-shift person or persons joined me. Most rewarding
was the occasional passerby who'd grab a sign and walk with
us for awhile. By this hit-or-miss method we muddled through
the first week. The second weekend was difficult, with so
few people signed up, that I marched for seven hours both
Saturday and Sunday, partly alone. I marveled that my cranky
knees didn't give out. The second week there was a rash of
"no shows," so that I was often there marching alone.
I wondered if people looking at me saw a pathetic person,
a misguided loony, or if they felt guilty.
want people to feel guilty; I wanted them to be inspired and
join me. I would send the reluctant troops upbeat, humorous
e-mails at night, mentioning the time slots that needed an
extra person for the following day, telling them anecdotes
from the day's picketing, trying to avoid the negative stuff,
such as the man who shouted at me and another picketer, calling
us "left-wing trash!" Despite my cheerleading, I
heard from only the few steadfast picketers and Toby, who
called me "Picketing Queen," and supplied me with
much-needed praise and admiration.
a call from Toby on Thursday of the second week, at 8:45 a.m.
saying there'd be a reporter from the New York Times at the
site at 10 a.m. I immediately called about ten people on my
list to try to get them to fill out our picketing ranks for
the interview. It was drizzling, but I wasn't aware of it
as I tore around getting dressed. So, out of the house I went,
mad because I didn't have time to call any other people.
people were ahead of me at the CVS site, and some of our signs
were already stuck in the ground. I stapled together a few
signs with handles out of the wood purchased three days earlier,
to give to our augmented group of picketers, and I added four
more standing signs to the four that were already standing.
morning, for the second time, the opposition (who reportedly
consisted of one "good old boy"-a renegade ex-police
chief) posted a sign on CVS property, which was one of a cache
of about 30, stolen from where we stored them behind a nearby
building. He'd painted out the "CVS"s so the signs
read "Stop Toby" on the one side, and "Boycott
Teran" on the other. Teran is the real estate company
Toby works for. Toby called the police, and the responding
officer removed the offending sign.
kept arriving, so that, at its largest, our group consisted
of about twenty people with "Boycott CVS" signs
and some homemade signs. The drizzle was unrelenting, but
spirits were high. As time passed, Toby muttered to me that
if the reporter didn't show up soon there'd be a lot of annoyed
and soaking anti-CVSers. By 10:45 a few damp demonstrators
slipped away. By the time the reporter arrived, at about 11:15,
there were eight of us left, including the filmmaker Cambiz
Khosravi, who was shooting a documentary about our struggle
with CVS. Little by little, more of Woodstock's activists
reappeared and the reporter interviewed almost everyone. He
must have been there for two hours, and even submitted to
being interviewed by Cambiz. We found that his article would
appear in that Sunday's Times.
exhilarated and agreed that picketing and being interviewed
in the rain made an even stronger impression than it would
on a sunny, mild day. We must have seemed slightly mad to
be out there in the weather, but also stubborn and unrelenting
about the cause we felt important enough to picket for in
the rain. I was so happy to get home and strip off my saturated
garments. It was hours before I warmed up completely.
day it was still raining, and even though I wore a waterproof
rain cape, the rain funneled into the folds, down my neck,
soaking my clothes. I was marching alone for much of the day.
Usually we welcomed the honks and thumbs up signals from passing
motorists. That day when I heard a honk and looked up to wave,
the male driver gave me the finger. I was thoroughly wet and
depressed by the end of that day, and had trouble remembering
why it was so important to do what I was doing.
it was still raining, and no one signed up save for Kiki at
2 p.m. I had decided not to march that day, except that I
wanted to be there for Kiki. I drove to the CVS site, stapled
together a few signs, but instead of setting out the signs,
I stood and waited on the corner for Kiki. By 2:30, I went
home. Kiki later apologized and said that she was parked down
the street, and, not seeing any signs, figured I'd cancelled
because of rain.
that evening that I wouldn't attempt to schedule people to
picket any longer, and I wouldn't put in any more four-to-seven-hour
days on the battlefront. I'd threatened several times, when
people praised me for my forebearance, that it wouldn't last
indefinitely. I guessed that as long as I kept my, sometimes,
lone vigil that those passing motorists honking their approval
wanted to convince themselves that the picketing was more
or less under control, and they wouldn't need to get involved.
I was glad so many showed their support, but was also irritated
that I couldn't get more people to join me.
stopped-cold. Later I found out that some people continued
to picket, and new people joined them, although I was no longer
there to motivate them. Indeed, I'd begun to feel that my
urgings had the opposite effect from the one I intended-I
had become the "general," and the picketers the
reluctant foot soldiers. This confirmed my sense that I wasn't
cut out to be a leader-someone else could have inspired them.
I really would have been happy to be a foot soldier, to put
in my two or more hours each week, get a pat on the back,
and return to my barracks-mission accomplished.
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picketed in two weeks. Sharon Stonekey took my place as Picketing
Queen. She had proved her mettle by fastening anti-CVS signs
all over Woodstock, using a truck and ladder and dozens of
staples to make it difficult to rip down the signs. She was
aided by Jean DesJardins, a local landscaper. I was impressed
by Sharon's athleticism and valor. She also proved to be stubborn
and articulate (a perfect combination for the job) so when
I scheduled the second major picketing (maybe forty people
in all), I was happy to hand the Queen's mantle over to her.
I signed up immediately for two time slots, with the understanding
that I would also pinch-hit for people unable to show up for
their scheduled slots.
a huge relief to me to be rid of the responsible role of Picketing
Queen; I was too thin-skinned and too needy of "atta
girl"s to continue in that role. It depressed me when
slots were left unmanned, and I took it personally when supporters
complained that there were no picketers in front of CVS as
they drove by. For two weeks I averaged five hours a day in
front of CVS trying to fill in for missing picketers, and
to make sure that no one was left unpartnered. Then I'd be
hurt and furious when the people I was there to support didn't
bother to show up. I huffily decided I'd had it with being
following our second mass demonstration I went to picket in
my newly scheduled time slot. Sharon was there, and we got
caught up on one another's news. A woman walking by carrying
an Eckerd's bag informed us that CVS was attempting to open
a third drugstore in a residential neighborhood in Kingston,
and one hundred fifty people protested-it looked as if CVS
was going to back down. This was interesting news, indeed.
guy came up to us and asked us what has become the most-asked
question-hadn't we figured out that CVS was HERE, and that
there wasn't anything we could do about it any more? Sharon
and I patiently explained that the boycott was quite successful,
and that we had every expectation that CVS will ultimately
close the Woodstock store-maybe in six months, maybe in a
year. This was perhaps a bit more confident than we, in fact,
feel. Sharon and I reinforced one another's impression that
pouring on a lot of energy early on would help close CVS soon
rather than allowing it to suffer a lingering death.
told me that there was a "Deep Throat" within the
Woodstock CVS store who told her that the day the large group
of picketers descended with our six huge twice-human-size
puppets (one was a dragon, representing the CVS corporation),
the employees were frightened of us. I laughed, knowing that
we were all really gentle people, and that the most we'd do
is try to get them to see our point of view. We were all sympathetic
toward the employees, knowing that they were earning poverty
level wages. Our quarrel was not with them.
also decided that since she wasn't having much more success
than I had filling twenty-eight two-hour slots, that she would
cut out twelve slots by eliminating Tuesdays through Thursdays,
and concentrating on Fridays through Mondays, the busiest
days in Woodstock. I applauded her decision, one I'd been
reluctant to make.
less than an hour of picketing, I began to have chest pains.
I'd experienced these a few times before, but always at home,
at which time I'd take a couple of aspirin and sit or lie
down. I told Sharon I needed to go to Cumberland Farms across
the street to get some aspirin. I was feeling worse as I went
in the store, and got a bottle of water from the refrigerated
case, returning to the front counter to ask for aspirin. It
was everything I could do to try to look normal; I was starting
to feel faint. The woman clerk asked if I wanted a small packet
of Excedrin or a bottle of Bayer aspirin, and we finally settled
on a small bottle of Bayer. I told the clerk I was experiencing
chest pains and needed to take aspirin to alleviate them.
searching my pockets, I remembered that my money and credit
cards were locked in my car, parked a block away. By this
time I was perspiring and, unable to stand upright, and had
to rest my head on the counter. I asked if I could just swallow
a couple of aspirin with the water before I went to get my
money, and the clerk said: "I can't do that; everything
is recorded on film, and I'll get in trouble." She asked
me if she should call an ambulance, and I said "No,"
I just wanted to take some aspirin. She was adamant about
not letting me have the water and aspirin.
I asked if I could just sit down; I was starting to feel shocky.
She said "Sure," so I slumped to the floor near
the coffee machines, too faint to feel embarrassed. A lot
of people came into the store, would glance at me, then turn
away at the sight, I guess, of such abject misery-was I drunk,
on drugs, or what?
asked again if she could call an ambulance, and again I said
I was sure I'd be all right in a few minutes. She also tried
to call her manager (I guess to find out if it was ever O.K.
to bend the rules and give a possible heart attack victim
a couple of aspirin) but couldn't reach him. I was covered
in sweat, and unable to plead my case and say: "Your
boss will be really annoyed if you let a customer die on the
floor without at least offering her a couple of aspirin."
a well-dressed woman customer, who had just come into the
store, noticed me (it was hard not to, with me sprawled wantonly
on the floor in front of the coffee machines), and asked if
she could help me. I explained my problem the best I could;
even this was a big effort. She asked the clerk if she could
give me some aspirin, and finally the clerk sold her a small
packet of Excedrin. The customer gave me two with a small
cup of water. By the time I swallowed the pills I was already
beginning to feel better. I continued to sit on the floor
as I returned to normal.
Alice came into the store at around that time and asked if
she could help, and I told her I was just recovering from
chest pains and would be fine in a few minutes, and did she
have any money to give the nice lady? I'd forgotten that she
was supposed to deliver something to me while I was on the
picket line; I thought she'd just shown up coincidentally.
The two of them went outside. Later I found out that Alice
had to run home to get money, and, by the time she returned,
the compassionate lady was gone. I was feeling much better,
hauled myself to my feet, and left Cumberland Farms with as
much dignity as I could muster after making a maudlin spectacle
of myself in front of dozens of onlookers.
Sharon in front of CVS and continued picketing for the next
hour, feeling completely normal once again. In the future
I would have to carry aspirin and a bottle of water with me
when I had to leave home, to avoid future public displays.
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