Weekly Update #245

Dear Members and Advocates,
There are a few decisions in my life that I’m not particularly proud of. The first is the obvious. The second, is that at one time in my life I was a smoker. Not a multi-pack-a-day guy, but more of a social smoker. Out for drinks I’d have a few and during the workday I’d step outside for a cigarette just to stretch my legs and have a change of scenery from the cubicle. The job I had was in an office building and instead of going downstairs, I used to stand in the emergency exit stairwell. It was open, almost like a balcony, and it gave me a few minutes of fresh air, sunshine and solitude.

One day, as I was taking my morning break the emergency exit door unexpectedly opened and out came someone. She was about my age, really attractive and apparently knew my secret smoking spot. We smiled, a little bit of small talk and when I was done, I went back inside. I was recently divorced, recently released and focused on trying to get back on my feet. I avoided dating because I didn’t think I was ready, but the truth is it wasn’t dating that I was avoiding, but the inevitable conversation that would come at the start of the relationship that I was avoiding.

A couple of days later I walked out the emergency exit and there she was again. This time a bigger smile, as if she was just as excited to see me as I was to see her. Over the course of the next few weeks I tried to time my cigarette breaks according to when I had previously run into her. It seemed like she was doing the same. In fact, we got so synchronized that half the time I started my walk down the hall, I’d hear the door to the accounting firm she worked at click open. It was cute. We were both clearly doing things to spend more time together, even if it meant having a second cigarette just to get an extra five minutes. From the 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes after lunch, we really got to know each other. We’d talk about work, family, interests, whatever was bothering us or making us happy, and we always had this flirty energy between us.

I was getting clear hints that she was receptive to seeing each other outside the stairwell. “How was your weekend?” turned into “got anything exciting planned for this weekend?”  If I mentioned a place, anyplace, she said “I’m dying to go there but I don’t want to go by myself” and one time one of her co-workers cornered me at the elevator and straight-up asked me when I was going to ask her friend out. I knew I had to address things. Not only did I really want to go out with her, but I didn’t want her to think my hesitation had anything to do with her. After a couple of false starts, I made up my mind one weekend; that Monday morning I’d tell her.

Like the precision of a Rolex, at 9:45, the emergency exit door opened and out she came. Before she could say a word and before I had the chance to chicken out, I blurted, “I really like you and have been dying to ask you out, but there’s something about me I want you to know first.” And then I stopped and looked down at the floor. It was hard to get out the words. As I started debating whether I had already passed the point of no return and had tell her, or whether I should quickly name a disease and call it a day, I felt her hand on my arm. I looked up at her and the expression on her face gave me the encouragement to go forward. It’s as if she was silently telling me, “it’s OK, you can tell me anything”. I turned my head back to my feet and said, “well you’ve heard of the sex offender registry, right?” When the response didn’t come immediately I looked back at her face and the expression had changed. It was as if she was silently telling me, “… except that.”

I went on to explain that a few years before I had looked at illegal images on the internet and went to prison, but I could tell that she wasn’t absorbing any information beyond the fact that I was on the registry. Her demeanor had totally changed and when it was clear neither of us knew what to say next, she announced that she better get back to the office.  She hadn’t even lit her first cigarette. I know it was a lot to take in, but I was really hopeful that by the time I saw her for the afternoon smoke break she’d have digested it a bit and what’s the worst that could happen? We’d still be friends, and who knows? Friends eventually get together, right? I thought it went well.

That afternoon, she never came out. She also didn’t come out the next day, or the next one, …or ever. I was heartbroken for a couple of months. That was mixed with afraid that she’d tell people in the building and I’d have issues at work. Eventually I stopped thinking about it as much and, more importantly, stopped smoking. One day, months later, we passed each other in the parking garage and just said “hi” as if we barely knew each other. It felt like we barely knew each other too. Weird.

That huge rejection was one that I eventually had to get used to because it happened many more times over the years before I eventually met the right person and got re-married. And it wasn’t just in personal relationships. Professional too. Meetings would go great but I’d never hear back. If I didn’t get ghosted outright, I got ridiculous excuses. One time I actually got un-invited to a party! Of course I knew the real reason and half the time I wasn’t that gung ho about the person or the deal regardless, but the rejection didn’t feel good and whoever it came from brought me back to the same emotional state I was in when standing alone in the stairwell.

You’re reading this weekly update and thinking this is hardly an update. Besides, why is he telling us this depressing story? Well it is an update and I’ll explain why…

A few weeks ago, FAC decided that we really wanted to do something bold to get our message out there. What can be more bold than putting up a large billboard on the side of the highway saying the registry is a failure?!?  It was a great idea and something I was very excited to be a part of. We had finally agreed to be more bold in our mission to abolish the registry and these steps we were taking needed to be supported by some strong public awareness in order to go anywhere.

So FAC decided that it would create an advertiser account with a digital billboard company and start placing ads. What should have been a simple application wasn’t. Our login worked, and then didn’t. We’d create a new account and it would disappear. We called customer support and they couldn’t find us. I eventually realized someone must have Googled “Florida Action Committee” and decided we were not going to get an account. OK… so we opened an account under a different entity, and once that foundation was established, we submitted our artwork. Design was rejected… hmmm… we followed the dimensions precisely. One of our members who is a graphic artist put it together, so it’s not formatting. It must be something else.

Of course I knew the real reason, but the rejection didn’t feel good and it brought back that stairwell feeling again. However, I was undeterred. We were trying to drive visitors to our website, which is clearly one sided. Instead, we’ll drive traffic to another website that won’t be one sided. It’ll share no opinion, have no mission statement and not be for or against the registry. It will simply cite statistics from reputable sources, including the government, and contain only the facts. We’ll call it RegistryFacts.com!

We got the domain, we built the site, we redid our artwork for the zillionth time and we submitted. And we got rejected. Again. And Again. And Again. Different billboard designs, different placements, different messaging. This was taking a lot of time and I finally had to ask whether these were legitimate rejections or did we get blackballed by the company and no matter what hoops we jumped through, even if we put up a billboard with unicorns and puppies we’d be rejected. The answer I got wasn’t positive. We were definitely getting rejected no matter what we did.

So again you ask; “why is he telling us this depressing story?” Well the update is we finally got our first billboard approved! We don’t want to announce where it is or what it looks like in case any vigilantes are reading this, but just know that after a lot of persistence and rejection, we were able to reassure the people we were dealing with that FAC is not a “pro-sex offending” organization and we really and genuinely are looking to make our communities safer and afford everyone the opportunity to live a fulfilling, non-offending, life. If they just got to know us and give us a chance, they will discover we’re alright.

And, as I mentioned above, I did eventually get married and to someone much better than “cigarette girl”! While that part is not an FAC update, it all ties into the general message for this week. We are all going to go through significant rejection because of this situation. It’s painful. It’s demotivating. It makes you not try in the first place just to avoid getting the “stairwell feeling”. But I promise you that if you remain persistent, be true to who you are, allow yourself to grieve the inevitable losses but never give up, then one day you will be seen for who you are. And not only seen… but seen by more than 20,000 daily commuters along Florida’s Turnpike in central Florida. So don’t give up!


The Florida Action Committee


Next Monthly Membership Meeting – Thursday January 5 at 8pm ET.  Call 319-527-3487.  Topic: Success of FAC.  The Florida Action Committee President and Board of Directors will give update on accomplishments in 2022 and Goals for 2023.  If you have trouble connecting? Text CALL ME to 319-527-3487 to received a call back and be connected to the meeting.

Next New Membership Orientation Meeting- Thursday January 12 at 8pm ET.  Call 319-527-3487.  No agenda.  Call in to ask about resources, the organization, volunteer opportunities,  or anything on your mind.  Trouble connecting? Text CALL ME to 319-527-3487 to received a call back and be connected to the meeting.

See Calendar of Events – Keep up with Meet-and-Greets in your area, Support groups, Membership Calls, and other events.

For questions and more information contact the Membership Team;   [email protected] or call 833-273-7325,Option 1.Click Here for Calendar and double click on the event to view details and RSVP instructions. Just some of the upcoming events below.Sat Dec 17 – Holiday Open House in private home in Tampa area – 6:30pm-10:30pm.  Pizza, games, contest, and fun.  Space is limited; must be an FAC member to attend. RSVP to [email protected] or text name and number attending to 757-570-2060.

Virtual Holiday Party – Dec 24 (4-10pm) & Dec 25 (noon-6pm) –  12 hours of Entertainment. Call in for fun, entertainment, holiday stories and music.  Spend an hour or more with various county coordinators as your hosts and DJs.  We guarantee to make you crack a smile and laugh aloud as we will bring the party to you!  Watch for more information.

Become a County Coordinator.  NEW Training Class starts week of January 15, 2023.  You are not left alone, you have a team of support to help you.  The only requirement is your desire to HELP us organize your county.  If you are interested in joining the County Coordinator Team, leave message at 833-273-7325, Option 1, or email [email protected]

Letter-Writing Campaigns – If you would like to participate in sending educational information to specific decision makers in Florida, please  contact [email protected].  Volunteers must be willing to proudly identify themselves by using their own name and return address on the letters.

SOME HEADLINES FROM THE WEEK  Please sign our petition!!! We are just shy of 4,000. If everyone shares it with 2 people we can get to 4,500 quickly. 

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With Unity Comes Change -Get Involved and Volunteer Today!Florida Action Committee www.floridaactioncommittee.org[email protected]

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