Chai Witness

Editor’s Note:  The following story involves an Orthodox Jewish woman and her son.  If you think there is even the most remote chance you will be offended, please exit page left.

I’m sure there’s some kind of deep-rooted, Jungian issue behind this, but as a Jew, when I see my fellow tribesmen doing the very things for which we are often negatively stereotyped, I find it difficult to contain my inner-rage. I just can’t help but feel that any bad behavior by a Jew reflects horribly on all Jews and particularly this Jew, even if I have nothing whatsoever to do with it.  In fact, let me take this opportunity to apologize on behalf of Bernie Madoff;  the rabbis in that New Jersey money- and organ-laundering scheme;  Son of Sam; and of course, Judas.   

About a block into a recent bus ride on a very rainy day, a mangy little boy ran up the steps, began cackling loudly and evilly, and sprawled his sopping wet body out on a row of seats, rendering them useless for anyone who prefers to arrive at work with a dry ass.  Then came his equally mangy mother and his sopping wet stroller, which was quickly dropped on the floor at such an angle that you’d have to step over it to reach the seats her son had not just soaked. I watched as several elderly people struggled to get by, noting that she didn’t bat an eyelash or acknowledge the blockade. Eventually, I lifted the stroller myself so people could get past it without risking spinal cord injury.

The mother then launched into an inappropriately loud tirade in which she accused her son of dropping his hat in a puddle on purpose so that she would have more laundry to do and thus, drop dead from exhaustion.  Based on the fact that the kid was picking his nose and decorating the windows with what he excavated, I just didn’t get the feeling he was that calculating.  However, I don’t think anyone on the bus would have blamed the kid if in fact he HAD been plotting her death by washing machine.

It was pretty clear from their attire, the length of the little boy’s hair and the name on his book bag that they were Orthodox Jews, a fairly common sight on the Upper West Side. As the other bus riders exchanged looks of disbelief, my face started burning with collective shame and I very much hoped I passed for an Italian that day.

I didn’t have much time to plot MY fantasy murder of this woman, because breakfast was served.  She handed the kid a a tub of  kosher cottage cheese that actually contained a runny egg.

“Eat it with your hands bubbala.  No I don’t have a napkin. Use the seat.  Go on. Wipe your hands on the seat. Isn’t that the best egg you ever had? Isn’t it nice of Mommy to make you breakfast? Aren’t you going to thank Mommy? [SIGNIFICANTLY INCREASED VOLUME] SAY THANK YOU TO MOMMY OR I’M NOT READING YOUR SPECIAL BOOK!”

Whoa.  WHOA.  Oh man. Say thank you, kid, so we can all start the day with a “special book” read to us in that mellifluous voice. I BEG YOU, kid, say “thank you.” 

He did not.

But out came the special book anyway. And guess what?! It was “The Story of Purim.”

Oh for the love of GOD. 

What better way to show your hatred of someone than by naming a pastry after them?

In a ridiculously dramatic manner, the mother commenced her high-volume reading of the tale of Esther, Mordechai, King Ahasverus and of course, the evil Haman (who hated the Jews but for whom they nonetheless named a delicious cookie– see Hamantash).

A highlight, for your pleasure. Please insert the most annoying voice you can possibly conjure.

Mother: “And they made the Jews work on SHABBOS! Can you believe that bubbala?! The SHABBOS!”

Kid: And did we KILL dem?

I looked around at the other bus riders — some of whom, the odds are, were fellow tribesmen as well. Everyone had the same look of utter horror on their faces.  Big, fat, OY.

No, no we did not kill “dem.” But please, kill ME!

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Chai Witness

The Wheels on the Bus

In an effort to fuel my blogging momentum, I shall now share a brief New York tale for the “What is WRONG With People?!” files. This morning, in a rare moment of mass transportation luck, I was able to get a solo seat on the 86th Street crosstown bus. This is highly unusual, as the bus is often jam-packed during rush hour. Furthermore, it was a particular blessing today, because I was feeling a bit self-loathing and it meant that the unfairly gorgeous Israeli girl I see every time I ride that bus – the one with the unfairly perfect body and unfairly ginormous Tiffany engagement ring – would be out of my line of vision. I could pretend that my jeans were not ridiculously tight and that my under-eye circles did not really make me look like I had recently used a Sharpie to craft decorative half-moons on my face.

Somewhere after Second Avenue, a woman began invading my personal space as she stood in the aisle, freakishly close to my seat. There was no real reason she needed to do that, but people are odd, so I didn’t think that much of it.  She wasn’t old – I’m guessing mid-50s – and had no obvious physical handicaps, and I didn’t think to offer her my seat.  I fully admit that this might have been rude, but it was not deliberate – I truly just didn’t think to do it, for whatever reason. 

About a nanosecond after I realized she was giving me the evil eye and that I probably should have offered her my seat, I heard a very cute little boy – approximately three and toting a sandwich bag full of toy trucks – tell his nanny that he was quite tired and wished he could sit down. Again, I’m not sure why, but I did tell the little boy he could have my seat since I was getting off at the next stop. He thanked me in the kind of voice I’d give one of my stuffed animals and I knew it was the right thing to do.

But before I could even stand fully upright, the space invader dove into the seat with incredible speed, knocking me off balance and mortifying everyone who saw what happened. She’d heard me tell the little boy he could have the seat.  She could SEE that he was just a little boy! She literally stole the seat from him. The surrounding bus riders all called her names and conveyed their disdain for her action. I couldn’t bring myself to look at her face, because I feared she’d say something really mean and my whole day would be ruined.  Mostly, I just felt bad for the little boy, who probably didn’t understand why I’d told him he could sit down when in fact, he could not.

“Don’t worry. You’ll get an even better seat in a minute,” I said, and then was very happy when a man much older than the space invader stood up and instructed the little boy to take his newly vacated spot.  I continued to feel appalled for the duration of my subway ride downtown to 23rd Street.  I snapped out of it only when my boss called to tell me he was picking up Krispy Kremes for our impending trade show meeting.

Unreal. What is WRONG with people?

The Wheels on the Bus