I was sitting in the Oakmont Pub in Havertown, Pennsylvania, the other day eating a hamburger when a middle aged man approached me. “Excuse me,” the guy said. “I was wondering if by any chance you are Joe Kleindorf.”
Often I wonder what motivates people to do certain things that I would never do, such as:
Watch reality shows, unless they revel in bad plastic surgery.
Become math majors.
Proselytize for their own religion.
I was sitting in the Oakmont Pub in Havertown, Pennsylvania, the other day eating a hamburger when a middle aged man approached me.
“Excuse me,” the guy said. “I was wondering if by any chance you are Joe Kleindorf.”
Now I don’t happen to be Joe Kleindorf, but I always like to please people. So fighting off my burning desire to say “Yes, I am indeed Joe Kleindorf!” I replied:
“No, sorry, I’m not Joe Kleindorf.”
“Gee, you sure look like him,” the guy said. “Although, now that I see you more closely, he’s a bit younger than you.”
Terrific. This is the guy I wanted to please? Now I wanted to smear my hamburger across his forehead!
“That’s always pleasant to hear,” I joked, half-heartedly.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” he said. “Maybe I’m wrong. Joe is 55.”
Now I longed for a waitress to drop a whole tray of drinks on him.
“Mind if I sit here a minute?” he asked.
Well, why not? I’m all alone here with my hamburger. And, frankly, as a slab of medium-cooked ground meat, it’s not much of a conversationalist.
“Sure,” I said. “My name is Perry.” He told me his name is George.
So far, so good. Inauspicious start to our relationship aside, everything was copacetic now.
“By the way,” he continued, “Joe is a minister of the Church of Jesus Christ Amen Hallelujah 2.0. Ever heard of it?”
“Can’t say that I have,” I replied. “I have heard of Jesus Christ though,” I continued, trying to be constructive. “I always dug his beard. His hair too.”
“Well, that’s great!” said George. “Tell me: What religion are you?”
I mean, what?!
I mean — what kind of question was that?!
Besides being as inappropriate as asking the length of my fingers, it’s kind of an odd question to ask someone whose religion is so ethnically obvious that, once years ago, a clerk armed with a message meant for a Mr. Hirschberg waded through a crowded hotel lounge at great effort to present it proudly and directly to me.
“I’m Jewish,” I answered.
“Well, how about that!” exulted George. “A lot of my good friends are Jewish!”
Really? I thought that one went out with “He’s one of the good ones,” “Sorry, our country club isn’t accepting new members at the moment,” and “Please tell whoever controls the media on Tuesday nights that I’d like ‘F Troop’ back on.”
“You know, there’s a lot about the Jewish people in our liturgy,” George happily continued. “They’re our spiritual forebears.”
Next I expected a reference to their spiritual foreskins, but instead George moved swiftly into the wind-up:
“You might want to stop by Joe’s congregation and visit us sometime, and …”
“Mind if I bring over my beer at the bar and sit with you for a bit?”
Now I was in no mood to please anybody.
“Oh … um … I just remembered, George, I have a 4:00 rumba lesson. I’m getting really good too. I may be up to dancing with a partner by November!”
George graciously accepted my turn-down and politely peeled off, presumably to call Joe Kleindorf and tell him that however cute Jesus’ beard might be, it had failed today to reel in a neighborhood Jew.
I often wonder why some people attempt to proselytize others in the name of their religions. Sure, they think it’s their moral duty to save other people from a fate worse than watching an Adam Sandler/Kevin James movie on eternal loop, but their justification is always based on the presumption that there’s only one set of strict rules for making it to heaven.
If that’s so, we’re living in a universe ruled by the IRS.