Sunday, June 12, 2011
Let the Wrong One In
And she seemed like such a nice lady…
I got on the R train early one morning, headed straight for my favorite seat—the corner two-seater in the first car—and prepared to read and relax as I rode to work.
There was a lady in her fifties sitting next to me and she asked me what I was reading. Lush Life by Richard Price, I told her and we started having a polite chat as we rumbled toward Manhattan.
I’ve had a number of these commuting conversations in my years as a subway jockey and they are often quite pleasant. New York can be a very lonely and unfriendly place, so I always welcome an agreeable encounter.
My companion and I talked about work and traveling and other such day-to-day stuff and things were going quite well, or so I thought.
And then she dropped the bomb.
“So,” she asked in a sly tone, “do you read the Bible?”
Oy gevalt, not one of those, please God. I just wanted a quiet ride to work. I was in no mood to engage in some heavy theological blather.
“Well, yes,” I mumbled. I really didn't want to talk to her, but I didn't want to be rude--even though it was a clear case of justifiable rudeness.
But she was off to the holy races, quoting different passages from the Bible and telling me how she was born again in 1977-- back when I was a sophmore in college and desperately trying to score. She had been visiting her sister and the sister's boyfriend when--presto chango!--she was born again. Or so she claims.
How do you know it wasn't indigestion? I wondered, keeping my thoughts to myself. I don’t know much about this born again business but apparently it gives you the right to harass people on subways.
I sat there listening to this drivel, feeling increasingly jealous of the guy with the Ipod on a nearby bench who had his nose jammed into a copy of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
I have an Ipod that I won in a drawing a few years ago, but I’ve never used it. I think I’ll start packing the thing to work so I can wear the earphones and at least look like I’ve got something better to do than listen to religious crackpots. Of course with some people you could be wearing an old timey diver's suit and they'd still try and save your soul.
Blood and Metrocards
“Who said a priest can forgive sins?” the woman demanded of me. “Who said this?”
I don’t freaking know, lady. Why are you asking me? I just assumed that it was part of the job description. Who said pilots can fly airplanes? They go to school and get a license, so I guess priests have a similar arrangement.
“Jesus shed his blood,” the lady told me. “only blood can cleanse sin!”
Yes, but blood stains are really tough to get out. And this born again thing is starting to sound a lot like a slasher movie.
I find this behavoir so incredbily offensive. First, my religious beliefs—or lack of them—are no one’s business but my own and I’m certainly not going to answer to a total stranger.
I’ll gladly have an intelligent conversation with anyone about religion, but—and this is important--it has to be an intelligent conversation. I don’t want someone haranguing me about cleansing blood and being born again in a disco era delusion.
For the record, I attend weekly services at Trinity Church in lower Manhattan and I’m very happy. The people are great and we keep the bloodshed to a minimum.
And while I know this sounds incredibly naïve, I felt betrayed by this woman. I had thought she started the conversation because she was sincerely interested in me.
Instead she was just another hustler, no different than the guys who walk through the trains peddling pirated DVDs and batteries of questionable ownership. I felt like a rube who comes to the big city and gets nailed by some conman. What kind of self-respecting New Yorker falls for a scam like this?
The lady had to get off at Union Street—praise the Lord!—and on her way out she gave me a flier with an address printed on it.
“Come to our church,” she said over her shoulder.
“Oh, sure,” I said, suddenly feeling born again, just as soon as I get a blood-proof poncho.
Time to dig out that Ipod...