Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Peanut Butter and Prosletyzing Cabbies

I always seem to get the prosletyzing, talk radio-obsessed, weirdest cabbies that DC has to offer. It all began about six years ago, when a cabbie told me, "Why go to Eastern Market when you can go to...heaven?" Is heaven a two-zone or three-zone trip? From there on out, every cab ride has been Iraq, CEO salaries and Jesus. Lots and lots of Jesus.

Saturday's cabbie, however, was of a special breed. Before I had even told him my address, he launched into a dissertation on marriage, divorce, and how "Jesus keeps marriages together." Block after block and neighborhood after neighborhood he explained his view. Somewhere around Shaw, I asked him if he'd ever been married. Nope. (It's always nice when someone holds forth on a subject about which they have no personal knowledge!) He picked right up with the divorce tirade.

I don't really seek validation from strangers, but by this point I was very bored. So I mentioned that I had been divorced, and that maybe we ought to change the subject. Instead, the cabbie pulled over the car and asked, "Are you Jewish? Because Jesus keeps marriages together."

If I was a better, smarter person, I would have kept quiet. Come to think of it, if I had any sense whatsoever, I would never have said a word in the first place. I would have pretended to go to sleep. But, no, I told him that I was, in fact, Jewish. (A total fabrication, unless you count the time in eighth grade that I played Laurie in a community theater production of Brighton Beach Memoirs.)

As a desperate ploy for self-amusement, I began making up my own brand of Judaism. Peanut butter isn't kosher. Legumes in general will make you unclean unto the seventh day. I spent the next ten minutes inventing a religion. Had you given me 15 minutes, I probably would have re-invented Scientology.

My fake Judaism made me think about my belief system in general. And it's as fuzzy as can be. I believe in God, but I'm not much for organized religion. I believe in marriage, but not weddings. I'm pro-life for me, but pro-choice for everyone else. I don't care about money, but I love to shop. I'll obey the rules, unless the rules strike me as unfair. Or even if the rules are somewhat inconvenient. I worry about taking moral shortcuts and intellectual dodges, and some days I count the compromises I've made and I feel slightly ill. Then I think about all the ways I've lived by my principles, and I feel better.

Welcome to the world, huh? I'll probably always fall short, screw up, and say the wrong thing. But I think from now on I'll avoid inventing religions. Even if the person asking me is really, really annoying.

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