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Mama Deb
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Mama Deb [userpic]
Lady on bus; vegetarianism

I went to a Barnes and Noble after work today, so I took a different route home.

While I was in the bookstore, I saw an old lady in a scooter arguing with the help desk guy, who was trying patiently to figure out what she wanted. When I left, she left shortly afterwards (I have no idea if she found what she was looking for.) The bus eventually arrived. It looked like it was beginning to rain, so it was crowded, and there were many of us waiting for it outside the bookstore.

We all stood aside and the people on the bus moved in so the driver could lower the ramp and raise the seat and she could position herself. New Yorkers are used to this, and there was no grumbling that I could here. However, it did mean that there were two fewer seats on an already crowded vehicle. We pushed in. I

n this model of bus, the rear seats are on a slightly higher level, a couple of stairs up. For some reason, and I'm not going to guess what it might be, no one chose to climb those stairs. I would have, but I was at the front and could not move forward.

In fact, I stood next to the old lady, and she was not happy about that. The only way I had foot placement was to put one between her scooter and a sort of boxlike structure at the front of the bus. She did not like that. "You're not allowed to do that. You'll fall all over me." In fact, my grip was pretty secure and I had nowhere else to go at that point. At the next stop, people got off and I could move back and she scolded the ladies behind me instead.

And one woman did not like that at all. Not at all. "God bless you," she said. "God bless you a thousand times. I have a grandmother who is 92 years old, and I respect old people. God bless you. But do not yell at me. God bless you, but I will not be yelled at." There was also an effort to get other old people seated if at all possible, and she didn't like that there was so much movement.

I did not hear it for myself - I'd moved towards the center of the bus - but apparently, the lady was muttering racist remarks - remarks that were audible to the ladies next to her *and* the bus driver, who was of that race. And, showing the great patience I've seen many, although not all, NYC bus drivers, he kept on driving. And then we came to the lady's stop and the people next to her moved aside and the ramp came down and she rode away.

She was an old lady. She wasn't as mobile as she had been, and she was in an uncomfortable situation and she was afraid people would accidentally hurt her. And no one is asking her to be a saint, but the others on the bus managed with some "excuse mes" and other common courtesies. I didn't hear one word when the baby strapped to his father's stomach cried - babies do, and there's often nothing you can do about it on a bus. I don't know.

But I'm keeping her. And the "god bless you" woman. Because they're real and maybe I'll need them for a story.

As I said before, it's the Nine Days. We're not eating meat (points to the pot of ratatouille on her stove), but if someone has a Siyyum - a celebration of the completion of a course of study, we can.

Mark's mother's sheloshim is tomorrow night. That means she died thirty days previous. In honor of this, Mark has prepared a siyyum, and will be serving meat. I happened to meet him in the supermarket this evening (as I picked out eggplant and zucchini, of course) and he asked me if I knew about it. Then he said, "It's fleish, but that wouldn't be important to you." I immediately assured him we keep the customs of the Nine Days, but he meant that, as we were vegetarians(!), it wouldn't be important.

We've had Mark at our home for meals, and fed him meat, and ate it ourselves. Happily. We've also served him vegetarian because he's nearly one and we pay attention to things like that.

Here's the thing. People are always assuming we're vegetarians. I have no idea why. I mean, do I look like one? What would one look like? I eat a lot of meat. I don't think I'll be starving for it this week, but most of the time, we have fleish for dinner, and usually I have something fleish for lunch as well. I like meat. If I had to give it up for health or financial reasons, or because we were in an area where kosher meat wasn't to be had, I'd manage. I'd probably manage fairly well, in fact. But I'd rather not.

So, I'm confused.


The vegetarian assumption also happened to friends of ours up here. It turned out that because they often had shabbas guests over for milchig meals, everyone assumed they were vegetarians.

In San Francisco there's not a lot of places to eat kosher meat, so it's easier to eat vegetarian when you eat out. As a result it's pretty common for people who are attempting to maintain some level of kashrut to be mistaken for vegetarians, not least because there's a lot more vegetarians out here than people who eat kosher.

I'd actually expect it's the reverse where you live!

That's not it. The people making this assumption attend synagogue with us, or I meet with them on Shabbat afternoon to discuss the Torah.

That's why I'm confused. When I lived in Park Slope and was less strict about kashrut, I ate vegetarian out, but. Never with people from my synagogue. In fact, we'd try to sit so we wouldn't be seen.

And in Park Slope, asking if someone ate meat was normal courtesy because we had a number of vegetarians in the synagogue. I did it myself.

But here? That's the confusing part.

Yeah, it really is. It sounded like you were talking about people from your synagogue...but I couldn't imagine...

Don't know if this clears anything up, but...

One of the things one can pick up as a non-Jew (at least in the small town I grew up in) is: Jewish people have very strict dietary restrictions (some don't know they're laws, not, say health-related), and no way, no how, can you serve a Jewish guest meat, because of [insert reason learned].

This grew into, "If you have Jewish guests, rather than create awkwardness and tension, offer vegetarian meals."

From there, it's a small step to: "All Jewish people are vegetarians."

Seems kind of silly when you break it down like that... but at least where I grew up, it started out as sincere attempt to offer hospitality to people who were too often shunned. Kind of like 'telephone,' but with menus. ;)


But that doesn't apply here. These are Orthodox Jews. Mark's an ordained rabbi as well as an opthalmalogist (and a fan).

There's something about *us* - my husband and me - that makes people think we don't eat meat. And, well. Is it our general - offness? Or my husband's ponytail? Our fannishness? The way we dress? My lack of make-up?

Hmmm. My goodness. They think we're hippies. How cool.

Ah, my apologies. Things get tangled in my head these days...somehow what I read got all turned around!

Fannishness might be part of it... A lot of fannish folks tend to incorporate a lot of non-mainstream practices and views into their lives, from being straight-edgers to...well, whatever. I guess the closest thing to non-mainstream as it relates to food would be vegetarianism. (Which is kind of funny, because depending where you live, vegetarianism *is* mainstream!)

But yeah, the hippie bit is kinda cool. :)

*grin* Congrats on achieving hippy-ness. Now you need a tie-dye snood.