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Worshipping the god of convenience

This morning, I came across a man who had kneeled down to pray on the sidewalk, facing a local 7-11. He was basically aligned with the center of the store, making it look as though he was praying to some previously unknown god of 7-11. The snatches of prayer I heard seemed to be in the “your unworthy servant” genre — perhaps he had spilled some of his Slurpy, or made a mess in the condiment area the last time he got a hot dog there.

Another guy I’ve come across more than once, in widely separated areas: an apparent “Jew for Jesus,” who intersperses his prayers with what seem to be Hebrew words along with long, seemingly memorized passages that, as in the preaching clip on the first disc Godspeed’s Tiny Fists, have scripture-like cadences, etc., but don’t actually correspond to any scripture verses I’m familiar with. He seems to favor bus stops, and the worst part is that he will stand right outside the door when people board, so that you don’t know whether to pause and let him on — and you are of course in utter dread of the possibility of him getting on and continuing his discourse. On the occasions when he has actually gotten on, however (sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn’t), he has not preached during the actual bus trip.

A favorite genre of crazy guys talking to the air: black supremacists. More than once, I’ve come across them on the Dan Ryan branch of the Red Line (meaning I’m the only, or nearly the only, white person on board), and I’ve determined that they’re sufficiently confident that God will wipe out the white race that they have no interest in me in particular. On one occasion, however, a white woman travelling to U of C who was not familiar with that type of discourse essentially latched onto me after we both exited a car on which a black supremacist — in this case, one claiming to be the reincarnation of Moses, Jesus, Muhammed, et al. — was elaborating his views. While she seemed to be concerned for her safety, my main complaint was that I was just trying to get some reading done and couldn’t while he was talking — though presumably that’s the least I deserve as a white person.


September 1, 2010 - Posted by | public transit, religion


  1. have scripture-like cadences, etc., but don’t actually correspond to any scripture verses

    This was a nice moment in The Last Exorcism, where Cotton “preaches” the banana bread recipe.

    I think I may have mentioned this before, but my grandmother is essentially a crazy street preacher. I don’t even know when she converted to Christianity — she used to be whatever it is that people are in the old country, Buddhist or folk-religionist, or whatever — but in her case the zealotry of the converted has not abated over the decades.

    The thing is that despite having lived in the U.S. for nearly thirty years she hasn’t managed to learn any English, so for the most part her street sermons are unintelligible. This might not be a bad thing, except that one of her memorized phrases is “believe in Jesus or you will go to hell,” of which she’s only able to pronounce the “go to hell” part in a way that can reasonably be understood by a passer-by. I do worry that this might anger someone someday, but she’s like 90 years old, 60 pounds and obviously a little nuts — you’d really have to be a jerk to get mad at her. On the other hand, there are a lot of jerks in downtown Los Angeles. She’s suffered something of a decline in health lately, which has caused her to scale back her evangelical duties, which is probably a good thing.

    Comment by jms | September 1, 2010

  2. There’s a guy here who doesn’t do any sort of preaching, but he sits in a coffee shop I frequent and compliments nearly every customer who comes through the line.

    These are usually along the lines of “Hello! How are you on this beautiful day, my handsome and intelligent friend?” I don’t know for sure that he’s even a little bit crazy, but he has sat there and complimented ten straight people in a similar manner.

    It’s actually kind of funny, because when he does it to you you’re kind of like, “Well, that’s a little odd but nice to hear.” Then he does it to some troll-looking fellow and you think, “You whore!” and don’t feel as special.

    Comment by Matt in Toledo | September 1, 2010

  3. “Hello! How are you on this beautiful day, my handsome and intelligent friend?”

    I’m going to start saying exactly this as often as possible.

    Comment by ben | September 1, 2010

  4. It does have a nicer ring that “‘sup?”

    Comment by Matt in Toledo | September 1, 2010

  5. At Penn Station, a man once exclaimed, “What a handsome Jewish couple!” at my dad and stepmom.

    Comment by k-sky | September 1, 2010

  6. It’s a shame that ‘handsome’ has gone out of fashion, especially in reference to women. I sometimes start using it after reading (or, more likely, watching) Austen, but I can never keep it up.

    Comment by Rob L | September 1, 2010

  7. I had a VERY long argument with my mom once because I said handsome could be used to describe a woman. I said I wish it would catch on as a way to describe attractive women who you wouldn’t necessarily call pretty. She said nope. Handsome is for men.

    Comment by Matt in Toledo | September 1, 2010

  8. Handsome used to be for women as well and I myself have used it for women.

    Comment by ben | September 2, 2010

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