Wednesday, February 22, 2006

What are you, stupid?

Small actions can have very large consequences. Actions like moving your wagon to the side of the aisle in the supermarket, helping a woman carry her baby and stroller up the stairs, or
moving away from the table after taking your food at kiddush, can have a profound impact, albeit subtle. On the other hand, a snide remark can forever influence someone's view of the speaker, or of the speaker's people.

Yesterday I found myself in a pizza establishment at lunchtime. Two customers behind me was a woman, in her late 40's or early 50's, who wanted her pizza well done. After the employee took her slice out, she said she wanted it more well done. Immediately before placing the pizza back in the oven, the woman decides to switch slices. So far, so good. The employee takes the pizza cutter, cuts the slice (it hadn't been fully cut) and accidentally cuts off a tiny sliver of the slice.

"What are you doing?"
"You want this slice, no?"
"Yes, I want that slice. But what are you doing?"
"I'm putting this slice in the oven."
"I want that slice. But I want it with the little piece you cut off. What are you, stupid?"

I, along with the girl standing behind me, groaned. Is it really worth getting upset over something so small? To call someone stupid, out loud, in front of hundreds of people? Not to mention what this poor man now thinks of Orthodox Jews. Would it have been too hard to say "I was wondering if you could give me that sliver too?" or just forget about it?

In retrospect, I should said something. The lack of dignity which she conducted herself, the lack of respect displayed for a fellow human being, was just appalling. A short word or two might have prevented the man behind the counter from thinking that all people (or Orthodox Jews) are scum.