“My little hat” and multi cultural Muni

Photo by R.Henry Goins

Timos sent us this great story about the time when the purpose of his yarmulke was questioned by a fellow rider. Read on.

Tuesday was a good day. I didn’t have to work, I had finished the massive overhaul of cleaning my room and I had just finished three excellent crispy tacos from El Faro in the Financial District. I was feeling pretty good.

I walked down to Market street to catch the 6 or 71 to meet my cousin to help her run errands. When the 6 finally showed up, I got on, tapped my clipper card and sat down, listening to music and checking my favorite blogs on my phone.

After a few more stops had gone by, I became aware that the large woman sitting across from me was staring me down. Hard. Like the way a dog looks at a bone. I smiled awkwardly at her and she motioned for me to take out my headphones. I obliged and she pointed at the yarmulke my head and loudly asked “What up wit’ yo’ little hat?”

Now, as a modern, liberal, San Franciscan Jew, I don’t ever really wear the head covering prescribed by the Torah. But every now and then (and since Passover is just a week away) I feel the need to connect with my roots. Go to Temple, wear my kippah and tallit, make myself feel extra Jewy.

So, how do I answer her politely? The bus was surprisingly crowded for the middle of the day, and I detest questions like these because religious practices are weird to talk about in public.

“It’s a kippah,” I tell her. “A head covering to remind Jews that God is above them.”

She nodded, satisfied with my answer. But she had more questions. “So, you’s a Jew then?”

I nodded.

“So, you don’t believe that Jesus died for yo’ sins?”

Crap. Just what I was afraid of. While I am proud about my heritage, I am not well-schooled in defending my faith. And certainly not on a public bus full of people staring uncomfortably at us while my stomach growls loudly because I just crammed down five tacos and a coke.

“Jews have a lot of different ideas about Jesus, but for the most part, no, we don’t believe that.”

Her eyes widened. “But what you gonna do when you die? Wit-out Jesus, you go to hell!” It was almost a plea. Truthfully, although I was annoyed at this conversation, I couldn’t help but feel a little touched. She seemed genuinely afraid for my soul, and she wasn’t being accusatory or belligerent. Over zealous maybe, but I was getting the feeling it came from a good place.

This led to us having a startling meaningful conversation about faith, and how different religions are better for different people. I learned that she was born and raised in San Francisco, and had been homeless for years. Using drugs, alcohol and her own body as a weapon of escape, she cleaned up her act with the help of a church. She now had a job, didn’t steal and was in the process of reconnecting with her family from whom she was estranged.

I told her about my family, my own crazy childhood, and how I also used my faith to pull me out of some dark times. It turns out she and I had a lot in common. As the bus made the left turn off Haight and on to Masonic, I stood up, thanking her for the conversation.

“I ain’t met a Jew before,” she told me as I swung my backpack around my shoulder. “But you seem like a chill people. You’s a good kid, honey. Keep up the good work.”

I hugged her, and told her people like her give Christians a good name. I got off the bus and started walking down Masonic. A homeless guy at the stop for the 43 line asked me for some change, but I apologized; I didn’t have any to give.

“Fucking kyke!” He yelled at me. I sighed.

Just another day in San Francisco.

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