“My little hat” and multi cultural Muni

SF MUNI 14
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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