Encounter on OOT Avenue

Walking through residential OOT with an OOT friend. We approach a corner and wait for a car to make the turn before crossing. The car contains two guys; the one in the passenger seat hangs out the window, smiles, and says, “Good morning, howarya?”

“Good morning, howareyou?” replies my friend.

“Really?” I ask, incredulous.

“What?”

“Whattaya mean what? He was flirting with you.”

“No he wasn’t, he was just being friendly and saying good morning.”

“Where I come from, getting all friendly like that is hitting on a girl.”

“Where you come from, the only guys who ever say good morning are the sleazy ones loitering on street corners who croon, ‘Good morning honey’ at you. ”

“Okay, so?”

“This isn’t where you’re from. People are just nice here.”

I was skeptical.

Naturally, she brought it up as a humorous point with some neighbors in shul when we arrived. They laughed. At me. “Of course he was just being friendly. People say ‘good morning’ around here.  It’s normal.”

I’m still not convinced. I mean, lots of people drive past without hanging out the window and saying good morning. Am I paranoid?

Off Topic: Jewish Geography Via LinkedIn

I’m not a serial LinkedIn connector, but last night I did scroll down through the “You may know these people list.” Basically, LinkedIn finds people with whom you share numerous connections and suggests that you might know them too.

There were colleagues, classmates, and friends-of-friends, but then it got weird. There were people I didn’t know at all. The only common denominator was that they were affiliated Jews. The list went on and on with 2nd degree connections named “Joel” and “Greenberg”. I stopped looking when a guy I dated appeared (no, that’s not a professional network connection).

I guess to a certain extend Facebook does the same thing, but it doesn’t display the degrees of separation or the number of connections. I mean, who are those six friends I share in common with Judith Isenstein? Or Gila Horowitz? Why haven’t we met until now at some Shabbos meal?

And what about those five connections to Yitz Fryman, attorney, Greater New York Area? He’s not even in my age group. Why do so many of my colleagues know a lawyer?

And what’s up with Ari Levovitz, EIT? I thought I’ve been set up with every engineer in the tri-state area already. Is he new? Or is he married?

OK, time to stop. This way lies some sort of stalking. I put my foot down and refuse to click to see who our connections are. But here’s the basis for a tool that could map the entire orthodox Jewish world! Just imagine: when you meet someone you wouldn’t have to ask ab0ut their school or city. You’d just load up the Jewish Geography app and check:

“Hm, we share a connection to Zalman. How do you know him? I worked as a summer camp counselor with him. And you know Sarah! She was my neighbor growing up in Teaneck…”

Off Topic: Howarya?

Hello.

How are you?

To be honest, I don’t care. I only ask because everyone else asks, and I don’t want to be ruder than I am naturally. But I wish they wouldn’t. It’s so insincere. I mean, seriously, who cares?

The first time someone ever greeted me with “Howaryou” instead of “Hello” I gave an honest answer. The first few times, actually. It was the first person I’d met from the Midwest, and after a while I realized I was getting funny looks when I answered “tired” or “bored” or “awesome!” So I keyed it down and answered with a generic “fine” and the universe righted itself again.

At this point in my life, I’m thinking it’s some dumb Midwestern politeness, because if come from west of Delaware you can’t seem to just acknowledge people. You also need to pretend to care how they are.

And it’s not like they even listen for your response. I’ve had the following conversation multiple times:

 

Me: Hey, whatsup?

Midwesterner: Fine, thanks, you?

Wait, what were we talking about again?

 

And then, just the other day, I had this one:

Me: Hello, howarya?

Midwesterner: Hello howarya?

Me: I asked first.

Midwesterner: Wha—?

Hello! Do you even listen to yourself?

 

This led me to believe that the person doesn’t need any response at all. They’re asking merely for their own gratification. So now I let the conversation go like this:

 

Midwesterner: Hellohowarya?

Me: Hi.

 

And guess what. Nobody has ever chased me down the block going, “But you didn’t answer! How are you doing?”

 

This dynamic is highlighted when you’re approaching/passing someone in the hall.

Me: Approaching greeting zone  Hello

Midwesterner: Hello, howarya? As we pass

Me: Dying slowly, you? Ten feet distance and receding fast

 

Take a guess on whether the person turned around and asked, “Oh, is there anything I can do?” That would begin a conversation, which nobody really wants to have, because nobody really cares, which is why we ask the question while moving apart at the speed of feet while not actually listening for a response.

 

Therein lies the dishonesty. I mean, think about the people about whose wellbeing you really care. Do you say hello while brushing past? No, of course not. When you see them you stop and block the hallway and have a proper conversation. There’s no need to ask “howarya” because you’re either about to get a full update, or you got one earlier.

 

Am I the only one bugged by this insincerity?

 

The influx of Midwesterners into the tri-state area is damaging the integrity of our greeting process. Instead of being able to just nod, or smile, or say “hello,” we now have to also ask how people howtheyare. Keep this up, and we’ll soon be going through elaborate, Japanese-style ceremonies every time we bump into someone at the water cooler. Soon, people will be afraid to walk out of their own homes, for fear of meeting someone they have to greet.

 

We have to stop this now. Please, for the sake of our open and friendly society, don’t ask anyone how they are unless you actually care about the answer.

My Pesach Fling

Long long ago I mused about how nice it would be if men vied for our attention the way bucks vie for that of a doe. Well, over Pesach it happened to me. Sort of. Not with men, and not with bucks.

I was strolling along a creek on a damp day last week when I heard a repetitive trilling coming from the other side. A bird I’d never seen before, black capped with two white neck rings, and a brown back, was trilling, then spreading his orange fantail, and then trilling again. I watched, fascinated, wondering if there was any audience for him out there.

It became apparent that there was—me. Very shortly the young sir was on my side of the creek, strutting not two feet from my shoes. He strutted, trilled, and fanned out his orange tail for me. Like his intended bride, I was fascinated. By the tail, and by the fact that I’d never had a bird so close to my shoes before (aggressive NYC pigeons do not count as birds—they’re some kind of mutant).

Things got even more intimate. After showing off for me for a few minutes, he got impatient, and hurled himself at my shoe.

“Whoa!” I said. “Don’t rush things!” Hurt at being so repelled, he bounced back a few feet to preen his feathers. “Look, don’t take it personally,” I tried to explain. “I just don’t think I’m really your type. We’re not meant to be.”

He was clearly smitten, because he ignored me completely, and began the marching again.

“I’m sorry,” I said, stepping around him. “It’s not you—it’s me.”

There was a devastated silence behind me. I walked a few feet and then turned around.

The little bird was watching. Tri-i-i-ill? he asked hopefully.

“No, really no,” I said. And walked away.

He got over it. A few minutes later I heard him at it again, singing into the empty field.

Comparison Living

Last night I ran around to every supermarket in the neighborhood (there are no groceries) looking for Cortland apples. I skidded reluctantly into the expensive one at 8:29pm.

“You just made it,” the guy at the door said. “We close at 8:30.”

“I just need a minute to grab some Cortland apples,” I explained. “Nobody else has them.”

“That’s because they’re out of season,” the guy explained. “You can only get them for a couple of months in the fall.”

I decided not to get all Magic-Schoolbus-Phoebe on him, but in my old city, you can buy Cortland apples all year round! (And past 8:30pm too. Heck, you can buy anything, even shoes, at midnight if you want. That was a shoe store, right? Right?)

Every now and again I run up against a comparison between life in New York and life out here in Mediumcity, USA. New York doesn’t always come in ahead. Sometimes it’s behind. Sometimes it’s a tie. Sometimes you just can’t tell.

Take the housing arrangements, for example. I’ve got my own apartment, which means if I ever decide to take up yoga I can twist myself into knots while loudly intoning “Ohm!” to zen music in the living room without disturbing anyone or eliciting any comments.  I can sing along while I do the dishes and nobody bugs me for an encore. I can pack the freezer to the brim with pre-made lunches and dinners, and the milk in the fridge is always mine.

But then again, when I feel in the mood to beat a real person at Settlers (instead of some German teenagers online), I need to go hunt people down via sms. And then I realize that I’m already in my pajamas and too comfortable to actually move, and the same probably applies to everyone else. So I stay put and have another go at those poor Germans.

In New York I’d just have to stick my head out of the hall closet where I’d be living and invite whoever is inhabiting the bathtub and the couch to join me in colonizing the island of Catan. They might have trouble hearing me over the zen music piping through their earbuds, but not over their timid, subsonic, don’t-mean-to-disturb-anyone “ohms.

Earlier this winter I conducted an empirical analysis to ascertain at what optimal temperature I should leave my apartment during the day. In New York, where the huge buildings generate enough internal heat to conduct bikram yoga in every apartment, even when you turn your thermostat down to frigid, there are only two temperature settings: window open and window closed. The great joy of filling a spreadsheet, best-fitting an equation to a scatterplot, and generating pretty graphs would have been lost to me. Then again, I wouldn’t be paying for heat. You gain some you lose some.

…and some things are the same everywhere. Like the gospel meet that goes on in the apartment over my head every 4th Sunday, complete with what sounds like 30 women and one pastor singing hymns between inspiring mini-sermons. That, I’m sure, would wind up above me anywhere.

Reposts: Hilchos Dating Series

Way back in my heyday I wrote a series on the halachos of yeshivish dating. I’ve long since abandoned most of them. The first one is about kavanah in dating. Or, actually, who knows about what when.

Rereading it, my favorite line is the following:

“…But for the rest of us, it’s a surprise, like a second birthday.

OK, maybe not quite like a second birthday. At this point, we’re trying to keep our age down, so extraneous birthdays are not all that wonderful.”

I mean, seriously. I was 21. Four years later, I begin to wish I’d skipped even my annual birthday.

The second post was about hachanah, or preparing for a date. Boy did this one drive me up the wall the first few times. There are two types of people in society: the type who make the rules about what is normal. They never think or worry about it – they just do, and this creates standards. Then there are the types who accept the standards created by the first type, and anxiously strive to fit them. I’m in the second type for sure. So not having a handbook on what to wear for a first date left me wringing my hands.

“The Flatbush friend said any nice Shobbos outfit would do, as long as it was a suit. The Monsey friend claimed it had to be a black suit. Miss Dater from Queens said a suit was overkill—this was a date, not yet the wedding. The Far Rockaway contact said a nice sweater set would be optimal. The Lakewood advisor told me the outfit doesn’t matter, it’s the heels that make a difference. I I finally threw down the phone and thought, Help me God— Oh wait, don’t. The last time God took care of the clothing for a date, both parties were naked.”

The secretiveness surrounding dating was the subject of two posts: Shtikah 1 and Shtikah 2.

The first is about keeping things from the neighbors – those pesky people with binoculars who sigh and reach for their Tehillims whenever you walk past with a bare head. The second is about not being seen on a date.

“Yep, within two hours, while he was on a bathroom break, I was smiling at an elementary school teacher of mine—and not one I’d gotten along with either. …I sincerely believe that dating is a natural process  and therefore not something to be embarrassed about. The embarrassing part was her sweet, sympathetic, hopeful, and well-wishing smile. It’s difficult to pack so much unwelcome friendliness into a smile, but she did it.”

That was the most exposed I got on a date (including eating in the same restaurant as my boss once) until that ice cream date mentioned in the Extreme Dating post.

Friday Repost: One Big Happy Family

I’m always bemused when people try to redt shidduchim for people they don’t know on the basis of knowing their family. Then again, maybe this is tied to the often astonished statement people make to me: “Everyone in your family is so different!” Well yes.  And trust me on this: the world doesn’t need multiples of any of us. One unique version is more than enough.

But maybe some families are like that. A bunch of very similar bunnies all popped out of the same chocolate mold. Or maybe there’s some generalization you can make about the family that also applies to every member of it. Like “they’re all so different! I’m sure you’ll love the daughter that I never met.”

Anyway, this one is a fun post about family. Enjoy.

Off Topic – But Really Interesting

Okay. By now you’re probably bored to tears of the 2012 election coverage. Blah blah blah. Same old people saying the same old boringly wrong stuff.

That’s why this is an intriguing idea: Americans Elect 2012. While I don’t quite get if their strategy makes legal sense, in short: get moderates to register what they care about, match them up with politicians, technocrats, or real people who share their ideas and are interested in office, and then get them there, from outside the two-party system.

It’s also fun in a Web 2.0 sort of way. You get quizzed on how you think the country should move forward, and they show you how many other people in which states thought the same way, and how you rank in your level of concern against the site average.

Then you can browse a listing of  executive potentials and how they answered (or would answer) the same questions. You can track the ones who strike you as right-headed.

It’s an interesting social experiment, if nothing else. And I know it’s a bright 300,000 who are already using it, because the 3rd most tracked potential is Jon Huntsman, my personal republican fav, but who doesn’t even get ranked in The Economist. (Least tracked person: Clarence Thomas.)

There’s also a debate section where you can post questions for political candidates to answer. I have no idea who is going to ask them when, but it’s fun to skim and hit the plus or minus button on them.

Anyway, hop on over and check it out.

Wanted: Photograph of a Woman in Black in Action

I reread this post with a half-smile. How naive it seems, to look around imaging the Women in Black carry notebooks and telescopes.

I once met a Woman in Black at a wedding. I don’t know what number MF it was. Her post has no official number on it. But she was a good friend, and I knocked up some of the best shtick to ever see the women’s side of the mechitza. Pardon my modesty.

Anyway, I was rescuing my stuff from a couple of little kids when a Woman in Black approached me. “Excuse me,” she said, “But do you know the blond girl in pink?”

I sure did. This clueless OOTer had showed up from Texas in pink, believe it or not. We’d driven to the wedding together.

“She dances so nicely. I think I know a boy for her.”

I caught my mouth gaping and closed it. She dances so nicely? The Texan Lass must be some kind of honeybee, able to dance a message about her ideal mate. No wonder I had never caught the eye of any Woman in Black. I just… danced.

I told the WiB as much as I knew about Texan Lass, which wasn’t much. It was only after she glided off that I realized something: the WiB hadn’t asked me anything about myself. Surely, as grand shtickmistress of the wedding, I had cornered just a small piece of spotlight, garnered a tiny piece of notice? Been, as they say, seen?

It seemed not. I hadn’t been seen at all. Well, as anything besides a fount of information about bright Texan Lassies.

Humph.

Big Sister is watching. Just not watching me.

The Best Kind of Shopping (2 of 2)

In part 1, I extol the virtues of online shopping. You don’t wind up with your arms full, you don’t have to go out into the weather, you can find whatever you need easily, and you can do it all while lying flat on your back in bed. 

Until I discovered another sort of shopping with pretty much the same benefits and experience. 


I am talking, of course, about mattress shopping.

I strolled in intending to bounce on a few mattresses and walk out with the cheapest thing they had. I don’t know if pillowtops and fancy add-ons help you sleep better, but I do know that they are dreadfully difficult to get out of in the morning. As such, I didn’t see any advantage in having one. Getting up in the morning is required for my job.

But the saleswoman was busy, so I flopped down on the nearest piece of merchandise to wait. She was busy a little bit longer, so I rolled over and tried another one.

Soon enough I’d arrived at a high-density Tempurpedic. I sank in and it molded around me like soft butter. Aaah. I could stay there forever. If this is what you get for being an astronaut, I totally pursued the wrong career path.

Naturally, I was a little peeved when the saleslady showed up. But it transpired that she didn’t expect me to move. Indeed, she encouraged me to test out all the more expensive mattresses for as long as I desired. She recommended that I try the pillow provided at the headboard.

Oh, right. Pillow. I wiggled upstream until I found it.

“Have you got a blanket too?” I asked hopefully. It had been a long day. But no. They could not encourage appearances of vagrancy.

The saleslady perched on the next bed over and we discussed what I was looking for in a mattress. She, personally, owned the next bed over, and recommended it highly. I pried myself out of the butterdish and went to test it out.

It was like sleeping on a cloud.

“That’s it. I’m here til closing,” I said, sinking back. My mattress shadchan laughed and told me that it came with a pillow and mattress protector and offered to bring me all the paperwork right where I lied.
I flipped over to check the price tag.

Whoa!

And I thought I had sticker shock in Nordstrom. I could shop all day in a department store and not total enough to match the cost of this piece of foam – something I’d only use while unconscious.

“Um, no, maybe not,” I said. “Let me go try a few on that side of the room.”

Still: I could get used to this kind of shopping. It’s almost as good as shopping online.

The Best Kind of Shopping (1 of 2)

If I had grown up in a world without internet shopping, I’d walk around in rags.

I hate shopping. It’s one long nuisance from beginning to end. First, you’re carrying something. Either it’s a jacket or a handbag. Either way, your hands aren’t completely free, and that bothers me like almost nothing else. I’m the girl who still uses a backpack to tote things around because it’s completely hands-free.

It’s not like I live in a world where I need my hands free to punch attackers or clamber up walls at a moment’s notice. I just like them available to do what they need to do – like flip through racks or hold up two things for comparison. Hands are handy tools, but only if they’re not being used as storage racks – a task just as ably done by an otherwise useless back or waist.

When you shop online, you don’t have to touch anything but the mouse, leaving one hand free for a mug of steaming hot chocolate or a fork full of pancake and dripping with syrup.

Then there are the racks themselves. Do they offer a MFA in store organization? Some stores organize by brand. Some by the dressiness of clothing. And some use a bizarre logic that designates some items “contemporary” and others “misses.” I’ve never understood where a contemporary miss is supposed to look, or why there’s no “vintage” or “ma’am’s” section.

Online, you can shop for exactly what you need. Orange top, ¾ sleeves?  Just check off the boxes and see what comes up. Want to know if there are any skirts that will cover your knees? The length is listed with the skirt, so all you need to know are you own personal measurements – something you’ve undoubtedly saved to an email in your inbox.

Oh, there are always surprises when it arrives in the mail, but as long as you’re within driving distance of a brick and mortar store, returns are no hassle at all. And the act of breezing in and out of the store without flipping a single hanger gives me immense joy.

Not walking into a store means fewer unexpected expenditures. You know, like when you dash into Marshalls to grab a spatula and somehow find yourself at the dressing room, with an ancient crone trying to decide whether to give you a number 5, because you’re carrying five items, or a 2, because the immersion blender, boots, and box of Jelly Bellies aren’t going to be tried on. (Spatula? Oh right, the spatula. Have to remember to get the spatula on the way out.)

And let’s not forget the greatest advantage of all. Online shopping can be done from a supine position in one’s overnight wear without the necessity of braving elements of any sort.

It’s just so comfortable. More than any kind of store shopping.

Or so I thought. Until I found a store where supine was a standard shopping position (prone wasn’t discouraged either).

To be continued in part 2