Off Label

A tragedy of judging and getting it all wrong. A defense of satire. A work of fiction.

The boat is packed this morning— mostly with Protestants of all flavors. (Can anyone really tell the difference?) I suppose the fact that it leaves from a town called “Hingham”, named after a tony Puritan-founded village in the English country, tells the whole story. That people think of the South Shore as the “Catholic Riviera” is as outdated as it is preposterous.

I got on and assumed my position in the corner (do they all know I’m a lapsed Catholic and former altar boy?) dutifully staring at my phone, trying to blend as best I can. A big guy with somewhat doughy features stands beside me, a bit too close for my liking, doing the same. Of course. My guess is Presbyterian, but could be any one of those clannish sects.

In front of us sits a tallish, thin man. With a camel-colored pea coat, Burberry scarf, watertight boots, and brown hair slicked back and parted with a precision even a dreadlocked Rastafarian would have to appreciate, he is the Episcopalian’s wet dream. If he isn’t an Episcopalian, then there are no Episcopalians left in existence. He came directly from Oxford Street to the boat this morning by all appearances. Should any tragic circumstance befall the boat on this trip, surely he’ll rise from his seat, receive total calm and quiet from both commuters and crew without even having to ask for it, issue a few orders in a somewhat nasally voice, before heading to the wheelhouse, grim faced and determined. (If the ship does go down, he would almost certainly be the first to be saved, coincidentally.)

Then there are the other Catholics. An Italian woman, shortish and a bit ‘hippy’ but undoubtedly a fantastic cook and a passionate lover. There is no shortage of Irish Catholics. The white haired thirty-two year old lawyer archetype chatting away with the red-nosed, stocky, wire-haired McSomething the probable bond trader. They likely prefer tea, but choke down coffees with two skim and three sugars to keep up appearances.

The head door slid open a minute ago and a Germanic looking (or was it Scandinavian?) twenty-something woman hurried out. 3-2-1…There it is— the smell only blonde-haired woman can make in public and get away with. If she were Czech or Polish the crowd would have tossed her overboard for her ill-timed Lutheran log. But her black boots and blonde hair sashayed right through the crowd as we held our breath and plunged our noses into scalding hot coffees.

Bringing us to Jews. There are some curly haired women who push their glasses up their formidable if not enormous noses repeatedly while reading paperbacks. Does the Torah forbid mobile? But I’m not so confident in my Oyveydar to accuse them in public. I do, however, have my suspicions.

It’s a statistical anomaly that there are no Asians or Hispanics. Then again, this is the early boat. There is one black. He works on the engines or something and is usually in the boiler room or whatever it’s called. There, he probably sings his negro spirituals in the Southern Baptist tradition begun when his forefathers ran away from their mostly Methodist slave masters.

As we disembark, white Protestants, a few Catholics and possibly a couple of closet Jews, the air is sharp and stinging. The WASP next to me shoots me a glance that says, “You thinking what I’m thinking?” I am and give him a knowing grin.   Time to find a Paki or Ethiopian cab driver. It’s freezing out here.

(RIP Charlie Hebdo. Our labels aren’t working. Can’t we all just get along?)

2 Comments on “Off Label”

  1. buffaloreynolds says:

    I feel badly for the 99%+ of perfectly upstanding Muslims who’ll now (as if they haven’t been already) be under the microscope for their religious beliefs. I do, in the absolute strongest terms, reject those who hijack the conversation, literally, by force. I’ve thumbed my nose at them by watching the South Park Movie and Life of Brian in quick succession. Go screw.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s