Let me begin by stating that yesterday was magical. Minus the 85 pages of government paperwork that I spent close to four hours completing without an ounce of caffeine in my system, that is.
Yes, yesterday I began my Law and Order-inspired adventure as a legal aid. And while I didn’t meet Olivia Benson, I did meet Ed, a lead detective in the Manhattan Special Victims Unit— shockingly comprised of only nine detectives, and he soon gave me the inside scoop on my department.
Before Ed and I engaged in conversation and court ordered fingerprinting, though, I encountered a young attractive male, a legal intern and rising 3L, assigned to SVU for the summer. He, like me, was waiting in the fingerprinting line; and after four hours in solitary paperwork confinement, he was looking to schmooze a bit.
As is customary, he introduced himself by stating his name: “Chris.” Equally ready and willing to engage in conversation with someone/thing other than the walls, I responded, “Like Christ?” I quickly realized that I had verbalized a thought I intended to keep within the confines of my mind.
Perhaps three hours of bureaucratic confinement had made me crack. In place of my usual adherence to social etiquette, I allowed myself the opportunity to defy the rules, be blunt, and dare to ask the questions a more socially attuned individual might otherwise refrain from asking.
While being blunt is a New York character trait– one for which I should neither be ashamed nor apologetic, the issue in my pseudo-inquisition was not the very act of asking, but the nature of the question being asked. In a less than subtle manner I was telling Chris to state his religious affiliation, which I soon suspected was Catholic when I noticed he had written Brooklyn as his birthplace on the fingerprinting form.
But Chris, unaware of my Jewish roots, did not comprehend the implication of my question. Instead he smiled and said, “My friends call me Jesus.” I commented that while Jesus was a Jew, I doubted the SVU intern before me was of the same theological tradition. He nodded in confirmation, and then like any inquisitive lawyer in training, asked, “You seem slightly obsessed with religious affiliation. Dare I ask, why?”
Having regained some of my social propriety, I refrained from saying my thoughts at that moment, which were: Because I don’t date non-Jews. And, well, if you had said your name was Moses, I would probably have made more of an effort to engage you in conversation. But since you are of the cross-loving tradition, we will likely never be more than fingerprinting acquaintances.
However, what I actually said was, “I was raised an Orthodox Jew, but I am continually intrigued by other religions. I don’t want to convert or anything, just understand other traditions. And with a name like Chris, I thought you could provide some valuable insights.”
And that, avid readers, is how you verbally manipulate your way out of an otherwise awkward social interaction.