You’re not going to believe what happened to me today.
No, seriously, just stop reading right now, ‘cause you’re not going to believe me.
Are you sure?
So it all started yesterday, when I was driving my brother home to Center City from the suburbs of Philadelphia. I was planning to drive down I-95 straight from his place to surprise my parents, who were on vacation in Delaware and had invited me to come along. I hastily packed everything of vital importance for such a trip – ie., enough medicine to take down a reasonably well-trained militia, my guitar, and my laptop.
Sadly, the laptop’s adapter only made it about halfway into the car, and just before I got on the highway, I heard a loud CRACK, which turned out to be the sound of an adapter cord being sucked into a car tire. As for my hubcap, all I can say is that it is now in a Better Place (the curb of Wynnefield Avenue). I immediately pulled over to the side of the road, and got out to inspect the damage, accompanied by my brother’s ever-helpful taunting and laughter.
I knelt down beside the tire to inspect the damage, a feat that was made entirely pointless by the fact that I could not fix a broken tire if held at gunpoint (in fact, if ever put in that exact situation, I would probably just remain still, and trust that my mere presence would cause the gun to spontaneously combust). Nevertheless, I did my best to tie up the ends of the ensnared wire, and then got back in the car to finish driving my brother home to Center City.
As I pulled up next to a fire hydrant on my brother’s block, I decided to call my parents to see if it was indeed safe to take the car on such a long drive with only half-a-tire (Note: this is not recommended), only to notice that my phone was no longer there.
“You probably dropped it when you knelt down to fix the tire,” said my brother. “Good luck with that,” he added helpfully.
In a panic, I hastened back toward where I had pulled over earlier, my only landmark for this location being a puddle of water that I had noticed a few feet from where I had initially stopped. So it should go without saying that about five minutes before I got there, it started to rain.
As my puddle-landmark could now be applied to the entire state of Pennsylvania, I proceeded to spend two hours in the pouring rain searching for a phone that simply wasn’t to be found. And so I came back home, soaking wet and furious in defeat. Then, at around midnight, I got a call from my friend Aaron, whom I had not heard from in nearly two years.
“Some guy named Frank called me,” Aaron confided. “He told me he had your phone. Man, I hate being first on everyone’s contacts.”
Although it was nearing midnight, the man had apparently just called, so I gave Frank a call in vague hopes of reacquiring my lost phone.
“‘Bethel Outreach Deliverance,’ this is Minister Frank Johnson speaking, how may I help you today?”
It turned out that the man who found my phone was a kind and helpful man from a mobile pastoral service (wait, what?) in central New Jersey. We made plans to rendezvous the following day (today), when a man known only as “Brother James” would be waiting at a church back on Wynnefield Avenue to reunite me with my phone.
And so, at 2:45 this afternoon, I found myself at a small church on Wynnefield avenue, surrounded by helpful, kind-hearted Born Again African American Christians who wanted nothing more than to Save my Soul by handing me pamphlets about why my heretical Jewish self was going to burn in hell for all eternity, and what I could do to stop it (“pretty much nothing” seemed to be the unspoken consensus).
I told them that I was looking for my phone, and that Minister Johnson had sent me to get it back from Brother James.
“Brother James isn’t here just yet,” said a kind elderly lady seated at a decaying wooden table. “But we’re putting on a play about the men of the Old Testament! You have to stay and watch – you’ll love it!”
Helpless without my cell phone, I sat down, and then spent about an hour listening to Moses prophesize the birth of Jesus Christ before Brother James finally made his grand debut.
“Brother James!” I called out brightly.” My name is Michael – it’s so nice to meet you! I was sent by Minister Johnson… I hear you have my phone?”
“It is a pleasure to meet you, Brother Michael, and Minister Johnson sends his very best to you on this fine day. But I’m afraid I don’t know anything about a phone.”
It turned out that after an hour of waiting, this was an entirely different Brother James, sent by an entirely different Minister Johnson. And he didn’t have my phone.
Rushing back home to use a landline, I called back the first Minister Johnson, who informed me that he had mistaken the day on the calendar, and that the correct Brother James was going to be on Wynnefield Avenue yesterday (as it turned out, this information was not useful to me). Today, he was making a delivery to the New Covenant Church on Germantown Avenue, about a half-hour away from where I live.
So I went to the New Covenant Church, where I was horrified (but not altogether surprised) to find that today was their seminary’s graduation and ordination ceremony, and what seemed like the entire Born Again African American population of Philadelphia had apparently come out for the occasion! Now, I would like to believe I am not a racist person – I know this is the typical defense, but I have black friends (though not too many, having spent the vast majority of my life in Jewish Day School). I hope that I have never had a racist thought in my life. But I will draw upon my strength as an artist of words to describe to you how it feels to be the only Jewish white person in a church full of thousands of incredibly outspoken and spiritually exuberant people who are all of a different race and religion than you:
It is uncomfortable.
Groaning to myself, I walked into the church, and was jovially ushered into the main service by two helpful and alarming-enthusiastic middle-aged women, who introduced me along the way to a stern-looking security guard who immediately informed his superiors of the situation:
“This is Security, calling Base,” he said. “I got a white boy looking for his cell phone.”
Assuring me that they’d let me know as soon as Brother James arrived, I was ushered into the main sanctuary, where a 50-person gospel choir and band was performing music like I have only read about in Christian storybooks to thousands of testfyin’ True Believers. In response to encouraging looks from my neighbors, I started singing along.
For the next two hours, I cried out all my hallelujahs as I was preached the all-loving qualities of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. At one point I got into a friendly argument with a minister next to me.
“You’re a good boy,” he said, “I can see that. But you know, Hell is full of good people.”
“But what about Heaven?” I persisted. “If good people can get sent to Hell, can’t bad people get into Heaven?”
“Well, the thing about that is-”
He cut off, looking stumped, and graciously excused himself from the conversation.
Finally, after a total of 2 ½ hours of this, rumor carried around that Brother James was here, and he was looking for Brother Michael to give him back his phone.
And so, with one last note of spiritual jubilation, I got the heck out of there, and in the course of about eight seconds, found Brother James and got my phone back.
I’d like to say that I learned something from my little adventure, that I’ve been shown the error of my vagrant ways through the light of the Gospel Truth, but really I just want to curl up in the fetal position for a few months and catch up on some Seinfeld. So for now, this is Michael Bihovsky, signing off, keeping the faith, and grateful for the always unexpected experiences that make up my incredibly bizarre life.
As of 12:24 the following morning, my phone is now broken.
Sorry you missed the trip to Bethany Beach, but this was certainly a more unusual adventure than that weekend with the cousins would have been!
Your story is very well written, and I laughed out loud at some of the descriptions. Can you make use of any of the music you heard/participated in?
I gather you’re feeling better by now, and hope your tire is, too.
Love, Grandma E
When I was about 20, in the Navy V-12 program at Cornell, My close buddy and fellow Boys High graduate, Richard Younge, and I frequently walked around the streers of Ithaca on Friday evenings for want of anything better to do. One such evening, Richard suggested that I might enjoy visiting the home of a prominent African American doctor who had befriended him. As we entered, we observed a number of other young men, there. Richard told me that these were members of an African-American fraternity that held their meetings in the doctor’s house. While Richard was not a member of this fraternity, he too was an African American, and hence was more or less acceptable. Since I was not, I felt all their eyes looking at me either in curiosity or hostility. I don’t remember if we ate the tea and pastry that our hostess offered us or if we just beat a hasty retreat.
All white Jewish boys want to sing gospel deep down in their pale colorless souls — I envy you the chance!
Small world, isn’t it! Are you Ron’s son or David’s?
I was doing a Google search on Black students in my class at Cornell in the early ’40s and this turned up….surprise! I don’t remember the visit to Dr. Galvin’s home which you Grandpa remembered; it must have made more of an impression on him than on me. He was one of my best and oldest friends and I was
best man at his and Esther’s wedding. His death last fall was a deep deep sadness.
I’m in Facebook, by the way. Stop by some time and say hello.