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Yisrael Campbell Headshot

What Would Jesus Do? Ask the Flight Attendant

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Today was one of those days.

I had to fly to San Diego this morning to do a performance. The performance was, in part, to honor my friend Marla who was killed (or as her mother would say, murdered) at the bombing at the Hebrew University. When I was called last May and requested to perform, I'd only accepted their request because it never occurred to me that my show, Circumcise Me, would still be running Off Broadway. It is still running, but I had committed the date.

It became even more difficult not to cancel when I was offered the opportunity to ride on a float in the Israeli Day Parade. I admit that I tend toward a belief in scarcity but I truly believe this will the only time in my life that I'll be invited to ride on a float in a parade.

But I had committed and I was going to San Diego...

Last night was my first Saturday night off since November. Shabbat had finally forced Circumcise Me's start time back so far that we canceled the show rather than run with a 10pm curtain. So, I checked my flight (11:50am take-off) and was off to bed early for a good night's sleep. I awoke early (6:14am), was sitting in the living room on the computer and checked my reservation just to be sure. I'm wrong! 11:50am is my LANDING time in Dallas! My flight departs at 8:00am and I'm sitting naked in my living room unpacked. I rush to action showering and dressing while Avital, my wife, packs for me. This is one of those times when a wardrobe consisting of only black pants, blue shirt and black coat comes in handy. And at 6:37am I was hailing a cab at 87th and Broadway. While I was watching a cab at the light hoping it would turn north from 87th St., I heard acceleration mixed with slamming breaks and suddenly another cab had materialized in front of me, out of nowhere. I got in and said "I need to get to LaGuardia as fast as possible I have an 8am flight". All I heard, as my head slammed back into the seat, was "I drive fast!" And fourteen minutes later we were at LaGuardia. After forty-five minutes of security, wishing I could personally slap the shoe bomber and the liquid guys, I was boarding the plane.

Confronted with the idea of "What would Jesus Do?" Well, I'll tell you what Jesus wouldn't do. He wouldn't fight me the whole flight for the use of the entire armrest.

This woman was a tall, stout woman (can one be tall and stout at the same time?). So maybe she was tall and square or perhaps tall, rectangular best describes her. Let's just say she was substantial, for the sake of our story. I was on the aisle and she was in the middle. To her defense, this woman should never have been seated in the middle seat but she had been and, frankly, that was not my problem I was not party to her having been sat there so I shouldn't have been punished for it. But I was being punished.

I view boarding an airplane as a competitive sport and I'm Israeli so I crowd the gate and make sure I'm the first in my group to board (even if that means a few false starts). "I'm sorry, I didn't know that because my boarding pass said 'Group 2', that meant I was in group 2. I'll wait" Big smile. Since she was in the seat next to me she was clearly in the same seating group as me so either she had jumped the line or she had some kind of frequent flier status and if she had that why was she in the middle seat? You get my point.

Now I'm not the type that usually asks WWJD but she was reading an article in the New Yorker, I could tell from the font, titled "What would Jesus Do." Is it just me, or is the New Yorker eminently more readable over someone's shoulder or upside down while standing over someone on the subway? They say the Jews of Yemen were so poor and had so few books that the children would sit in a circle around each book and therefore there were children that could only read upside down and diagonally. It turns out that I best read the New Yorker in the Yeminite reading tradition.

So there I was faced with my dilemma. She had staked out the backs of the armrest (which is beyond reproach the best part of the armrest). I sat for over a quarter of an hour stunned at she would do. I watched her do everything from fastening her seat belt to turning on the light to jotting a note with what was clearly her weaker hand. I realized this was war. She might never move her arm to allow me even a moment to grab position.

The last thing I heard as I faded off to sleep (my arm resting on hers, wondering if resting my head on her shoulder would be too much) was her say to the stewardess "Ten dollars? Ten dollars? For a chicken sandwich?"

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Yisrael Campbell is currently starring in "Circumcise Me" at The Bleecker Street Theater in New York City

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