Well, it finally happened, I ate a sandwich out of a trashcan. It was inevitable really, considering how I've lived my life.
I'm constantly railing against the amount of waste in our society. I try to do my part, I recycle, whenever and wherever I can. Sure my efforts are undercut by the fact that I'm a traditionally observant Jew. We, as a group, use up far more than our share of disposables, and we leave light's on for a whole day once a week, and don't even get me started about the amount of aluminum foil we use at Passover. As an Israeli my carbon footprint is huge. I fly on average of 15 times a year transcontinentally, well it's not like I can drive through Syria to Paris. But other than religiously mandated or nationally necessitated resource waste, I recycle. I'm not one of those people, Dr. Binyan, who says, "Clean up the Gulf and I'll recycle the New York Times." No Sir I disagree, not wasting is a religious value.
It was a few weeks back, on the Sunday that my show "Circumcise Me" was closing. We'd had a great run, eight months instead of eight weeks. Great reviews in the NYTimes, New Yorker and NY Post. Nothing to complain about... and yet. I wanted more! Even after 30 years of recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, I want more and I want it now! So I was a little tense. Coupled with the fact that my mother, my sister, Jenny and her kids were all visiting for the closing shows. Well each little thing added its tension.
We're all off to breakfast that Sunday morning and I don't know if you know Kosher restaurants, but they are all dives. Well not the meat restaurants. I guess they figure if you are paying 50 bucks for an entree then they can invest in a real chair. But if it's only 3 bucks for a bagel then they can sit you on a folding chair in the doorway. It was the thought of trying to find a table for nine in one of those places that was creating tension. The first place that came to mind doesn't even have nine seats.
On top of everything my Mom is screaming that making her eat Kosher is religious coercion. How? She's not even Jewish.
Finally we settle on a place. When we arrive there are no seats available but as we order at the counter seats start opening up and finally we are seated at two tables. I only had to almost throw an elbow at a ninety-year-old woman, but after all I was trying to corner more than 50% of all the seats in the restaurant! My family is seated and eating and I'm at the counter paying (that's the kind of place it is) wow only 136 dollars for breakfast.
Finally, I sit down with my Whitefish Salad Bagel $6.50 with Onion and Tomato, fifty cents extra.
Now I know many of you thought I was a cheap Jew in a previous post when I woke up a district manager at Starbucks with a midnight call when I didn't get a decaf americano at the brewed price, but it wasn't the price, it was the principle! And here too, as you read on remember I just love onion on whitefish, but when I sit down I have lettuce not onion.
Back at the counter I hand the guy my sandwich. Big Mistake! "I ordered onion not lettuce." He turned to his co-worker and they conferred in Spanish, the official language in at least Kosher restaurants and maybe all restaurants in New York City. After an earnest discussion which I did not understand, having spent three years in Spanish one, he dumped my perfectly good completely uneaten bagel into the trash and turned to reach for a new bagel. "What are you doing?" I sputter incredulously. "He'll make you a new one," says the conferee. "I don't need a new one this one is new, it just needs onion." I say looking into the bag which I hope I had noticed was new and still puffed with air the way a trash bag is when it first goes into the can. "That one is gone," he says with no interest at all in this discussion. That's it, he seems to say I've declared that sandwich garbage, it is gone. "No it's not" I say reaching into the bag and pulling it out. I'm pissed! This is exactly what is wrong with us as Kosher eaters. We are supposed to be recognizing the holiness in the food and the role it serves in our lives. I mean come on, do you??? The Indians mindlessly chased Lightly Toasted Whitefish Salad Bagels killing them for sport before riding off across the Great Plains leaving them to rot in the noonday sun? Me neither.
The owner approaches saying "What? Come on he'll make you another one. That's trash. You can't eat out of the trash can." He's looking at me like I'm insane. I just might be. "We don't live in a world where we can afford to throw away perfectly good food because we forgot the onion," I say and then pull my trump card. "It's Hillul HaShem!" (It's a Desecration of G-d's name). This is the last thing a religious Jew wants to do. He turns, he knows I'm right, and I sit with the spoils of my victory.
My sandwich from the garbage. "Hey can you send over some onions."