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September 1, 2015 / 17 Elul, 5775
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Hot And Bothered: Letting The Steam Out

        It’s the dog days of August, and between the sizzling heat, the numbing humidity, the rain and the never-ending traffic and airport delays, there is a lot to complain about people’s actions.

 

         Since I read many years ago that it is therapeutic to get your frustrations out of your system, this is what I’m going to do. I am going to rant a bit (actually a lot) about several all too common behaviors and situations too frequently coming my way – things that probably drive you up a wall, as well. Perhaps we will all find relief by getting it out of our collective systems.

 

         Since much of our socialization and religious practices revolve around food, I will address two frequent situations that irk me to no end. They both revolve around that well-beloved community activity that takes place on Shabbat after shul – the kiddush.

 

         The fact is that few public announcements gladden the heart more than the one right after the davening, stating there is a kiddush for the klal.

 

         The problem I find is that there are usually three or four tables laden with all kinds of delectable dishes, but several hundred people all desiring to sample the delicious offerings. This shouldn’t be a problem except that many people, once they fill their plates with goodies, remain planted to their spot, happily eating and totally oblivious to the fact that they are preventing others from reaching the table and getting something to eat. These people are either clueless that they are blocking others, or could care less. Either way, they are hogging the space and making it difficult for their fellow mispalalim (worshippers) from reaching the food.

 

         Please be considerate. After filling your plate to your heart’s content, get out of the way – so someone else can do the same.

 

         Additionally, any caterer worth his salt makes sure there are serving utensils in all the communal dishes. That means there are tongs, scoops, and oversized spoons and forks to use for the egg and tuna salads, cholent, kugels, meatballs, etc. There is absolutely no justified reason for someone using a spoon or fork that they already ate from to obtain a second helping. It is extremely unhygienic to do so, and the epitome of selfishness.

 

         If by some chance there is no serving utensil, pick up a clean fork or spoon and use that instead. Parents should keep an eye on their children who may not be “table-trained” yet, and perhaps also on older relatives who may be forgetful or unaware of what they are doing. Many a would-be guest at a kiddush has walked away disgusted and hungry, because for them the food was no longer edible for the aforementioned reason.

 

         Let’s proceed from the table to the car. As annoyed as I may get by table-hoggers or double-dippers, nothing compares to the fury I feel when I see drivers clutching cell phones in one hand (or by their necks and shoulder) while making turns. I know from experience that crossing the street while talking on a cell phone can be dangerous due to a lack of focus on the task at hand. As hazardous as this irresponsible action is, it is a danger only to the walker.

 

         But a driver in control of several tons of steel, who is distracted mentally and/or physically by a call, is a downright menace. Such drivers are terrorists on wheels – as they cause terror to those who must leap out of their way. I’ve seen pedestrians with the right-of-way crossing the street, and they must stop or speed up to avoid a turning car with an oblivious driver chatting away on the phone. I myself have had to do this many times. Cell phone yakkers are not able to give their full attention to the streets, people and cars around them. But for many of them, it is “gossip uber alles” (gossip above all else).

 

         Let’s proceed from the car to the subway. I enjoy taking trains. I find them to be relatively cheap and fast, and they get me pretty close to where I need to go – and I never have to worry about parking. I even enjoy looking at the sea of humanity riding the subway with me. I try guessing what language they are speaking, as I marvel at their dress and mannerisms, and who and what they are.

 

         However, what I can’t stand is when I am about to get on a train and the person in front of me, upon entering, just stops – often to look around for a seat. In the meantime, my entrance is blocked and the doors are about to close – on me! I don’t tolerate stupidity or self-centeredness well at all, and it takes all the self-control I can muster not to shove the brainless blob blocking me from my path.

 

         Finally, let’s proceed from the subway to the public restroom. The joy one experiences when finding a clean stall in a public restroom evaporates rather quickly when one tries to unroll the toilet paper. Usually the roll is giant-size, but a flimsy one-ply. This means that as you pull the hanging end to get a longer, functional piece, it invariably tears right off because of the roll’s weight. One must pull a dozen times to get enough paper, if they’re lucky. Would it bankrupt the store or service area to buy two-ply or smaller rolls? It might be in your best interest to always have your own tissue handy.

 

         There are many other situations that irk me – but enough for now. I vented and feel better already.

 

         And I hope you do, too!

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