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October 24, 2014 / 30 Tishri, 5775
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Going In Circles

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When people ask me what kind of column I write for The Jewish Press, I say, “advice,” but I actually make those quotes with my fingers. I don’t think I’ve actually saved any lives yet. But this column is still great way to vent about your problems, so long as you can figure out how to put them in the form of a question.

Dear Mordechai,

The guy next to me on the road is talking on his phone while driving. Is he trying to get us all killed?

Sent from my iPhone

Dear Sent,

I would say you should stay right on him, lean on your horn, and don’t stop. Eventually, he’ll have to hang up.

This all makes us long for the good old days, when phones were attached to people’s houses, so there was only a limited distance that you could drive with them, depending on the size of your cord. Most people couldn’t leave their neighborhoods.

But the truth is this kind of multitasking is nothing new. People have always been doing other things while driving, and people have always been doing other things while talking on the phone. Before we spent all our driving time staring at our phones, we were eating, finding something good on the radio, shaving, clipping our toenails, blindly groping for things our kids dropped under the seat, and passing back open drinks. And back when we had separate devices for phoning and computing, we would only half pay attention to the people we were on the phone with, who would think they had our full attention until we mumbled, “Uch, where are all the jacks?”

“Um, are you playing solitaire?”

“No, I’m… playing jacks.”

It’s not like the really old days, when phones came in two separate pieces – one for the ear and one for the mouth — and the wire was six inches long, so to talk on the phone, people had to lean over them and use both hands. Maybe that would solve the problem.

Or maybe not. People text with both hands too.

Dear Mordechai,

Why does everyone in my shul walk so slowly during Hoshanos? I need to get to work.

Sent from my iPhone

Dear Sent,

I don’t know. Maybe I shouldn’t be suggesting we all walk faster while holding lulavim.

No shul I’ve ever been to has ever managed to do any better. They could bring in city planners to figure out the best route around the shul, and they could move tables and put up traffic signs, and people will still take shortcuts across corners and merge back in, which, in the end, makes the line go even slower. .

Half of them don’t even realize they’re merging. They’re just looking down at their siddurim and following the tallis in front of them.

Somehow I always end up with a guy in front of me going really slow, and a guy behind me leaning on my back. Or else the guy behind me is a kid, and every time the guy in front of me makes a short stop, the kid pokes me in the back with his lulav. Not that I blame him. The poor kid, with his tiny hands, can’t hold a thousand-page Artscroll machzor and a lulav and an esrog that is bigger than his hands. None of us can really hold all that and turn the page (because somehow you always have to turn the page. That’s the other nice thing about the Artscrolls).

So you figure, “Look, the chazzan is saying everything out loud, 3 words at a time. Why do I need my own siddur?” But then as soon as he’s done, there’s a whole paragraph that you have to say by yourself, and it’s going to take you ten minutes to get back to your seat, because the chazzan, when he finishes, is somehow right back at his shtender, but everyone else is on the exact opposite side of the shul from where they need to be. So yes, you need to have a siddur with you, so you can say the paragraph while blindly making your way to your seat.

We don’t have this problem on Simchas Torah. We go around the shul then too, but people are running, they’re holding each other’s shoulders, weaving in and out, and everything’s fine. And this is on top of Torahs and piggyback riders and sticky hands from all the candy. And I’m not even talking about the kids. But on Sukkos, those same people can’t manage to make it around one time.

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