Thursday, November 15, 2007

How I Pissed Off The LDS

So I walk into Stella one day...

Wait, not so fast. First, let me tell you something. Whenever I walk into Stella - my shop, my flesh and blood - everything around me sort of jumps into focus. I can make out muffled conversations in the corners. I can see the fly buzzing against the back wall. Suddenly, I am Tobey Maguire after he slips on his Spiderman outfit. Everything around me slows down and grows more quiet. I think I am supposed be using an oxymoron here, like "deafening silence", or else "silent cacophony". But I've made my point. Back to the story.

...and everything leaps into sharp focus. I can discern muffled conversations in corners. I see a fly buzzing against the back wall. At a table up front, two guys grab my attention. They are young guys, sporting bargain-basement muted-color clothing and homemade haircuts. They are taking turns talking to a girl, their eyes fixated on her. Pinned to their chests are what I first take for name tags, except they are not. They are little plaques, with the words 'The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints'. The letters that spell 'Jesus' are large, they dwarf all the other letters. I recognize that agitprop trick. I remember the many tiny "all hail's" clinging to a giant "Communist Party", back in my own muted-color childhood. The girl is listening to the two guys talk. She is nodding. It must be going well.

When I slip behind the counter, I see Maya gently arching her eyebrows in the direction of the table.

"I know," I say, "indoctrination in progress."

"No," she whispers, "they didn't buy anything." She whispered it quietly, in Russian, which we hardly use any more, as if deeply embarrassed by the whole thing. She was right - I was not so eagle-eyed, after all. Their table was conspicuously bare.

Now, I have to be honest here. I vacillated. I tried to send Maya into battle. I sat at the counter, within earshot of the interlopers' conversation, listening to them drone on about the Bible and 'the Christian life'. At the end, I could stomach the irony no longer. I was going in.

"Hello", I said, sidling up to their table. I did not want them to see me coming. "Can I get you guys anything?"

I focused on one of the guys. I stared deep into his steely Hitler Jugend eyes, searching for a spark, but there was none.

"I'm fine," he said, and looked over to his companion, as did I. I sized him up, thinking about what was going to happen if I had to ask them to leave. His military posture did not bode well for me.

"I'm OK," said the other missionary. He shrugged his shoulders and folded his arms. I figured the other guy must be the leader.

"Well," I said, looking over at the girl, "if you guys would like to stay.."

"I'd like a chai!" The girl blurted that out, as if she was making an instinctive save, not even knowing what the words meant. When I inquired about the size, she seemed puzzled.

They were out of there a few minutes later, but I did not even not know it, because right after the rapprochement, all hell broke loose behind the counter. Our espresso machine began spewing something that was not espresso, an Intelligentsia technician appeared, the machine was taken apart. We went deep into damage control mode, and I became completely absorbed in this new crisis.

As I stood there, discussing yet another inconsistency with the tech, all of a sudden, things slowed down for me. The room came into sharp focus, and I could see the tech, Maya, myself, hear our conversation and all the other conversations in the place. Right there, in the deafening silence of my brain, it hit me. I was being punished.

You see, there is a reason John Smith picked Utah, of all places. The sky is very close in the high desert. Standing on those vermilion cliffs, you really sense the presence of the Big Man Upstairs. So, it was really a piece of cake for those boys to text someone back home and have them beam up a message for the Lord to mete out some quickie punishment.

It makes perfect sense, you know. When they were walking out, they did not look back. It must be because they did not want to turn into pillars of salt. Even the girl did not look back. Oh, they knew. They totally knew. And seriously, who wants to become a pillar of salt?

Well, now the bullshit is so thick my Wellies are getting stuck. One thing is true, though. I do not believe the Bible, but these boys do, so what gives? Did they think saving a wayward soul was worth the minor sin of free-loading? Were they simply broke and too chicken to admit it in front of the girl?

I suspect the LDS believes it to be sound fiscal policy to pass the cost of saving souls onto heathens, which is why their missionaries are forced to exist on a minuscule allowance. Well, if that's their policy, so be it, but it ain't gonna be this heathen paying for it.

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