source: I stole this from Pinterest.

Laughing and Pointing Inappropriately

Some of you would be shocked to hear that sometimes people think I am being extremely rude when, in fact, I am not intending to be. I point a lot at people, but like, sometimes I’m not pointing at them, but like, pointing out at the general universe. C’mon people. Nobody’s pointing at you. They’re pointing at the general universe.

Okay, here’s an example. I was in downtown Jerusalem. Pre-Corona, as well, so like, actual people were out. Well, actually, tons of people are out anyway, during Corona. Let’s not pretend everyone is following the rules of social distancing. Which is unfortunate. But then there are other people who like, act like vigilantes and yell at everyone for not social distancing or wearing their masks properly. It’s such a big part of Israeli culture to yell at everyone and be all up in their business.

Anyway, that night I had just finished volunteering with teens at risk (we do creative writing and boy is it fun) and we were walking together to the light rail station. Because they are teens, they were being loud. One of them screamed something inane and as she did, this random person next to her gave her a weird look and actually crossed the street to get away from us. Teenagers, man. Anyway, seeing this, I laughed at pointed at the person desperately trying to get away and told the teen, “Look, this is why you shouldn’t scream in public.”

Immediately, another girl came up to us and said, angrily, “That’s my sister.”

I guess laughing at pointing at someone you don’t know would appear like you are making fun of them. But I was attempting to show the kid that her screaming scared others. What would you have done?

And I didn’t even apologize, which I guess would have been nice, but to me at the moment I wasn’t sure if a response would improve the situation. So, sorry to that poor girl who thought I was making fun of her sister. I swear I wasn’t.

I often laugh at inappropriate times. There was this one time that I worked at a restaurant for one week in Jerusalem. I didn’t even work there; it was technically a week of training. Being in the food service industry is brutal; waiting on Israelis is a whole other story. But luckily, I was able to not offend any of the customers that week. Instead, I laughed at another employee. Oh, and also my own manager.

What happened was, my manager sat down for some kind of important meeting at the restaurant. No one else was at the restaurant so I was like, sweet, a break. I hung around the cash register. My manager angrily gestured toward me, and I realized she was expecting me to take her order. I’m sure that’s a totally normal thing for a manager of a restaurant to do, but like, she could’ve just told the cook or drinks guy to make coffee or whatever. It’s not like I need to read the specials to her.

As I write this, perhaps this was another test to see if I was a good, attentive waitress. Oops.

Anyway, I came over and she said “can we have three coffees please” and I kind of laughed because in my mind I was like, yeah sure, you can order from this restaurant if you want, haha. I’m sure explaining this to you is just as hilarious as it was in my brain that day.

So after I finally got the message and served the drinks and whatever, I was hanging out at the back again, near the cash register. This is my way of avoiding work: you look busy, but really you’re just staying just far away enough from earshot that you can avoid people making you work.

Top tips on how to look busy but not actually do any work!

Anyway, another employee, not even a waiter, approached the manager’s table and asked her for something. I didn’t hear, but I did laugh loudly enough, because in my mind, even this guy knew how to be a better waiter than me and check in with how the order is going. You know, when you gotta wait a few minutes after serving the food and then ask the customer if everyone is delicious, and you gotta make sure they have taken a giant bite of their food so they can only nod. (Another tip to avoid work). So I laughed, because I saw this guy probably doing my job, even though he was not a waiter.

Everyone in the restaurant heard me laughing.

And, he was not, in fact, asking how the drinks were. He was actually asking for help taking out some cash from an ATM.

By the way, in Hebrew, the verb “withdraw cash” and “withdraw/take out” are completely different and I don’t know why they had to create an entirely new verb for taking out cash. It translates in English to “pull out” cash. So yes, now I say in English, that I need to “pull out” cash. Maybe the ATMs in 1970s Israel were so shitty that you literally had to pull on the cash or else it would get stuck and you would be screwed? So it was employed as an instructive word.

Anyway, everyone heard me laugh at this poor employee. Making matters worse, it wasn’t like he needed help with his credit card or account. It was a religious reason that he needed to ask someone else to take out cash — which he later explained to me, making me feel so much worse. So, not only did I laugh at him for asking for help, I also was discriminating against him. Fun!

I still don’t know the exact rule, because as this guy was explaining this to me, I felt a cold trickle of fear and recognition and just kinda froze. Basically, he was Muslim and it either was a holiday for him then, or it was an overall rule that you can’t take out cash that day. And, as a religious person, the worst thing I could do is discriminate against another religious person! That would be so hypocritical, especially all the weird shit Jews have to ask non-Jews on holidays or Shabbat. We literally have to play some weird word-association game if we need someone to do something electric on Shabbat. So imagine me, approaching some non-Jew and being like “The light in my bedroom is on,” and then he just laughs and walks away.

Cool, Alana. Very. Cool.

I did not continue working at that restaurant. The manager was so nice, though, and even offered to spend another week training me! And I had to respectfully decline.

I still laugh and point at people, honestly. What’s helped is that now I work with blind students so they can’t tell who I’m point at! Ok kidding. I am trying to work on being more conscious of who I laugh and point at. It’s hard work, ok? Especially when I spend so much time in my own world.

Recently, after sharing my new blog with my friends and parents, my mom has succinctly written the best advice: “It would behoove you to pay attention more.”

Thanks, mom. I’m working on it! And at least it makes funny stories.

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English teacher by trade, story writer for fun

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Alana Schwartz

Alana Schwartz

English teacher by trade, story writer for fun

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