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"a little smudge there on your forehead"

(I should have linked to this yesterday.) Brent at UTI mentioned this exchange with a convenience store clerk:

"Hey," I gestured with a friendly smile, "you have a little smudge there on your forehead." I snagged a Kleenex from the box thoughtfully provided for customers between the registers and handed it to him.

I looked down at my wallet and dug out my debit card. When I looked up again I am taken aback... The guy is glaring at me!

Nervously I asked him, "is there something wrong?"

I saw him visibly struggle to settle himself down. "That'll be $2.75, Sir."

Then I remember. Today is Ash Wednesday. He's a Catholic, or some other sect that practices this particular ritual. "Ahhh... ," I said, with another smile to take the edge off his anger. "I didn't realize what today was."

He rang up my purchase, swiped my card, and I punched in my PIN.

"How," he asked with a supercilious sneer barely under control, "can anyone not realize it's Ash Wednesday?"

"Well, I'm an atheist, um," I peered at his name tag, "'David'. I don't usually keep tabs on every religion's quaint little rituals."

Here is my Quote of the Day, Jesus' warning against public piety:

"And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly."

(Matthew 6:5-6)

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