virus: Witness

Sat, 06 Feb 1999 16:06:45 -0800

I just got back from seeing "Rushmore" (which I highly recommend), and I have an odd street encounter to report. This is not a pedegogical fiction. I was standing at a corner opposite the Old Navy store in the sprawling, Nordstrom-dominated, upscale shopping district in Downtown Seattle waiting for the light to change. An Asian woman who appeared to be in her 40's approached me. Her clothes and stylish sunglasses matched that of my notion of a typical, middle aged, recreational shopper.

She spoke very quickly, and it took me a sentence or two to determine that she was speaking English and then a couple of sentences more to launch my cognititve accent-decryption application. When I was finally up to speed with her I discovered that she was witnessing to me.

As I say, she spoke very quickly. Her voice and expression were devoid of emotion. I got the impression that the sentences that she was speaking to me were ones that she spoke so often as to be automatic, and (again, this is just an impression that I got from a very brief encounter) she seemed as though she spoke and understood very little English.

"All people sinners (slight pause) the bible says. You know?" was the first sentence I understood.

"You accept Jesus Christ, you go to heaven. Tomorrow you die. You go to heaven. You know?" Again, her delivery was devoid of emotion. She was insistent, but totally flat. At this point I learned that the part of my brain that comes up with just the right words to make street-crazies (even well-groomed ones) go away and leave me alone had been taken down for some "routine maintainence." I felt paralized by wild-fire panic.

"We pray together. You say this prayer with me right now; Lord Jesus Christ..."

At that point the light changed and I knew that I could flee, but conditioning regarding civil behavior mandated that I make some disengagement comment before walking away. As "I" was scrambling for something to say, I felt a tension in my diaphram that let me know that, regardless of the fact that "I" had no idea what to say to this woman that would allow me to depart, I had already started to speak. "Oh shit," I thought, "what am I doing?"

The tone of voice of the person who spoke was calm, measured and compassionate. It said, "I'm not going to pray with you, but I thank you for your concern. Take care." And with that I crossed the street. I did not dare to look back to see if she was following me. I just walked very quickly to the movie theatre.

Looking back, it seems that my sense of panic was totally out of proportion to the stimulus which provoked it, but I recently had a close and unpleasant encounter with someone who had totally flipped out and from whom I could not flee. There is no central point that I'm hoping to make with this story. It just seems like something that should be shared.

Take care.


Zloduska wrote:

> Well, so far my experience with 'ministers' has been hilarious or upsetting
> encounters with Fundy street preachers right out of a Flannery O'Conner
> story. They are usually very aggressive and rude. However, with the U.
> Universalists, they didn't accost every person who walked by and try to
> 'convert' them, but rather they let anyone curious come to them, and then
> politely answered their questions. In fact, after I annouced, "I'm neutral
> as far as religion, but..." she still was polite as ever and did not try to
> convert me! There's a nice change from being lectured about whores and
> whore-mongers.