"Haveil Havalim," answered Mitch, for the third time. "It's a speed dating service on the upper West Side." Mitch looked handsome in his full-length overcoat. It's too bad it never worked out for them, thought Sharon, wistfully. But that water was long under the George Washington Bridge.
Sharon sighed and shifted her shoulders in her faux-bomber. Why was she doing this? "Why am I doing this?" she added aloud.
Mitch smiled a crooked smile in the dim light. "I told you. You get to meet a whole lot of people all in one evening. Supposedly people know whether or not they 'click' within the first few minutes of conversation. So Haveil Havalim lets you meet fifteen or twenty people all in one night. If you like each other, you exchange phone numbers. If not, you don't, and no harm done. It's like a blog carnival."
"Sounds like a meat market," moaned Sharon. "'I'll take twenty pounds of the tall one with the black hair, and a slice of that short guy if you trim off some of the fat.' This is ridiculous."
"Oh, come on, it will be fun. At the very least, it will be a new experience." Mitch streched out his long legs in the cramped back seat of the taxi.
"Oh, Mitch!" complained Sharon. "What am I doing here? They'll all be a bunch of freaks! Or they'll all think that I'm a freak for coming!"
Mitch let Sharon rant for the rest of the cab-ride, knowing that there was no real way to stop her. He just hope the evening turned out for the best.
After five more minutes, they arrived at their destination. Mitch and Sharon got out of the taxi and surveyed the small synagogue, converted this and every Sunday evening into its little matchmaking service. There were people of various sorts of complexion, disposition, and, apparently, religious observance talking on the steps in the chilly air. People walked in and out of the front doors.
"Please, can we just go?" whispered Sharon. "I promise I'll call that guy you told me about. Really!"
"Now, Sharon," said Mitch, taking her by the arm and gently forcing her into the main hall. "First of all, it won't be so bad. And second of all, I gave you that number three months ago. If you don't get out of your apartment now, you're going to crust over like the stale pizza you still have in the back of your fridge."
That doesn't sound any worse than going through with this, thought Sharon. But she gulped and allowed Mitch to lead her to the sign-up desk where they both put down their names. They paid their entry fee and received in return a clipboard, paper, pen, and some small blank business cards, to be filled out and proffered to prospective suitors.
The room was a long series of tables. The girls sat down at the tables, and the guys were supposed to move to each new table every three minutes.
"They're starting in a few minutes, Shar. Relax. It will be fun. Besides, everyone here seems nice. How bad could it be?"
"Mitch," Sharon breathed out with a small laugh. "You will regret those words by the end of this evening! Believe me!"
"It's a bet."
A few minutes later, Haveil Havalim began.
Sharon found an empty seat and sat down. In a moment, her first match took the opposite seat.
"Hi," Sharon began, with a faint smile. "I'm Sharon, what's your name?"
The tall guy with a beard blinked at her.
"Letters of Thought," he said.
"Oh that's ... uh, excuse me? What was that?"
"Letters of Thought."
"That's your name."
"Yes." He appeared uninterested.
"Oh. That's a very unusual .. uh, well, uh, 'Letters', uh, what do you do for a living?"
"The Shoes of the Wandering Jew."
"I traveled around the world, Italy, Poland, eleven countries altogether. These are my shoes." So saying, he lifted his right foot up and put it on the table. "See?"
Startled, Sharon, drew back. "Oh, uh, that's very uh interesting." Freak.
Time was up, so Letters went on to the next table. In his place, five people, two girls and three guys, all tried to sit down in the seat.
"Hi, we're JBlogosphere. Hey Friends, It's JBlog Awareness Month!!!!"
"Uh, hi, guys, but what are you doing? Isn't this supposed to be one guy, one girl? Or is this some sort of group thing?"
"We need The Plan of Action! We're deciding what to do next!"
"Great. Could you do it somewhere else?"
"Sure, miss! Thanks for stopping by!" And they all moved off in a jumbled bunch.
Curiouser and curiouser, thought Sharon. I wonder what will happen next. As it happened, a young, handsome man sat down in their place.
"Hello," Sharon began, cautiously.
"Hello," responded the man.
"I'm Life in Israel."
"You're uh, what?"
"Life. In Israel." The man seemed to think these was nothing particularly odd about this. He waited for Sharon to respond.
"Life. Oh, is this a metaphor? Or, or a riddle?" she asked, rather desperately.
"And the Slifkin saga continues.... One Rabbi slanders another, and another responds. The situation grows complex."
"Wait," said Sharon, "I know this one. And, and a Priest says to the first Rabbi ..."
The young man lowered his head and said to her in a conspirational whisper, "We want blood."
"Ohhhh-kay, now you're creeping me out. Are you a vampire or something?"
"Oh, no. It's just that the government of Israel has to go."
"Oh, I see. Oh. Our time's up. Uh, see ya."
The young man went on his way. Sharon thought, well, that's three for three. Another young man wearing a large black kippah took Life's place.
"Hi, I'm Canonist. I write about religion."
"Hi, I'm Sharon. I exist as a figment of an author's imagination.
"Nice to meet you, Sharon. Is Social Justice the Soul of Judaism?"
"Wh.. what? Uh, hmmm. That's an interesting question. What do you think?"
"Of course not, but Jewcy wanted me to argue about it with Dan Sieradski."
"Well, if you know the answer, why did you ask?"
"Why did you sit down without being invited?"
"Well, there was no one else sitting here."
"Isn't that strange?"
Sharon didn't answer, thinking her companion very rude. Eventually, his time was up and he got up and left.
Well, I hope the rest of them have more manners than that one did, she thought.
The next one to sit down was a young woman.
"Hi, I'm A Mother in Israel. What's your name?" she asked.
"Uh, I'm Sharon. Aren't you sitting in the guy's seat?"
"Oh, yes. But I present An Interview with the Maggid. He's really very interesting."
"Oh, are you here on behalf of your son? Is he, like, shy, or something?"
"Child spacing, Part 1 When does chinuch begin? I believe that mothers need at least a year between pregnancies to recover from birth, and the toddler and the baby are also shortchanged with closer spacing. Excuse me."
So saying, the woman departed. Another woman took her place.
"Hey," exclaimed Sharon. "Am I in the wrong section? I thought this was just for girls to meet guys. I'm not into anything weird. Not that there's anything wrong with that, you know."
"Oh, me too. I'm just resting. I'm The IgNoble Experiment, a.k.a. Live Dangerously! Do you know anything about the Hasbara Management Central?"
"No, not really."
"Well, Jews ought to be more efficient with the way they handle criticism of Israel. Don't you agree?"
"Yes, I suppose so."
"Well, nice to meet you, uh..."
"Sharon." They shook hands.
The next person was a handsome gentleman with a white beard.
Oh my, thought Sharon, I didn't realize so many older people were here. I may as well be polite.
"Hi, I'm Sharon," she managed, sweetly.
"My word," said the man, looking Sharon up and down. "My Right Word."
"Your 'right' word?" The look-over made Sharon's skin crawl.
"My word. My word, my word my word." He paused.
"Um," said Sharon, trying to think of something to say. "So, what do you do for fun?"
"Twenty-nine years ago, permission was granted to establish a civilian presence near Tel Shiloh. I write all about it in Tel Shiloh Story - My Op-ed in today's Jerusalem Post. You should read it."
"Sounds interesting. Could you summarize it, maybe?"
"Just a moment. I'm getting a call." He pulled out a cellphone and said, "Hello? Hello? I cant hear you? Hello?"
Sharon twiddled her thumbs, while she waited.
"And Just Who Is 'Barbaric', Mr. Lapid?" Mr Word screamed into the phone. He gave a quick glance to Sharon, and then looked back at the phone. "Never call me again!"
He hung up the phone. "A Blogger Should Merit Solidarity, don't you think? Where is the outcry for the Egyptian blogger?"
Sharon, thoroughly confused, answered, "I'm sure I don't know. Well, it was nice to meet you."
"Oh, pardon me. Good night." He stood up, walked over to the candy machine, and began yelling at it.
Well, well, Sharon thought, looks like I'm going to win that bet after all.
Another guy sat down.
"Hi, I'm Sharon. And you are ...?"
"Sixty-five. Fourteen twenty-two. A bid on a branch. Five farthings for a comeuppance. Football's making a comeback. What do you call the survivors?"
"Well, I still don't know who you are, but you sound like a whole bunch of Random Thoughts."
"Exactly. Where did our love go? I could use that to make a fire. Two stars to the left and straight on til morning. Aliyah Musings."
"Aliyah? Are you making aliyah?"
"Life is one hell of a crazy journey. Good bye."
I guess the Mad Hatter will be next, thought Sharon.
But the next to walk by was another big party of people. They stopped at her table and looked at her.
"Kesher Talk," they said.
Sharon just stared back at them. Then she got up.
"Excuse me, I need to get a drink." She began to walk over to the tea table.
"Wait!" yelled the party, chasing after her. "The Threshold of Soul! Meeting the Lubavitcher Rebbe!"
Sharon ignored them, and they wandered off to ask some other people if they had put on tephillin today. She returned with a hot cup of tea and resumed here seat.
A nervous looking man sat down at the table. He kept looking around him. Sharon waited to see what he would do next.
Suddenly, he bent down and looked under the table. Sharon crossed her legs. Is this guy a pervert? she thought.
"Hi, I'm The Pragmatician."
"I'm Sharon. What's your problem?"
He looked conspiratorially left and right and then whispered, "Cynophobia: Fear of Dogs. I'm sorry, but I have it, and other people are so insensitive to it, they just let their dogs jump on me!" He began to look upset.
Sharon considered him fondly. "This is really a big problem for you?"
"Oh, yes," he was very nearly in tears now.
"I can help you," said Sharon.
"Oh, you can? How?" He leaned in to Sharon.
Sharon leaned back. And then she yelled into his ear, "Woof!"
"AHHHHHH!" yelled the man, leaping up and running to and fro, before he ran out the door. Sharon heard a large crash of garbage cans being upset and a moan of pain.
Sharon couldn't help laughing to herself, even though she told herself that what she had done was mean and uncalled for. Oh, but I need to amuse myself, somehow. What's next?
A great big circus tent sat down across from her.
"Let me guess. Your name is 'Circus'," she said.
"Circus Tent. Mr H and My M Tent, at your service."
"Well, what can I do for you Mr Tents, seeing as you're not here for the event that's happening."
"I wanted to let the blogging community know about a fantastic new Chabad cookbook that was just published. I write about it in Uplifting The Sparks In A Cookbook."
"OK, thanks. I'll be sure to read about it."
"You will? Thanks!" said the tent. It shuffled off.
Three women sat down across from her.
"How's it going? You look depressed," they said.
"Not so good. All of the people I've met are a little strange. Is it just me?"
"Oh, no, it's not just you. This is a rather strange place. You just have to meet it head on as strange as they come to you," said one.
"Take us," said another. "We come as a team. We're called 'Me-ander'. 'Me and her', get it? Only it's three of us."
"So you think I should come here as part of a team? I came with someone," she added. She looked around, and saw Mitch talking to something that looked like a six-foot hot dog.
"Yes. Because people come up with the weirdest things to say on the spur of the moment. For instance, you'll just be talking and they'll say 'And More About Buses'. It doesn't matter what you were talking about before. Now you're talking about same-sex buses, cholesterol, or who knows what."
"Yeah," added the third, "when before you were talking about "...who knew not Yosef..." re-writing history, like what's happening today."
"Thanks," said Sharon. "It's nice to know that I'm not alone."
"Well, good luck. You'll find someone, yet!" they added, waving goodbye.
The sessions resumed with a frum guy sitting down.
"Hi," he said. "My name is Heichal Hanegina."
"Hi!" said Sharon. "My name is Not Too Shabby. Broken Cars! And to think I saw it on Mulberry Street! Staying Alive is Back in the Saddle! What's Olmert Done This Time?!" She waited expectantly.
"Huh," said the guy. "And here I was hoping to have a nice conversation about Rav Baal Hatanya and Napoleon's March, but you're obviously too weird for me." And he got up and left.
"Wait!" She stood up. "Wait!" But it was too late. She sat back down, feeling miserable. I blew it, she thought.
Another frum guy sat down across from her.
"Hi, my name's ... oh! What's the matter?"
Sharon looked up and wiped her eyes.
"Nothing." She swallowed. "Sorry. Nothing. It's just all a little overwhelming. So, uh, what do you do, Oh What's?"
The man laughed. "Ha, ha! That's not my name. Who would have a strange name like that?"
Sharon smiled weakly. "It's just that so many other people here tonight ... I'm sorry. So, ahem, my name is Sharon. What's yours?" She lifted her tea and took a drink.
"My name's Boker Tov, Boulder."
Sharon just barely didn't spew tea all over her companion.
She collected herself. "Ah, ok, Boker. What should we talk about?"
Boker considered. "American Exodus?" he ventured.
Blink, blink. "You mean aliyah to Israel from America?"
"Well, what should do you want to say about it?"
"Beats me," said Boker Tov. "I thought you might know."
"Nice to meet you."
"Same here. Feel better." And he went.
Sharon looked at the clock. Oh no, not even half-way there! She wasn't sure how she was going to survive much more of this.
A young man with an Australian accent was next.
"My name's Israellycool."
"That's a nice name, uh, Isra."
"Did you know that the Palestinians try to compare themselves with Native Americans? I call this phenomenon Crying With Wolves."
"Really? That sounds ... cogent."
"Oh yes. When there are more parallels between Native Americans and Jews than between Native Americans and Palestinians."
"That sound interesting, Isra. But we're out of time. Shall we exchange cards?"
"Oh, yes, let's!"
They passed each other a card. Finally, someone normal, thought Sharon.
"Well, I'll see you," said Israelycool, cheerfully. "Just as soon as I see the other hundred people I see every day. Bye." And he waved.
After he was gone, Sharon tore up the card and dropped it in her purse. Next, she thought.
"Hi, I'm Ocean Guy," said the next fellow.
"Hi, I'm Sharon. Do you have any interests?"
"Yes, I'd like to talk More on Peace. Arafat talked about war, not peace."
"'More' on peace? How can we talk about more when we haven't talked at all, yet?"
"Oh, I talked about peace with the last person, too."
"OK. Uh, thanks."
"And your name?"
Across from her sat a big black box. The words "History News Network" flashed on the side.
"Hello, Mr Network. What do you have for me today?"
The side of the box flashed: "SEGOLENE FOLLOWS IN HILLARY'S FOOTSTEPS. Segolene Royal, the official Socialist presidential candidate went to Lebanon and sat there listening politely to a Hizbullah MP called Ali Ammar ... Ali Ammer ... attacked what he called modern-day "nazism" in Israel. Royal listened politely and they said: "I agree with a lot of things you have said, notably your analysis of the United States."
The box slid away.
"Hi, I'm Daled Amos."
"Hi, I'm Sharon. What are you doing here?"
"Looks Like Hamas Has This Democracy Thing Down Pat."
"You're right. Bye!"
Sheesh. Next. Another young woman sat down.
"Hi, I'm Sharon, but I'm only interested in guys. Sorry!"
"I'm Rubicon3. Did you hear about the first Rabbi in Germany Afraid to Wear Kippah?"
"He was accused of anti-semitism! Ha hahahahaha!" she continued to laugh.
"I don't get it."
Rubicon3 stopped and looked at her. "Oh, well, then you can't be my friend." And she got up and left. A well-dressed man took her place.
"Hi, I'm the Velveteen Rabbi."
"Hi, I'm ... oh I get it. I loved that book. What a cute name."
"I have A new way of relating to the Ashrei."
"Really, tell me about it."
"How about I call you and tell you about it over dinner?"
Sharon's eye arched. But she decided to go for it. "OK." The two exchanged cards and he left.
Hey, one score, she thought. Let's see what's next.
Another young man sat down.
Brightly, Sharon started, "I'm Sharon."
"I'm Life of Rubin. Would you like to hear about MY REVIEW OF HASC'S 20TH A TIME FOR MUSIC CONCERT: Part I?"
"Um, not really, but thanks. And you don't have to shout."
"Well how about MY REVIEW OF HASC'S 20TH A TIME FOR MUSIC CONCERT: Part II?"
"No thank you, and please stop ..."
"What about MY REVIEW OF HASC'S 20TH A TIME FOR MUSIC CONCERT: Part 3? Eh?"
Sharon had her hands over her ears by this point.
"What? What was that you said? Stop shouting!"
"OK." He motioned for Sharon to remove her hands from her ears. "Sorry. Hey! There is a KOSHER Subway in Brooklyn Now!?"
"Are you asking me or telling me?"
"Jblog Awareness Month: Thursday Morning Link Drops."
"I have no idea what you're talking about anymore. Thanks. Bye."
Ouch, thought Sharon, rubbing her ears.
Another well-dressed dark-skinned man sat down.
"Good evening. I am The Muqata."
"Hi, Muqqie. I'm Sharon.
"Muqqie? If you please!" said the man, indignantly.
"Sorry. Muq? Qata? Qattie?"
"Muqata, if you please."
"I had Breakfast With Jameel."
"Did you meet my friend earlier. Random Thoughts?"
"Oh, yes, that guy. Strange guy."
"Yes, very. So are you. Nice to have met you."
"Thanks, me too. Bye."
I wonder if the sheep will eat my rose? she thought.
A young man sat down and began singing:
Oh yeah, oh yeahAnd then he left.
I'm the Blogmeister
Oh yeah, oh yeah
I'm not a shyster
Oh yeah, oh yeah
It's an old adage
You know Religious Women
Rock the Stage..
Another young frum man sat down. He was scowling.
"Hi, my name's Israel Matzav."
"Nice to meet you, Israel. My name's Sharon."
She waited for him to say something.
Suddenly he yelled, "Dhimmi Carter and the Nazis!"
He considered her response for a minute, and then went back to brooding. Then he yelled:
"How the British used Steven Wise to keep Jews in DP Camps!"
And another pause.
Ew, thought Sharon. "Nicetomeetyoubye!"
He got up and left, still brooding. Sharon wrote on the paper next to his name: has issues.
The next guy to sit down pulled out a gemara and began learning. Without looking up, he asked, "You Give Maaser, Why Aren't You Rich?"
"Uh, well, is that important?"
He ignored her, and a few minutes later began again: "Sharing in the Suffering and this Week's Parsha ..."
"Yes?" Sharon wanted to hear the rest.
"MARITAL RELATIONS DURING A FAMINE!"
"NEXT!" shouted Sharon.
"Hi," said the next man, "My name is It's Almost Supernatural."
"I'm sorry, are you saying that your name is actually It's Almost Supernatural, or that there is something supernatural about your name?"
The man thought for a moment. "The first."
"Ah. So, uh, It's, my name is Sharon. What do you like to read?"
"I just read Celsius 7/7."
"You mean Fahrenheit 9/11?"
"No, this book is an answer to Fahrenheit 9/11."
"His understanding of Israel’s strategic value (and also threat) is exceptional."
"Thanks. I'll look for it."
"Good. See you."
That wasn't so bad, I guess, thought Sharon.
A woman sat down.
"Hi, I'm Yourish. I just had to tell you about Stupid Virginia politicians. In the year 2007, a backward-thinking man in a state that likes to think of itself as forward-thinking managed to piss off blacks and Jews during the annual legislative session."
Yourish chatted with Sharon for a while, and they were soon joined by Baleboosteh.
"What brings you here?" asked Yourish.
"My Reasons... ... are complex," said Baleboosteh, who went on to explain the long path that brought her to convert to Judaism and then end up at the speed dating evening.
"Well, we have to go. Good luck!" They waved goodbye.
An old man sat down across from her.
"Hi," she began, guardedly. "Uh, are you in the right place? You're a little out of my age range. Sorry."
The old man held up his hand.
"My name is Elder of Ziyon. Gaza, 1955." And he told an interesting tale of history about the land of Israel.
Sharon listened, facinated. Too bad he's too old for me, because he's a fascinating talker.
He went on. "Two forgotten examples of historic Arab rejectionism. ..."
Sharon sat enraptured until he finally thanked her for being such a nice listener, wished her well, and went on.
The next person to sit down came with a big entourage. He must be famous, thought Sharon. One of the entourage proclaimed: "And now, please welcome The Volokh Conspiracy!"
And the whole entourage clapped. Sharon felt it polite to do the same.
"Today's topic is Carter and the Jews. Carter is being disingenuous." And he went on about Carter's claim to Jews trying to stop him from speaking.
I don't know if he's famous, but he certainly is interesting, thought Sharon. It would be nice to meet him without all these people around. Volokh finished speaking, shook hands, and left.
Next to sit down was a pleasant middle-aged man, who said his name was "Yid With Lid".
"So, what's under the lid, Yid?"
"There is no 'THE' in UN Resolution 242: CAMERA gets it straight from the Drafter's Mouths."
"Quartet to Meet on Groundhog Day: How Appropriate is that ?"
"Well, I couldn't say. A quart of what?"
"Did the RJC Ad Go Too Far?: Wesley Clark and Jewish Issues."
"Um, I'm not sure that I follow you ..."
"American Jews: Can't We all Just Get Along?"
"Ah, there I agree with you. Well said, Mr Yid."
Yid looked pleased as he left.
A man dressed in quite colorful clothes was next.
"Hi, my name is Sharon. What's yours?"
"There are no feminists on a sinking ship."
"OK, but what's your name?"
"I just told you?"
"'There are no feminists on a sinking ship'? That's your name?"
"That's a mouthful. Can I call you There for short?"
There looked unhappy. "If you must."
"So, There. What's have you been up to?"
"The Orthodox Jewish 'I Have a Dream Speech'."
There recited the speech, which Sharon found amusing, so they exchanged cards, and There went. Well, that's two, which is, after all, better than nothing.
A woman called Shiloh Musings sat down.
"Are you almost done, here? Any luck?"
"Two. I was just about ready to run away to Israel."
"You Don't Have to go to Eastern Europe, dear."
"Europe? I said Israel."
"Oh, I thought you were talking about synagogues. I was Locked in the Tomb. Rachel's Tomb, to be precise. What an experience."
"But that's in Israel!" Sharon protested.
"Of course it is. What did you think I said?"
"I ... oh, never mind."
"Hello," said the next one. "Getting tired?"
"Yes, somewhat. I'm Sharon."
"That's funny, because you look like only one person."
"Has he changed?"
"Has who changed?"
"Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak."
"I don't know."
"Bunnies for Kim Jong Il?"
"You ask such strange questions, I feel all dizzy."
"You're not the only one. So do we."
"So do we who?"
Another man sat down.
"I'm A Simple Jew."
"Oh. How curious. Your plural was just here."
"Sorry. Do you have a lot of friends?"
"Two Friends & Twelve Years."
"Don't you mean 'two friends in twelve years'?"
"No, I was talking about two friends who both graduated twelve years ago, taking very different paths to surprising results."
"Oh. Sounds interesting."
"Thank you. Well. Good evening."
How many more to go, she wondered. Let me check ... oh, just two. Whew.
The guy sat down in a yoga posture.
"My name is The Israeli Tikkun Blog. Who are you?"
"No. No. *Who* are *you*?"
"My dear, you must learn the arts of Judaism, Zen and Basketball."
"All will be revealed to those who study. Goodbye."
Well, this is the last one. Thank goodness ... oh no.
A man sat down across from her and began to cry.
"Whatever's wrong?" she asked.
"N .. n... nothing's wrong, Ma'am. This is just what I do. I always cry." And he bawled out loud in great tears.
"Call me Sharon. Why do you always cry?"
"B ..b....because I'm The Town Crier! I'm paid to cry for the whole town, and I haven't stopped crying in five years! Waaaaaa!"
"There, there, Mr Crier. Don't you ever think about anything happy?"
"Well, I'm thinking about New Approaches to Holocaust Education. It's about the tragic failure of our schools to teach about the Holocaust, properly." He looked up at Sharon with hopeful eyes. "Does that count?"
"Ah well, it .. uh, no, not really."
He began crying again in a loud wail, and Sharon excused herself and went outside. She found Mitch.
"So, was I right? How was it?" asked Mitch.
"Mitch, Mitch, Mitch ..."
"Yes, I was right, wasn't I?" Mitch beamed.
"Mitch, if you ever take me here again, I'll punch you so hard you won't remember what sex you are."
And she grabbed him by the arm into the street to hail a taxi home.