Life’s not always easy. Sometimes you have a fight with your girlfriend, sometimes you hit a lull in your career, and sometimes you become a servant to a Jewish family on the day of the Sabbath in order to gain financial stability.
At the end of my college career, unemployment was at an all time high in the state of California. My job requirements disintegrated the closer I came to graduation day. It went like this:
I want to be a staff writer on a sitcom or late night show.
I want to be a writer’s assistant on a sitcom or late night show.
I want to work on a television show.
I want to do anything with film or television.
I will teach a movie making class to fifth graders.
I want a job in the arts.
I want a job.
I’ll blow someone.
I’ll blow Gary Busey.
It was bleak. I had no job prospects. One day after an improv class (improv class and unemployment are synonymous), I was talking to Larry, a very funny Hasidic Jew. I was telling him of my problems. He told me there was a family looking for a Shabbos Goy and they were willing to pay good money.
A Shabbos Goy is a Christian who comes to a Jewish household on the Sabbath to turn on their electronics and household appliances, since that is sacrilegious for them.
I knew how to turn off and on appliances; I went to college!
But I was wrong…
I went to their house in the middle of Los Angeles. The area was a weird mix of hispanic gardeners, women in dark dresses, and permit parking signs that made no sense. I didn’t care. I was going to be employed. All I had to do was meet the family and show them I was capable of doing something that Christians have been doing since the turn of the century: wasting electricity.
I arrived. I was greeted by the father, who was a burly, big man with an enormous silver beard. He looked like a falcon mixed with a bear mixed with a rabbi. I was intimidated.
I said hello, he grunted.
I walked inside of their very clean house. No Wonder Bread or Mayonnaise in sight… this was legit!
He showed me into the living room where his entire family (two young boys, a teenage girl, and a mother) all sat on a small couch like they were at Sears Family Portrait.
I did what every midwestern Christian was trained to do when they meet people:
“Hi, how are ya?” And stick out my hand for a shake.
As an blonde haired, tan goy, I’m already sticking out like a pink mini skirt at a funeral. But what made it apparent they were dealing with a bonafide goy was I tried to shake a Hasidic Jewish teenage girl’s hand in front of her father.
She stuck out her hand like she had crippling arthritis, while staring at her father for approval. Noticing the girls’ discomfort, I don’t know why I gave her a firm shake, but I did. The father was not pleased. He chastised me in Hebrew, under his breath.
We sat down. He explained the Sabbath to me, and in returned I told him how a Universal Remote works. Knowledge was spreading like small pox in a low income neighborhood.
We proceded to go into the kitchen, where he would show me how to work all the appliances. Including a mustard yellow Maytag Oven. Not only was it an antique oven, but it was a family heirloom.
I passed the microwave test. I passed the blender test. Now all I needed to do was the Maytag Oven test. I reached for the knob, to turn on the oven. It wouldn’t turn. I panicked. I needed to get hired.
He told me to push the oven’s knob in because it sticks. I pushed it in, nothing was happening. I felt my heart in my throat. When I turned around, I realized the entire family was staring at me like I was a fireworks display.
The father then took his hairy, huge hand and put it over mine. He tried to guide my hand to turn the knob, but it wasn’t working. I was so afraid of it breaking, I told him to “back off!”
The father and family were in shock that I raised my voice.
I got embarrassed, apologized, looked down, and realized the knob had come off the oven and was in my hand. I broke grandma’s oven.
It was silent. We all stared at the father, waiting for him to back-hand me or the Jewish version of back-handing.
Then the silence was broken when the youngest son (4 years old) burst into tears and called me a “bad man.”
I tried to speak, but nothing came out. My throat dried shut like a vagina.
The father raised his arm and pointed to the front door.
Just like Charlie Brown, I dropped my head and left the house.
I still have the knob to the Maytag Oven. I’ve thought about giving it back, but it reminds me of why I can’t quit my job. No matter how stressful it can get at times, at least I’m not breaking a Hasidic Jew’s precious oven.