Hello, it’s me- Gregory B. Gonzalez, once again. I bet you thought I was just going to be a one-time flash in the pan, didn’t you? But nope, I made a promise to a very pretty lady, and I always keep my promises. So here I am, back to entertain you people.
That being said, I thought I’d take a cue from Anne and talk about spirituality. Well… maybe not so much spirituality, but to share a funny story about an experience I had attending a Catholic Church service. Before I get to that though, I think I should give you some background on me, for frame of reference, if nothing else.
I was raised a Jehovah’s Witness, but by the time I turned sixteen, I grew a brain and decided religion wasn’t my bag. For one thing, it didn’t make any logical sense to me, and for another, I found that I enjoyed using my brain too much. I still believe in God, believe it or not- the only difference is I decided to cut out the middleman. I’m what they call a deist, which means I acknowledge God’s existence through observation of the world around me. That isn’t a tight definition of deism, but it’s the one I think fits best.
One of the tenets of deism is that God stands apart from humanity and does not intervene in the universe He created. I’m not sure I agree, mostly due to the fact that I think God has a really twisted sense of humor. I should know- I’m living proof. My life is not exactly what you would call normal.
Don’t get me wrong- it’s not like my life is a nightmare episode of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians”, thank Heaven- it’s just that for whatever reason, weird things happen to me with alarming frequency; too much to make me believe it’s a random coincidence. I seriously think I’m the Lord’s chosen butt-monkey. Let me explain what I mean- when the big guy gets bored channel surfing on his omniversal remote because there’s nothing on his celestial monitor, he’ll click on His list of favorites, land on me, and start screwing with my life. The jerk.
You’re probably thinking I have this grandiose sense of self, though I really don’t. I’d much rather be the blip on the radar than an amoeba under the microscope. I could tell you a thousand stories confirming my theory, but I don’t have that kind of time, and you probably don’t have enough of an attention span. One of my friends boiled it down to this single, astute observation: after I relayed one of my stories to him, he shook his head and said, “Greg, I swear, none of the things that happen to you happen to normal people. It sounds like something from a bad sitcom! If I didn’t know you, I’d say you were bullshitting!”
It’s the story of my life. I have the journals to prove it.
Now that you have some context, let’s move on to the story I want to tell. Being that I am currently God’s butt-monkey, our relationship has soured somewhat over the years, to the point where I treat it the way I treat my relationship with my ex-wife. Which is to say, we both know of each other’s existence, but stay the Hell AWAY from each other. So you’ll understand me when I tell you I’m not a regular churchgoer. Or, to put it another way, I avoid church religiously.
So one day, my roommate, Sandra, offers to take me out for breakfast. After we were done, instead of heading home, she turned her car going west to Pasadena. I was like, “Where are you going?”
She says, “To Church.”
Confused, I said, “Are you going to drop me off first?”
“No, you’re coming with me.”
I go, “I should have known something was up when you offered to buy me breakfast. What did I do to deserve this?”
She laughed. “You’re a sinner, and you need to go to church! One day, at least! Jesus died for your sins!”
Fuming, I shot back, “Can I send him an Easter basket when April rolls around instead?”
Sandra stared daggers at me. “That’s not funny.” And believe me when I tell you- this is not a woman you want to piss off. She could perform an exorcism simply by walking into the room and telling the demon, “WTF? YOU BETTER GET OUTTA THAT LITTLE GIRL BEFORE I BEAT YOUR ASS, BITCH!” The demon would run screaming, trust me on this. I used to joke that I never met the woman who could scare me, but Sandra? Yeah- She SCARES me!
Fifteen minutes later, we were parked a block away from her church. I couldn’t help feeling like a kid being dragged to a parent/teacher conference. Checking her watch, Sandra looked at me and said, “I guess we missed the noon service. We’ll have to wait for the next one, but it’s in Spanish. Are you okay with that?”
Pouting like a child, I said, “What difference does it make? I’m here under duress, anyway!”
As the previous service let out, we made our way inside and took a pew seat up front. I would have preferred to sit in the back, but Sandra is the proverbial irresistible force and she wanted a good view of the service. I just sighed and decided to stop fighting. If I’m being completely honest, I was surprised I didn’t burst into flames by simply walking inside. I almost wished I had.
Admittedly, the cathedral was beautiful. It was adorned in marble and had a wide dome ceiling that let the sunlight in. The wood panels along the walls made everything seem warm and inviting, which managed to take the edge off of my discomfort at being there. If I had one complaint, it’s that more than a few of the parishioners looked as though they just rolled out of bed or simply didn’t care how they were dressed. Say what you want about the Jehovah’s Witnesses, but they always show up to their services looking presentable and immaculate. Personally, I don’t see why God would care what you looked like as long as you showed up, but that’s me. Besides, it’s not like He objected to Moses walking around in filthy robes and smelling like an unwashed goat.
The hour-long service began with music, which sounded pleasant to my ears even though I barely understood what anyone was singing. (Quick sidebar: although I am a full American-born Mexican, I am completely whitewashed and don’t speak a word of Spanish, though I can understand some words and phrases.)
Anyway, the priest came out and began his sermon, which included him chanting, “Jesus Christ” every five seconds, with the congregation repeating him. This went on for at least ten minutes, at which point I rolled my eyes and thought, “Jesus Christ, we get it, all right?” From there, he went on to read from the bible and kept babbling on for another 45 minutes.
I probably would have been a little more interested had I known what he was saying, but outside of a few random words and phrases, I couldn’t understand a single thing. The echo from the church didn’t help matters. It was a good thing I had filled up on coffee during breakfast, because if I didn’t have the caffeine buzz, I would have nodded off right then and there. The thing about Catholic services, aside from being somewhat on the dull side, is that they’re very ritualistic. I didn’t find anything particularly inspiring about it.
Then came around the collection plate, at which point I began to panic from embarrassment because I didn’t have any cash on me, not even change. Had I known I was going to be jacked to an afternoon service, I would have made it a point to stop at an ATM, but even then, what was I supposed to do- pull out a twenty and say, “Can I get fifteen back?” Yeah, right. I could only imagine how Sandra would’ve taken that. I mean, I’m not a cheap guy by any means, but I refuse to give a church more than five bucks- especially since I’m not a regular visitor. If I were, I would have handed them the twenty, come back the next week and said, “I’m cool- I’m already paid up for the month!”
As it stood, I didn’t have anything. So when the collection plate was held up to my face and everyone was giving me the stink eye, I mumbled, “Umm… sorry! Do you guys take debit?” Sandra went beet-red. The guy holding the plate shook his head. Everybody else kept staring in my direction, the priest included. “How about a check?” I asked.
Finally, Sandra grabbed the plate and slipped them a ten. Then she said, “I am SO sorry!”
I got the stare of doom again. I shrugged and whispered, “What was I supposed to do?”
I’m lucky I only got the stare. I guess Sandra decided to let it slide because I was caught like a deer in the headlights by her dragging me to church in the first place. If I’d been acting like a jackass on purpose, she probably would have read me the riot act the whole way home.
As the service ended, people started lining up in the central aisle to receive communion wafers. Sandra asked me if I wanted to get in line, but I was like, “Nah, I’m still full from breakfast.” Yeah, I probably shouldn’t have pushed my luck any further than I already had, but I enjoy living dangerously.
On the upside, after that experience, Sandra never asked me to join her for the Sunday service again. Praise Jesus.