The elevator emptied out as we approached the top floors, until there was just me and a chunky Asian inside, and only “seven” glowing on the panel. I don’t know his name, but let’s call him Jin, in keeping with the Jo- crowd.
Jin looks at the panel, looks at me and conveys that he would like to know if I too am heading to the seventh floor, or should he press another button for me? I say “convey” because his speech was slow and halting and the communication wasn’t necessarily all vocal. I responded that seven was exactly where I was heading, thanks.
He hesitated and then started expressing himself again. “Is – that – Jewish – clothing?” He gestures at my ensemble.
Momentarily taken aback, I reply, “Yes, it is. I mean, the clothing is from all over, but the look is definitely Jewish.”
He digested that for a moment while I digested his question. Asians are not very savvy about Judaism, if they know it exists at all. They’re not terribly savvy on western religions in general. Heck, the average Chinaman thinks the main difference between Thanksgiving and Christmas is the mascot: fat man in red pajamas with a tree versus sober men in black and buckles with a turkey. Religion doesn’t come into it. So I asked the natural follow-up question:
“How do you know about Jewish dress?”
“I – live – in – Borough – Park.”
Aaaah. Well, that explains things.
“You – don’t – wear – a -” Jin makes a gesture of putting a bowl on his head – “hat?”
“No,” was my uncomprehending answer. “The men get the hats, the women get the skirts.” Only later did I realize that me probably meant a turban or shpitzel or whatever they all wear in BP. At any rate, he mulled that over a second and then got out, “I think – that it – is – very – nice.”
That surprised me. I mean, you don’t hear that very often, even from people like Joe, and obviously he’s his own case. “I think so too,” I said, for lack of anything else popping to mind. Well whattaya know.