June 14, 2024
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June 14, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

There’s Wealthy People and There’s Pur People

On second thought, I probably shouldn’t have told anybody I was going to Vegas.

Everyone in my life now thinks that I had some massive adventure that I just don’t want to talk about because it’s Vegas. I really didn’t.

They’re all 100% sure this was a vacation. Like, “Who goes to Vegas to work?”

A writer, for one.

I actually went to support my wife.

My wife is an interior designer, focusing on kitchens and bathrooms. And I’m as supportive as I can be, although for reasons of professionalism I’m above advertising for this in my columns. I’m not that supportive. I just advertise for my freelance writing services, my stand-up comedy and my books. I would also say “my teaching,” but nothing I’ve ever said in my columns is a solid advertisement for my teaching.

She’s very good. Every frum designer has to be good because we’re fitting 3 times as many dishes into the same kitchen space as the non-Jews are. Did you know that the average non-Jew has like one set of dishes? Why do they even need kitchen designers?

So anyway, the reason we went out there was a trade show for the kitchen and bath industry. My wife went to network with complimentary businesses, such as cabinet makers, countertop manufacturers, which are an entirely separate thing, and whatever the people are called who make handles for drawers (drawer handlers, I want to say?), which are an entirely third thing—everything but the kitchen sink.

Also kitchen sinks, obviously.

I was there in case people wanted to shake hands. Except that I had a cough, so I wasn’t shaking anyone’s hand. My wife’s like, “I can’t shake hands,” and I said, “I can’t shake hands either.”

“Well, you gotta. We can’t both not shake hands.”

“No, we’re both sick. That’s our story.”

That’s what I was doing. I didn’t take off in the middle of the school year and leave my kids and my students with other people (see?) so I could gallivant around the country. And if I did, I wouldn’t admit it. Which is why people think I did.

And people are like, “Yeah, but what about the hotels? Aren’t they gorgeous?” And I say, “You think we stayed in a gorgeous hotel? We stayed in our price range!”

To be clear, I didn’t want to go. I understand that there’s a thriving Jewish community there, and that they live where they live, but Vegas is ridiculous.

First of all, there are slot machines everywhere. Hotel lobbies, the airport, 7-Elevens, the laundromat…

“Wait; what happened to all my quarters?”

It’s like gambling is legal there, so they say, “Why don’t we put casinos in the bathrooms?”

Because you don’t have to. Someone’s coming all the way out here; he can’t walk into the actual casinos if he wants? When I go to Niagara Falls, I don’t expect to see water gushing in the hotel lobby. The laundromat maybe.

Also, I don’t know if you know this, but an entire town that glorifies gambling is maybe not the most Jewish place in the world. In fact, the point of Purim is that there’s no such thing as coincidence and luck in the first place. And if Hashem was going to have unearned money fall into your lap, he wouldn’t need you to buy a ticket to Vegas to do it. That’s an unnecessary amount of hishtadlus for your unearned money.

That said, I didn’t know how many Yidden would be at the show, so I went in a baseball cap because I didn’t want to be immediately identified as Jewish. Just as a Semitic-looking guy who wears baseball caps with casual business clothes. Indoors.

But we ended up running into way more Yidden than I expected, a large number of them Chassidim. In fact, there was one cabinet-making booth that was almost entirely staffed by Chassidim. Most of the booths were giving out tchotchkes—pens, tape measures, etc. The Chassidishe booth was giving out food. They had complete meals—fruit, coffee, wraps, latkes. We’re in the middle of a dessert; they have Cholov Yisroel milk. They did not fly with that. They just found it, somehow.

So at some point I took off my cap,because it was giving me a headache, and I was like, “What am I doing? I’m definitely not the most Jewish-looking person here.”

And anyway, there were people there of every ethnicity, because this was an international kitchen convention, and everyone cooks. It’s not like the African-Americans were wearing caps so no one would know they were African-American.

I had to tell some people I was going. I had to tell the principal of the yeshiva I teach in. And when I got back, he asked me, “How did it go?” and I said, “I don’t want to talk about it.” And he said, “Oh, I’m sorry. How much money did you lose?”

The other reason my wife brought me was that she’s found, at other conventions, that exhibitors are more likely to speak to someone if they’re with a companion. So my job was to just be there.

And it kind of backfired. Most of the exhibitors started talking to me instead of my wife. They assumed I was in charge. Despite my indoor baseball cap. Even women did this. I tried subtly hinting that I was just the assistant, and that it said “spouse” on my badge, but nobody looked at the badge because they were busy making professional eye contact with me.

They would start talking about styles and models and distribution, and I would glaze over and periodically say, “Yeah,” while my wife paid attention and asked all the questions. I couldn’t voice any of my questions, such as, “What does that mean?” But I also couldn’t wander off during those 20-minute conversations because the people still thought they were talking to me.

Basically, I spent two supportive days tired and bored and unable to say possible humorous thoughts into a voice recorder. I did have a clipboard, but these people were standing really close, and they might’ve been flattered that I was taking notes, but only until they looked over and saw that I was writing, “This guy has spent the past 20 minutes thinking he’s talking to me, but I have no idea what he’s saying.”

This is why you wear a cap.


Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia and other magazines. He has also published eight books and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].

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