October 19, 2019

Courage Under Fire

Sometimes I feel like people are out to get me. My courage was tested this week, not once but twice. The first time involved dropping off shirts at Celebrity Cleaners.

“Is this your first time here?” asked the Persian girl behind the desk.

“I've been here once before.” I said. “Last name is Steingart.”

“How you spell?” she asked.

“S-T-E-I-N-G-A—R—T as in Timmy,” I announced.

“Not in system.” She said suspiciously.

I was surprised since my old dry cleaner recognized me in the system as someone who brought in dirty shirts and pants. 

“Can I pick up tomorrow?” I asked.

She gave it some thought. “Yes, fine.” She agreed as she handed me a pink receipt.

When I came back to pick up my laundry I presented her a coupon.

“I can't accept this,” she said. “Must be $20 or more.”

I don't know why it’s called “fine” print when it always screws you. I sighed as I looked at my pink receipt. I looked up at the girl whose back was turned. I noticed the name on the pink receipt I held in my hand wasn't mine.

The name printed on the receipt was STEINFART. The FART jumped off the receipt. There was no GART, but a giant bold faced FART. STEINFART, ELLIOT. This seemed like a steep price to pay to pick up my dry cleaning the next day.

It finally registered that STEINFART was the name they had in their system. Too embarrassed to correct her, I paid for my dry cleaning as STEINFART. The name that tormented me throughout childhood is now on file at Celebrity Cleaners forever.  I said nothing. I left as STEINFART. While STEINFART is a celebrity, STEINGART is some shmuck that needs to learn how to iron.

The worry of finding a new dry cleaner was offset when my girlfriend invited me on a romantic movie date to see Zero Dark Thirty.  Walking into the theatre I noticed an armed security guard. I gave him a head nod once I saw he was strapped. While my girlfriend stood in line for popcorn I found our seats towards the top in an empty row. Checking my phone I heard a hacking cough coming from an elderly man in the row behind me. I took that as a sign and moved a few rows down. My girlfriend returned with the popcorn and the movie began. 

During the opening sequence frantic 911 calls are heard from people still inside the Twin Towers.  A few new audience members shuffled into the theatre arguing in Farsi or Arabic. They pointed toward the seats next to me and filed in. In the darkness of the theatre both men resembled the Al Quada detainee on screen. My girlfriend squeezed my arm during the first water boarding sequence. The man seated next to me kept looking over at us, tapping his foot and fidgeting as thought he couldn't remove a wedgie.

Watching suicide bombings on screen did not calm my nerves. The tension grew palpable as the armed security guard from the lobby entered the theatre. The security guard surveyed the audience and left. After the next torture scene the person sitting next to me began scratching his chest, and blurting out words I could not understand.

I feared a bomb was strapped to his ankle like the one I saw on screen. I had my chance to alert the security guard. I could have saved the lives of everyone in the theatre, but I did not want to break the rule of talking during the movie. Finally, my girlfriend leaned over and shushed the suspected terrorist. He stopped talking.

In hindsight I probably sound like a pretty big chicken. Not everyone with brown skin is out to get me, just the dry cleaner.