One fine day, citizen Wayne walked into his local convenience store. He waved to his friend Drew Idde, the manager.
“On foot today, Wayne?” said Drew.
“Car trouble”, replied Wayne. “Postmodern Auto promised me it would be ready in a couple of days.”
“They do good work”, said Drew amiably. “You should be rollin’ soon!”
Having made his selections, Wayne brought them to the counter to be rung up.
“That’ll be $45.72”, said the young checkout person, and Wayne forked over a fifty.
Much to Wayne’s surprise, he was given a few Monopoly money bills as change.
“Is this a joke?”, he offered.
“Whaddaya mean?” replied the wide-eyed checkout, gum popping.
“Well…this isn’t real money!” said Wayne incredulously.
“Mr. Idde told me it was OK”.
“Well…er…would you call Mr. Idde? He’s a friend of mine.”
The friendly faced manager hastened over.
“What’s wrong, Wayne”, he inquired, genuinely concerned.
“Well…Drew, I don’t want to get anyone in trouble, but this change I got…”
Wayne showed it to his friend.
“So what’s the problem?” demanded Drew. Wayne was flabbergasted.
“Well, since when is Monopoly money legal tender?”, he asked.
Drew suddenly smiled. “Oh! I understand, Wayne! You’re following a different ECONOMIC path than we do here. Yes, it’s true for you that U.S. currency is the only real coin of the realm, but not for us! This Monopoly money is as valid as greenbacks, to us. Do you get it?“
“Well, I DON’T get it, but you’re my buddy and I gotta go, so we’ll talk about it later, OK?”
Hoping that his friend was suffering a temporary delusion, Wayne picked up his stuff and hastened out the door.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The next day, Postmodern Auto called Wayne. His car was ready.
“Good as new!” said the mechanic.
“I’ll fill it up before I go”, said Wayne. “And ah… please put it all on my credit card”, he added a bit urgently.
A young man promptly uncoiled a garden hose attached to a spigot on the side of the garage, and began filling Wayne’s gas tank.
“Yo! What are you DOING, my man!” Wayne gasped.
“Whaddaymean?” replied the gas attendent, yawning.
“That’s not gasoline!” yelled Wayne, yanking out the hose.
Ms. Relativo, the owner of the garage, sensed the commotion and came running. “What’s wrong, citizen Wayne?” she questioned evenly.
“Well…I don’t want to get anyone in trouble…but…aah…well, to be blunt, water was just put into my gas tank!”
Ms. R. vacantly blinked her eyes. “Yes, and…?” she appeared quite puzzled.
“Well, how is my engine going to function on H2O?”
“Oh! I understand, citizen Wayne!”, said Ms. Relativo. “You’re following a different PHYSICAL path than we do here. Yes, it’s true for you that cars run on gas only, but not for us! This water is just as valid, to us. Do you get it?“
Wayne took his keys and asked them to help him push the car to the side. “Er….ummm….I’ll be back, OK Ms. R?”
“Sure, citizen Wayne”, she responded. We’re sincere, caring people; we’ll work with you. Leave the car and do whatever you have to do.”
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Wayne left, then returned with his spare can of gas and a siphon, did what he had to do, and drove back home. He was hungry, and took a can out of his pantry. A tuna sandwich would hit the spot. Regrettably, when he opened the can, he didn’t see those concentric rings of pinkish-white flesh to which he was accustomed. Instead, therein was a brown, gelatinous mystery meat he instantly recognized: dog food!
This can’t be! thought Wayne. He grabbed the can and looked at the label. Sure enough – CAP’N HARPOONLESS BRAND DOLPHIN SAFE TUNA – PACKED IN HOLY WATER. Wayne sighed, but something caught his eye as he put down the can:
If you are dissatisfied with this product for any reason, you may e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wayne headed for his computer and fired up an e-mail. “Shades of Lorne Green”, it tersely concluded. “I didn’t expect Alpo to come out of that can!”
It wasn’t long before a reply streaked through cyberspace to Wayne’s mailbox.
“You must understand, Mr. Wayne!”, wrote the public relations rep from CAP’N HARPOONLESS. “You’re following a different NUTRITIONAL path than we do here. Yes, it’s true for you that what you found in that can was dog food, but not for us! Our product is valid as tuna, to us. Do you get it?“
* * * * * * * * * * * *
That Sunday morning, Wayne woke up feeling discouraged by the perplexing events of the week. He decided to visit a local temple – The First ChurMosquAgogue of Whatever Works for You, Baby. He entered and sat down on a day-glo velour upholstered pew. On his right was a woman that looked like Saturday Night Live’s church lady. At his left hand was a man with purple dreadlocks wearing roller skates. He lifted his eyes toward the dais, where he noticed a troupe of nude dramatists. They appeared to be the back up for an impassioned speaker. The speaker was standing below a crystal pyramid, and making a point with these chanting words –
“You must understand”, intoned the preacher. “We’re all following different SPIRITUAL paths! What’s true for you may not be true for your neighbor! There can not be one, supreme, personal God, nor one standard of morality! Only narrow-minded, bigoted, intolerant, arrogant, reactionary, judgmental, hypocritical, anal retentive, non-globally oriented products of the pathetic traditional western culture believe THAT!”, the amplified voice lilted. The applause was thunderous. “Christians are a good example! All the world’s other religions agree on this one and only thing – the Bible thumpers are categorically, definitely, absolutely wrong with that “One Way, Jesus” spiel! There are many, many valid ways to the Divine!”
The preacher paused effectively…leered out at the congregation with a look that both expected and sought commendation, and asked…”DO YOU GET IT?“
The uproarious din of approval that immediately filled the former movie theatre sounded like pandemonium.
But Wayne didn’t get it. He suddenly arose as if from the dead, exited without looking back, and made his way toward a truly alternative place of worship. It was one against which his friends at First of Whatever had cautioned. In warning him, they had used many of the words their preacher had just used, in describing the people to be found there. Wayne found these words above the arched doorway into the steepled old building –
“Wisdom has built her house, she has hewn out her seven pillars; she has prepared her food, she has mixed her wine; she has also set her table; she has sent out her maidens, she calls from the tops of the heights of the city: “Whoever is naive, let him turn in here!” To him who lacks understanding she says, “Come, eat of my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed. Forsake your folly and live, and proceed in the way of understanding.”
Wayne’s heart was strangely warmed as he went in. The preacher here was in the middle of a very different message. He was quoting the words of Jesus of Nazareth:
“I have come as light into the world, that everyone who believes in Me may not remain in darkness. And if anyone hears My sayings, and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. He who rejects Me, and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day.”
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
Previously published elsewhere, once upon a time before bar code scanning existed, and in a state where no citizen can pump his own gasoline…