It was the night of the blood moon lunar eclipse, and much like a werewolf, I felt a powerful urge bidding me to venture into the night and troll some of the villagers. Well, maybe I was not so much like a werewolf. I felt more like Garfield the comic book cat, as this impulse came with a ravenous craving for pasta.
This happens to me frequently, as I am a devout Pastafarian, which basically means I am atheist (or agnostic, if there’s even a difference) who occasionally enjoys a good plate of spaghetti. I’m considering going on a low-carb diet and converting to the Church of Bacon in the near future, but on this particular Sunday, the Flying Spaghetti Monster tapped my shoulder with his noodley appendage and sweetly invited me to take communion.
Unfortunately, it was 8:45 pm, which is considered late-night dining in my sleepy little neighborhood. Most of the restaurants were closing in 15 minutes and it normally takes me that long to locate my car keys. The nicer nearby Italian restaurants were no longer a viable option, and the only local establishment with an open kitchen was, to my dismay, an Olive Garden.
I always feel like I’m acting snobbish when I say I don’t like the Olive Garden. By no means am I a high-class dame or a nit-picky foodie, but every time I give it another chance I wind up thinking, “that wasn’t very good.” That said, in our neighborhood, the Olive Garden’s parking lot is always jammed packed with cars, so clearly they must be doing something right.
I took my boyfriend to dinner and was initially impressed. There was a decent wine selection, cool décor, and the menu wasn’t silly with items like deep-fried spaghetti jalapeno poppers. Our waitress, who was bubbly and attentive, served me a nice carafe of pinot noir, accompanied by one of those cheesy logo wine glasses with grapes etched on the side to remind servers that wine goes into this glass, and ends at the bottom of the grapes. The food was still unremarkable – sweaty, salty breadsticks and college dorm spaghetti – but with the right wine, atmosphere, and company, I was at ease, and enjoyed the overall experience.
Then the waitress came back with our tab and a special hand-written card, asking me to have a blessed day and to like her Jesus page on Facebook. (I blocked the name to protect the innocent).
This waitress had been exceedingly friendly and provided excellent service, so I still gave her a good tip. I tried to suppress my natural liberal, knee-jerk reaction of haughty irritation, but I couldn’t help glaring at the card, and being haughtily irritated.
My boyfriend, who was raised in a very religious household and is not prone to liberal, knee-jerk reactions, was quite amused. “Maybe she took one look at us and just knows we’re going to hell,” he speculated.
That seems to happen to us a lot in the Midwest, but no, this wasn’t an act of judgment. She probably gives this same card to all her diners. She was not rude – quite the opposite. This was perpetuated more in the spirit of “I’m promoting my boyfriend’s band. Please like and share their Facebook page,” but even that would elicit an eye roll from the average patron.
I imagine most customers would gruffly dismiss a “Vote for Bobby Jindal” message, annoyed that a server would even consider pushing a political belief when all that was requested was some over-rated bread sticks.
This lovely server had no knowledge of my religious beliefs. She was blithely unaware that I was actively practicing communion as she slipped her message in under a ridiculously large pile of after-dinner mints.
I crossed my thumbs, bowed my fingers, and said a quiet little prayer to the Flying Spaghetti Monster, asking Him to lay his noodley appendage upon our waitress in understanding. I prayed He would forgive this transgression, gently show her the error of her ways, and somehow stop her from delivering such messages to future patrons. Perhaps he could bless her with 30 more years of serving spaghetti and meatballs to local Pastafarians, eager to feel His love in a Jesus-free Olive Garden.
I imagine this is the kind of prayer a devout Christian would perform if, let’s say, a Muslim server asked them to follow their “For the Love of Muhammad” Twitter feed. Assuming, of course, they would only pray, and not issue a complaint to the manager. I would never issue such a complaint, though I should have left a little card on the table, inviting her to like and share my Uncouth Marie page.
Upon my return home, I looked closely at this card, reading it over and over again, until both the card and the Facebook page it promoted became my single-minded obsession.
I’ve lived in the United States for over 40 years and no one has ever once mentioned this Jesus fellow to me before. Could this be the day? The day where Jesus finally, through the divine actions of this Olive Garden server, tap me to become born again? Did God try to reach me through that pile of after-dinner mints and say “NOW you must believe in My son’s divinity and enjoy eternal life at My side. Thou shalt savor these never ending breadsticks with their weirdly chunky crusts, for they represent Jesus’s body. His blood is actually better represented by the Cavit pinot noir – you will need to upgrade your wine choice next time.”
Since this miraculous card appeared in my life, I spend every waking hour at the church and have committed the Bible to memory.
Well….. not really.
I mean, hey, it’s the Olive Garden. Not Romano’s Macaroni Grill.
And quite frankly, far more aggressive Christians have tried and failed.
Back in my early years as a retail sales girl, I had a co-worker trap me in a fitting room and coerce me to pray to Jesus. She begged out loud for Him to save my soul and help me be a better friend to my friends. This woman knew nothing about me or my friendships – she was just bat shit crazy. She did this to other co-workers as well. Some were Christians who didn’t mind, and the rest found their own methods of escaping her lunacy without reporting her to management. No one wanted this otherwise lovely lady to feel alienated or persecuted. My tactic was to lie and say I was Jewish. That seemed to stop her, though I was always nervous she would actually ask me questions about Judaism, as I was uninterested in layering up the bullshit.
Just a couple of weeks ago, I encountered a bunch of aggressive Christians who wanted to, yet again, harsh my mellow. I took about a dozen of my Hoosier friends to Cincinnati’s incredible Oktoberfest, where 500,000+ drunks line the streets to drink craft beer, eat fantastic German food, listen to tuba music, and lock arms in the world’s largest chicken dance. My friends, being bad ass super drinkers that they are, were already three sheets to the wind upon arrival.
We chicken danced, bought funny hats, joyously clinked beer mugs, and then stumbled into a group of Christians who adamantly wanted to warn us about the dreaded hell fire each of us would inevitably face for imbibing alcohol. These Christians were decidedly not joyous. In fact, they seemed rather irritated at having to explain their position to extremely intoxicated people.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume these Christians were not specifically invited by the City of Cincinnati to hold court in the middle of Oktoberfest and shame festival-goers for behavior heavily endorsed and encouraged by the festival planners. These Christians crashed the party and then had the nerve to insult the guests to their face. That’s very rude. A good party crasher blends in, is kind to party-goers, and sneaks off with a few refreshments. Apparently, these people didn’t read Emily Post’s Guide to Party Crashing.
Drunken revelers from all faiths lined up for the chance to either yell at these zealots, or to slur their drunken logic in a calm, rational, “I hope I don’t vomit on your shoes” manner. My friends and I gathered around one guy in particular, whom I will call “Lil Rod,” as that was the singular name tattooed down his arm in what appeared to be prison ink. I’m not sure if this tattoo was meant to indicate his name, a beloved/departed friend, his favorite gangsta rapper, or his own diminutive penis. I just know the Bible frowns upon tattoos, but on that point, I’ll digress.
Lil Rod wore an expression of calm indifference, trying not to get injured or be clawed at by the mob. His eyes, sometimes getting as big as saucers, almost seemed to blink in Morse code “get me out of here,” as he rotely relayed his hell fire messages. One Christian drunk seemed incredibly agitated that Lil Rod would dare demonize him on behalf of their mutual lord and savior. I thought it was going to come to blows as this particular Christian was quite aggressive and mean-looking, even in lederhosen and an alpine hat.
One of my girlfriends took her turn with Lil Rod, giving up on logic quickly and then asking him if he was okay. She was genuinely concerned, as he looked like a captive who wasn’t very skilled in crowd control techniques. Ultimately, after a “please don’t touch me” request, Lil Rod was gracious enough to pose with my friend, though he refused to smile.
My friends all encountered this Christian mob. It was a very sobering experience. We all stopped drinking right then and there in deference to their noble efforts. That night, after all my guests returned to my home, we formed a prayer circle, tearfully asking Jesus to forgive us and save us from eternal damnation. We each took turns emptying beer cans out into the street while reciting the Lord’s prayer. We burned a Dos Equis cardboard cut-out of The Most Interesting Man in the World in effigy. Bottles of whiskey, bourbon, and vodka were crushed. The only bottle that remained was some Cavit pinot noir, which we shared with some shitty Olive Garden bread sticks in communion.
Look, I’m happy for anybody who finds purpose and meaning in their life in any capacity, be it through Jesus, the Old Testament, Allah, science, witch covens, yoga, family, or simply just the love of a loyal houseplant.
My personal belief is that humans discussing the origins and meaning of the universe are very much like goldfish in a small fishbowl discussing the origins and meaning of the Earth. While such conversation can be intriguing and a great way to pass the hours, they have no idea what they’re talking about and never will. It is my humble opinion that as an extremely limited being, unable to see all the colors, hear all the sounds, or even use half of my brain’s capacity, I will never understand the world or the meaning of life, because I am clearly not meant to. The universe is probably much weirder than I can ever possibly imagine, and I’m perfectly fine with that. I don’t need any more answers.
Nor do I need any more warnings about what hellish flame will burn my eternal soul should I make a single misstep during my nano-second of a lifespan. I just want to enjoy my life, face my own consequences, and let the truth reveal itself to me if and when it’s ever ready to do so.
If you, the zealot, can agree to simply leave me alone and let me enjoy my spaghetti without a side of religion, I will agree never to come into your church with a giant sign and start shouting about how drinking is cool. I will never pass you a card that invites you to visit a satanic Facebook page. Most importantly, I will never stand on a street corner and scream about your transgressions through a bull horn in an effort to publicly demean you for victimless crimes and various bad habits.
That would be rude, and Flying Spaghetti Monster hates rudeness.