Milkshakes and Missionaries


My stomach was doing flips. See, I know better than to have one of those Dairy Queen blizzard things. Knowing better never stopped anyone from doing what they want to do, however, and it didn’t stop me.

I’m a bit embarrassed by my occasional Dairy Queen cravings: in my mind, it’s sort of trashy, much like frequenting 7-11. I made an emergency stop at a 7-11 once with a friend who looked around and said, “Wow, we’re back in America now.” If you haven’t been to a 7 -11 for years and then go to one, you’d get that.

But I adore those overkill shakes that probably cause cancer and it was almost my birthday and I’m in complete denial about my dairy allergy. I do not have one. My stomach, however, wasn’t convinced. So I was grumpy when the doorbell rang, but luckily, I could see who it was and it wasn’t for me.

“Honey, the Jehovah Witnesses are here,” I shouted.

“Oh, great!” Phil replied and came rushing downstairs to open the door, cheat notes in hand.

I got out of the way and out of sight, always choose not to be involved in these things. I opened the medicine cabinet and stared at the possibilities: the idea of swallowing that poisonously pink stuff made my stomach flip again.

“Good afternoon! What can I do for you?” I heard Phil say. I could tell he was rubbing his hands together gleefully.

The Witnesses started on their prepared statement. In a few moments, Phil said, “tell you what. I’ll trade you copies of your scripture for mine, how’s that?”

The Witnesses stuttered.

I thoughtfully examined a bottle of Tums that expired in 2009. How much harm could it do? And those pain pills from my dental surgery two years ago. I kept them, because who knows when you might slice off a finger in the kitchen? I dropped both into the trash. Still nothing for my alarmed digestive system.

Phil was reading them his list of absurdities from the Bible. “Exodus 21:7 says I can sell my daughter into slavery. So do you agree with that? Well then, how can you believe some parts but not others? How do you decide which parts really are the word of God?”

My husband didn’t find these scriptures himself. He heard them on West Wing years ago. The embellishments were all his though. He loves this stuff. You should see him with the Mormons. He has the dirt on Joseph Smith. Tell you the truth, I feel sorry for the proselytizers when they come to our door.

I passed a pair of Mormon missionaries on my walk through the neighborhood a few days ago. “Excuse me, ma’am, do you know anyone who needs help today?”

Huh, I thought, interestingly oblique way to put it. I almost directed them to my house, but looked at their fresh young faces and relented. It would have been cruel.             “Nope,” I answered cheerfully, “don’t know a soul around here who needs help today.”

They gave me an odd look, but decided not to engage. Smart boys.

I wear dark glasses and a hat when we go to Dairy Queen. Trashy is different than working class, but who knows what people would think? There are Americas and Americas out there. I’m righteously proud of being working class. I even harbor enduring  resentment of rich people, an attitude that must be written into blue collar DNA. Class distinctions in America are as knotty as religious ones, everyone thinking their world is the One. An example of such differences was just beating a hasty retreat from my front door.

My stomach was still burbling unhappily. There wasn’t a damn thing in that medicine cabinet I could take. When I was greedily slurping that giant soft serve with chunks of fudge and caramel and nuts, I said to Phil, “it’s so worth it.”

Now, I’m not so sure. That’s life, ain’t it?

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7 Responses to Milkshakes and Missionaries

  1. This is my absolute favorite blog you have written so far!
    Sylvia Montero

  2. C.M. Mayo says:

    Love your blog, Pat.
    My grandma used to relish telling the Jehovah’s witnesses who came to her door that they had some nerve because their religion was “a Johnny come lately!”

  3. C.M. Mayo says:

    Wow, to post that comment I had to check a box, “prove YOU ARE human.” OK, in another year that will be so 2013. Maybe the missionaries can start sending bots.

    • dubrava says:

      That’s my trusty spam filter at work! But at least 20 a week still get through, so it’s not THAT good at detecting humans.

  4. Gregg Painter says:

    I have had dozens of encounters with missionaries at my door, but one sticks in my mind above all others. I was house sitting for a friend, my drummer and manager, in Richmond, Indiana. He was happy that a vegetarian was taking care of his house (in he 70’s, when there were not too many vegetarians in those towns), because his supply of steaks in the freezer was safe with me. Kirby also made a point of showing me where his loaded gun was located. This made me a little uneasy.

    Anyway, when the Jehovah’s Witnesses came to the door one morning, I had gotten up a little late, so the dogs had pooped right on the living room carpet. While we were having our theological conversation (it’s usually shorter, now), their eyes kept on darting toward the dog poop on the carpet. It was pretty funny, really.

    • Jana says:

      Great piece, Pat. I must say I’ve never thought of Dairy Queen or 7/11 as trashy places to go. But even your comments won’t deter me. My grandchildren love slurpies and I love ice cream anywhere I can get it!! I don’t think Joe could survive the summer without a peanut buster parfait. If I could still do it, I’d consume their banana splits. One of my happiest memories is taking my newly arrived, soon to be daughter in law from the Philippines and introducing her to American hot dogs and banana splits at our local Dairy Queen. Already 16 years ago this June!! Now she’s more American than I am!!

  5. Bob Jaeger says:

    I love it! Reminds me of the time the Witnesses rang and I answered the door in my bathrobe before putting in my plastic eye. They weren’t convinced by my scripture either.

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