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Herman's Mistake

So there I was, sandwiched between two geriatrics at the (under ten items) check out at Albertsons. I was still under the delusion that one could locate and pay for half a dozen rolls and a snickers bar, and make it out of the supermarket before Christmas.

In front of me was a decidedly Jewish man in his seventies, clutching three sausage-looking products, a bread and a cantaloupe. In less than three seconds I had assigned him an identity and a history. His name was Herman Mankowitz from New Jersey, a retired furniture salesman down in Florida for the winter. His wife Ethel was playing bridge at the JCC, so he'd decided to nip out of his retirement community to buy a few things for lunch.

Behind me was woman of equal age, her hair swept away from her face, in a tight bun that also served as a temporary facelift, stretching her skin upwards together with her graying tresses. With her was an even older woman who kept asking her friend whether she'd taken advantage of the two-for-the-price-of-one potato chip offer. It transpired a little later, when the two women almost came to blows over the flavors of the selected potato chips, that the "friend" was in actual fact, her own mother. It seemed almost obscene to me to have a mother at the age of 75. Not that I'm anti-mothers in any way. I just think it is hard enough being a crotchety 75-year old without having to deal with an even more crotchety mother.

In front of me, Herman was having his goodies processed by the cashier, a tall and well-endowed black woman named Jean, according to her Albertson's nametag. It was all going smoothly until Herman checked his receipt. That's when all hell broke loose: "You've overcharged me. The kishkes are on special - $1.99 not $2.99 each!" accused an irate Herman. His oversized Adam's apple and his temples could be seen pulsing at a terrific pace. I took a step backwards, afraid he might just combust.

"The special is for a different product. These kishkes are not the same as the one advertised in the brochure," explained an exasperated, but calm Jean. I wondered to myself whether cashiers in the geriatric belt of Florida attended special preparatory classes entitled, "Dealing with Difficult New York Jews 101" or "Fundamentals of Jewish Foodstuffs: Kishkes to Kneidals 101." Did Jean know that Herman was arguing with her over stuffed intestines? (By the way, upon looking up kishkes on the Internet, you will be most happy to hear that the domain name, www.kishkes.com is still available for purchase!)

At some point in the fracas, the woman with the bun threw caution to the wind and entered the kishkes brawl:
"Those are not the same kishkes!" she said at the top of her voice to Herman, "the cashier is right!"
I braced myself.
"Oh, so now YOU want to get involved? My kishkes are your business now are they?" boomed Herman, throwing up his fist and pointing it menacingly in her direction.
"You're right." She agreed, a look of wariness on her face, "I have no business getting involved. Sorry. Carry onů."
And carry on he did. On and on, he waved the brochure, cursed Albertsons and demanded to speak to a manager.

Enter Nigel. I know Nigel is an English name, and he was American, but his face was crying out to be called Nigel. He looked like the sort of man used to dealing with the irate public. He had a certain submissive way about him, like he'd lost a few too many wars.

Jean tried to explain the situation as Herman muttered on about his blessed kishkes. Seizing the advertising brochure in one hand and the disputed kishkes in the other, Nigel reached a decision. Jean the cashier had been correct all along he explained. Herman's kishkes were beef. The advertised ones were not. Herman's face dropped in disappointment.

Of course this led me to ponder the very nature of kishkes. If they weren't a cow's intestines, then whose were they? Pork kishkes seemed out of the question. I wasn't sure whether chickens had intestines, nor was I particularly interested in finding out. The very thought of nibbling an intestine filled me with revulsion equaled only by the thought of eating garden snails. I was "awakened" from my musings by the bun woman who accidentally (or perhaps not) rammed her shopping cart into my behind. Amazingly, Herman accepted Nigel's pronouncement, and opted to surrender his kishkes to Jean rather than have to pay the full price. Jean meanwhile, was heard to mutter, "told you so you old geezer," understandably aggrieved at Herman for having accepted Nigel's word but not her own, giving this little kishkes incident a dash of racist/sexist intrigue.

When Herman finally departed, I stepped up to Jean, flashed her a sympathetic grin and proclaimed: "Don't worry dear, I don't eat kishkes!" No reaction from Jean. Which leads me to wonder: Do shikses eat kishkes?