The sign of the prophet Jonas

I’m on a train, public transportation in the South Bay area, i.e., Silicon Valley. Typically it’s a fairly dull ride with the typical variety of office suites and manicured bushes passing me by. The passengers getting on and off are, by and large, heading to their tech jobs, Macbooks on laps, buds wedged in ears, and phones at the ready.

There’s an adorable girl sitting in front of me who is on the phone with her boyfriend or someone who is almost certainly going to be her boyfriend at some point in the near future. She has a deferential and endearing vulnerability, which reminds me of the Pam character from The Office. She slept in, she says, because she didn’t feel well. And no, she says, she just called it in to the office. After all, so and so is always calling in because her alarm clock didn’t go off.

I have no particular interest in hearing other people’s conversations, just to clear up any insinuation of any possible creep factor. Most of the time, I’d rather zone out into an audiobook, but alas, I left the ear buds who-the-hell-knows-where. I just started Gone Girl and was quite stoked to get back to it.

No, I’m not a creepy stalker type, but I am fascinated with people. People are fascinating everywhere, even in Silicon Valley. Besides, the woman in front is now turning every which way, jerking back and forth, so it’s now impossible to ignore her. “You are where?” she says excitedly into the phone. “Where? Oh. I see you…Oh. I guess not.” Apparently there is a remarkable coincidence occurring before my very eyes: the boyfriend-ish chap is driving within sight of the train that the Pam-ish woman is riding on.

The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven. 2 He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. 3 And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowering.O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times? 4 A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed. – Matthew  16 (KJV)

“There you are!” says the Pam-ish person. I see a hand appear out of the window of a white truck, waving. Magic is in the air. The signs are clear.

Personally I try not to make too much of signs. Clearly it can be overdone, as when reading signs is induced by a sense of anxiety, by some unhealthy sense of needing a sign in the absence of which one is paralyzed. Per Jesus’ suggestion, I like the idea of reading the signs of life much like the weather — if it looks like rain best to put on a jacket, if the rain is blowing southerly best to face south when you take a piss; and if the guy you dig takes the time to chase down your train and wave at you from his pickup truck, well you might have something there.

The Pharisees and Sadducees needed Jesus to fit into their mold. Jesus didn’t want to.

I try not to be too hard on these Pharisee  blokes, because I find that the people who rail the most against the Pharisees and Sadducees tend themselves to be the judgmental types, and I don’t want to find myself occupying that ironic space wherein I am guilty of judgmentalism towards the judgmental.

True, Jesus was pissed off at the Pharisees and Sadducees quite often, but I don’t read too much into that because it seemed like they went to a lot of trouble to irritate and harass Jesus. Even this was not entirely without cause since Jesus, like John the Baptist before him, had a problem with religious leaders who made cozy with the empire of Rome. The point is that Jesus wouldn’t have been nearly so hard on those boys if they were just guilty of a little run-of-the-mill hypocrisy, that good old-fashioned hypocrisy that every salt-of-the-earth religious person indulges in now and again. Guilty pleasures I suppose.

The Pam character and I got off at the same stop. She turned out to be much taller than I had thought, probably six feet. I hope they don’t give her too hard of a time at work. Poor girl will probably be glowing with love or something like it and will find it difficult to convince anyone that she wasn’t feeling well.

I walk a block and find the sign for the 17 bus. I settle in to wait for it. I’ve got ten minutes or so. Then I realize that the bus 17  sign didn’t say Santa Cruz, so I find another sign, but this “sign” is really only a listing of the times of service, the actual sign has a black plastic bag taped over it. So maybe the pick up is here, or maybe the pick up is at the other sign. Which sign? Lord Almighty. And now I have to pee.

Published by

Jonathan Erdman

Writer. In the summers, I live and work in the incredible state of Alaska, in the bush community of McCarthy, as the Executive Director of the Wrangell Mountain Center. When not in McCarthy, you'll typically find me in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, writing and working with local activists. My primary writing project right now is a novel set in remote bush Alaska, of the magical realism genre wherein an earnest and independent young woman finds a mysterious radio belonging to her grandmother, a device that has paranormal bandwidth and a disturbing ability to mess with one's mental stability.

Consider this post an invitation, an invitation to comment and collaborate ~ In Solidarity, JE

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