See this? Do you SEE THIS?
Few things strike dismay and disgust more viciously in the heart of a bibliophile than the sight of a water-damaged book. The original paper texture is lost. Your book will never close satisfyingly again. The pages make that unnerving tissue-paper sound when you turn them. In extreme cases the ink will run and turn sentences illegible and information irretrievable. If it’s a “classic” book in any sense, any hope you might’ve had of reselling it at collectors’ prices in the future are dashed.
The worst part of this incident is, this wasn’t even my coffee. In an auditorium with stadium seating and no carpeting under the seats, someone else’s morning java escaped them, flowed down to our row, and soaked the back of the laminated folder I’d left on the floor. The folder itself was fine but secretly had coffee adhering to it when I picked it up and set it on my open Bible so I could remove something from it. When I tried to move the folder, then I spotted the coffee, the runoff on the floor, and the damage done.
If you’re like me, and I know I am, this sort of accident spurs a vindictive little voice in the back of your head that wants everyone to know something inconvenient has happened and someone better do some mollifying or else it won’t shut up. But who was I supposed to complain to?
Despite my petty annoyance, I wasn’t about to interrupt a pretty convicting sermon on Jonah and the sinners of Nineveh. If I would only bide my time until after the service, my venting options were plentiful. But to whom should I be griping?
To the guilty party? Like I said, I didn’t want to cause a scene at that exact moment. I couldn’t be sure how many rows back the source was, and now wasn’t the time to canvass the area for suspects. Instead I spent the time propping the pages up and apart, using past church bulletins as buffers, and hoping everything would air-dry. Fun trivia: Bible pages are so thin, they dry in minutes. Now I know.
To the church? Should I act as if this were their fault and our volunteer ushers should be expected to bar entrance to anyone carrying a loaded drink? Hardly. I fully support our stance on not being exclusionary, over any stuff great or small. They have enough work on their hands.
On Facebook? I see other church members there more than anywhere else, but they’ve probably blocked me because I only recently realized my Words With Friends notices were out of control for a while. Nobody cares about those, especially not me, but no one told me they were turned on. I’m betting I burned lots of bridges without even realizing it. Thanks heaps, stupid WWF phone app.
On Twitter? Where almost no one will pay attention except those who are always up for a rousing anti-church anecdote. Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope. Not my intent or desire at all.
To my wife? She’ll sympathize, but she can’t really do anything about it and is highly unlikely to declared a vendetta in my name. But at least I can trust her not to bring a drink to church.
To our dog? Or maybe a stuffed animal? Or some other people-like thing that I can pretend is a confidant? Tempting but dissatisfying.
To the Bible publisher? Were they negligent in not printing “DO NOT EXPOSE BIBLE TO LIQUIDS” on the back cover or the original wrapper? Never be too hasty to take the frivolous-lawsuit option off the table.
To Starbucks, McDonald’s, or our local gas stations? How dare they allow careless drinkers to leave their premises without consuming or disposing of their hazardous chemicals first. Wouldn’t it be decent of them to police their customers for my benefit?
To our nation’s comedians, pundits, or other talking heads? Why has no one in the media stepped forward to shame coffee drinkers preemptively into keeping their shoddy containers out of public venues where they don’t belong? Maybe it’s because the media is in on this travesty. They’re all coffee achievers and they’re all against me.
To the inventor of the disposable coffee cup? Y’know why no one ever spills champagne at church? Because no one sells it in flimsy, easily transportable cups. The coffee cup inventor has knowingly enabled the Three-Stooges-ification of an entire nation.
To God? Of course not. He’ll listen patiently and then remind me of the thousands of other matters in this broken world far more pressing than one damaged Good Book. He’ll remind me that the Word has survived far worse, that there are plenty of replacement copies out there if it bothers me that much, that my own church gives them out for free, that I already have another perfectly usable Bible at home, and maybe this incident is all too symbolic of the ultimately inconsequential distractions that we allow to separate us from Him.
God can be aggravating and convicting and insufferably right that way.
Just to rub it in, He reminds me of something I saw on TV last week, in which a murderer confessed to a close friend of one of her victims, and — against all ordinary, worldly TV standards — that friend forgave the murderer.
He also reminded me of the scene in Philomena where forgiveness trumped outrage and won the movie.
In that same spirit, and on a much more trivial level, I expect I’ll forgive whoever turned the Book of Jonah permanently bumpy and crinkly and prematurely browned…even though I’m fairly certain I saw the guilty party sprinting away as soon as the service ended, probably to avoid eye contact and accountability. Or maybe they were bolting to the nearest restaurant for a refill and another chance to damage someone else’s goods.
…and then God pings me in the back of the head with a brief signal about how getting judgmental and condescending won’t score me any points, either.
It’s like God doesn’t even want me to grow up to be even more whiny and nitpicky than the cast of Seinfeld. If I don’t, how am I supposed to survive on the internet?
* * * * *
If you made it this far, you’ll be relieved to know that yes, hours later, I’m doing much better, back in the correct head space, and revisiting the sermon online to catch what I missed this morning during my carefully contained but nonetheless unbecoming silent tantrum. Most of the preceding was written during my study hour after church to get it out of my system. I’ve plenty of Scripture verses on forgiveness at my fingertips and a new reminder to myself as to where my focus should be.
One bright side to this: now Jonah is permanently bookmarked and accessible in a single try anytime I want. I could turn this into a cool party trick if no one looks closely.