Eight years ago, I was stalked very briefly. Considering how quickly my stalker gave up, I’m not sure I can even check this off my anti-bucket list. It also is entirely possible I am still being stalked. (Hi Angela!)
The first and only time I’ve ever met Angela was at work. I used to work in a call centre, which sounds weird before you realize that people mostly use social media or email to connect with customer service these days. I was exempt from dealing with phone calls until a colleague received a call meant for me. I was waved over to the cubicle where this colleague/impromptu translator was seated. The woman on the line, Angela, claimed to be a friend of my father’s. It was important that she meet me, she said.
Dad had, to my knowledge, maybe two female friends and neither of them was named Angela.
Back in the 90s, my parents told me that if I was ever approached by a stranger who said my parents sent them, that the code word was banana. This thought connected me to another: something happened to Mom and Dad. Was Angela their designated messenger? “I’m sorry, Laura, but your parents were in an accident. They’re dead. Banana.”
Then my rationalism kicked in: “Why am I assuming the worst?”
I moved onto the next scenario: Dad was having an affair and his mistress, Angela, had shown up at my workplace with her shit-stirring spoon.
I didn’t truly believe my parents were dead, and even if Dad was having an affair, I wouldn’t have given a shit.
Yet, I was too curious to not give a shit about Angela’s identity. As the call centre was located in the same building as the retailer I worked for, I was able to leave the office to meet Angela at the store’s customer service counter.
Before I even reached the customer service counter, a small brunette trotted towards me as if she recognized me. She didn’t appear to be much older than me; therefore she was far too young for Dad. The possibility of her being Dad’s mistress flew out of the window at that point. Mom and Dad still could be dead though?
“I’m so sorry to interrupt you at work,” she began, in American Sign Language (ASL).
Nah, Mom and Dad aren’t dead. Nobody breaks that kind of news in this manner.
“I just really wanted to give you this DVD, it has the Bible narrated in ASL.”
So, it wasn’t Dad who sent her, but God. Angela was a Jehovah’s Witness, and she had stalked me at work for recruitment purposes.
“What the fuck? No!” I snapped at her. This offer angered me as a fourth-generation Atheist. There was no fucking way my dad had sent her. She probably had been watching me from a literal watchtower, all bothered by my heathenness. She then followed the stench of my impurity all the way to my job and implied that I couldn’t possibly understand the Bible unless it was interpreted in ASL.
If God were so powerful, he wouldn’t have had to send some busybody to trick me into worshipping him.
I left Angela and her DVD at the customer service counter where she could learn all about how to care for her camping gear.
As soon as I was back upstairs in the office, I flipped my phone open (it wasn’t unusual to still own a flip phone in 2010) and laboriously tapped in a message to Dad.
“A Jehovah’s Witness named Angela just tried to convert me, and she said she was your friend!”
His response? “THOSE ASSHOLES.”
He had only met her a week earlier at his workplace. Angela and another man had dropped by to chat. Dad’s like me in that he has lots of stories and likes to share them with everyone, only in real life because he’s scared of the internet and probably doesn’t even know what a “blog” is. At one point in their conversation, it was revealed that Angela and her male companion knew ASL.
Dad: “Oh, let me tell you about my deaf daughter and where she works because I don’t think anybody is wacky enough to stalk her.”
Angela: “Hold my non-alcoholic beer.”
I think it was a good thing I reacted the way I did because it caused Angela to lose hope very quickly. I was beyond saving.
I grew up with religion so far removed from my life that for a long time I thought churches were where people got married and nothing more. The first time I learned about the concept of religion was from an episode of The Wonder Years where Kevin learns that Paul would not be able to attend his birthday party because it conflicted with the date of Paul’s Bar Mitzvah. (The internet tells me that it was likely Season 2 Episode 13 titled Birthday Boy.)
I remember approaching Mom after watching the show, “Mom, what religion are we?” I was expecting the answer to be as straightforward as if I had asked: “What nationality are we?”
“We don’t have one.”
I was let down. It was like being told that I did not belong on a team; I had nobody to root for, and nobody was rooting for me.
It wasn’t long before I accepted this. I discovered that some of my deaf friends attended church with their families, and they found it to be dull to unholy proportions. It didn’t help that the services they were attending weren’t interpreted. This is why I’ve got conflicted feelings about people like Angela. On the one hand, she is making religious services accessible for the deaf, but on the other hand, she learned ASL for the nefarious purpose of recruiting deaf people.
But it was wrong of Angela to extract my personal information from my dad and then show up at my job to offer salvation. She could have asked my dad to pass on her contact information. Dad would have thought, “Uh, pretty sure my daughter is content with the idea of becoming nothing more than worm food after death but ok.”
(Given the choice, I’d like my naked corpse to be suspended in pickle juice with a couple of pearl onions thrown in for good measure. Also, if someone is able to manipulate my hands into devil horns before rigor mortis sets in, please do so.)
There you have it: I’m a content Atheist. If you want to tell me how much religion has helped you, I’d be like, “Good for you.” But if you try to drag me away from the dark side, my reaction would still be, “What the fuck? No!”