One of the most fun activities for a frum person on vacation is to look around for other frum families on vacation. And of course to introduce yourself, even though if you ran into them at your local supermarket, you would never say a word to them.
I guess, in general, if you see someone new, you’re not sure if they live in town or are guests. Is it worth getting to know them? I don’t even talk to the people I know. But if you meet them out in the sticks, there’s no way they’re not guests.
“Hey, I’m frum, too! We’re all in the same boat! Minchah?”
I don’t know that people from out of town get the same thrill running into a frum person when they vacation in New York.
So here’s a list of a bunch of ways that you can tell if the family you’ve been frowning at for the past 10 minutes is actually frum. Note that not all frum people conform to all of these points (OK, no one conforms to all of these points), but if you see someone doing any of these, it’s a pretty safe bet that he’s frum. And then you can go over to him and say, “Minchah?” And if he says, “What?” you can correct yourself by stammering, “Oh, sorry. You look a lot like my friend Minchah.” Or you can pretend that you’re talking to the person behind him. Chances are that you’re both in line for something, meaning that there are a lot of people standing in a row behind him, so you can basically keep doing this forever.
Note that these are all things people do on regular vacations, and I’m not even talking about what happens at the bungalow colony. Do goyim even go to bungalow colonies? I haven’t been able to get a straight answer from any of my neighbors, even my next-door neighbor Hershel, who is either Latino or African-American. (No, he doesn’t know how he got the name Hershel, but he named his son Hershel, too.) Point is, you can’t go by names.
- If someone is on vacation the week between camp and school, they’re Jewish. Even if they don’t know they’re Jewish. You know.
- The entire family is wearing baseball caps. There is no non-Jewish family in the world where every last person wears a baseball cap. Nobody with a beard that big is so into the Yankees that his whole family has to wear caps. Of random team names. And not even all are team names — some are for frozen foods.
- Even the wife is wearing a baseball cap so no one realizes she’s wearing a sheitel. Because it’s not her best sheitel. This is her whitewater-rafting sheitel, and it’s been rescued once or twice.
- All the kids are matching. I don’t know why. I guess it’s so the parents can find them. To everyone else, your kids all look alike. But to you, who can tell the difference, they need matching clothing. Their caps don’t match, though.
- They have enough luggage for a family making aliyah. “Let’s see … I’ve been wearing the same undershirt all week, but for five days of vacation, I’ll probably need … 10, just in case. What if I go on a water ride? I’ll probably change it right there at the park!”
- Their trunk needs to be slammed hard to make sure nothing falls out.
- They have 10 people in a seven-seater.
- They’re cooking on a small portable grill right next to the huge public-use grill. Truth is, I don’t know why everyone doesn’t do this. There’s years of crud on those things. Who cleans a grill? Especially one in middle of a park.
- They seem to be staring at a wall for five minutes in middle of the day and talking to themselves. Or they’re holding their cellphone to their ear pretending to be on the phone with G-d. All these people will be useless for Minchah though, as they’re going to say they already davened. I keep getting drafted right after I do this.
- They’re the ones who go to the beach at 5:30 in the morning before the crowds get up. Because who wakes up at the crack of dawn to relax on the beach?
- They’re double-parked.
- T-shirts above the waist, business attire below the waist.
- They’re peering into an open knapsack and getting into an argument with a guard who doesn’t let food into the park, and claiming that the entire family is on a special diet, like this particular guard has never met Jews before. Why not just hide the snacks under the rolled-up undershirt?
- They’re lending people baby wipes, even though they don’t seem to have a baby.
- There are kids sleeping on the floor of their hotel room.
- They’re making travel soups in the glass coffee pot in their hotel room, even though its soup and it’s the middle of the summer.
- They have the A/C in the hotel room going full blast, probably because they’ve been eating soup. They’re also eating ice cubes by the bucketful.
- They’re the ones schlepping a cheap little travel range into the hotel, like the highlight of their vacation will be cooking inefficiently.
- They’re attempting to keep a bottle of milk cold overnight in a bucket full of ice. Or, if the vacation is in middle of the winter, you can spot Jews from outside the hotel by who has milk on their windowsill. It’s like a little menorah.
- They’re the ones bringing suitcases full of meat on the plane. And, I suppose, davening that the suitcases don’t get lost for weeks and weeks. “We finally found your suitcase. Do you want it?” “No. Just blow it up.”
- They’re the ones trying to feed the animals at the zoo when the sign says, “No feeding.” Jews can’t not feed anything. The zoos post this because they don’t want the animals having digestive problems, but, “No, it’s okay. I’m just feeding them matzah.”
- They’re the ones in middle of the petting zoo, chanting, “U’l’chol Bnei Yisrael lo yecheratz kelev leshono.”
- When they open the door to the minivan, a knee-deep layer of wrappers falls out.
- They brought their Shabbos leftovers to the park for Sunday lunch.
- There’s aluminum foil everywhere.
- They’re at the one kosher stand or pizza shop. No one who doesn’t keep kosher would eat at this one pizza shop out in middle of nowhere with zero décor, exposed pipes, and an extremely limited menu. “We serve regular pizza and regular coke.” Or, “We have chicken nuggets and fish sticks, but they taste exactly the same. We also have the health platter, which is chicken nuggets without the breading, and a salad made out of lettuce and the shreds of carrot that sometimes come with the lettuce.”
- They’re the ones stopping the car and washing their hands with perfectly good water bottles. Or seltzer.
- They’re driving a 12-passenger van with a bumper sticker that says “This car climbed Mount Washington.” And the van has clearly seen better days.
- They want to know where Chabad is. Chabad is officially meant to be a place out in middle of nowhere where people can find Yiddishkeit. “Oh, Yiddishkeit is here. In the middle of nowhere. I was looking in New York.” But it seems that most of their resources go into helping frum people on vacation stand around for two hours waiting for Shacharis to start. “I don’t know; we had a minyan here yesterday. Maybe those other guys went home.”
- They’re wearing white shirts to go mountain-climbing.
- Their kids are going up the down escalator for fun. I don’t know why this is a Jewish thing, but I’ve never seen a non-Jewish kid doing it.
- They’re the ones going down roller coasters with one hand on their head. And then ducking, because the girders that can clear people with their hands straight up in the air are going to somehow take their heads off.
- They’re the ones on the bumper cars with their kid, having more fun than the kid and taking up 90 percent of the seat.
- You run into them at a factory that shows how they make a particular type of food professionally and then gives out free samples at the end.
- You run into the same family at every stop you go to. At some point you’re like, “Wait a minute … Are you frum, too?”
You know what? Maybe this whole list means nothing; for all I know, even the goyim do all of these things, and I just think it’s the Jews. Though if it’s not, I’ve had some very questionable Minchahs.
What did they think we were doing?
“Um … guys? What are we looking at? I think the sunset’s behind us.”
Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of five books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to MSchmutter@gmail.com.