Hannah Berman - That's The Way It Is


Some people are always on the lookout for a way to acquire a windfall. My late husband Arnie always said he would like to “make a killing in the market.” That was how he phrased it. This was many years ago, and at the time there was no Gourmet Glatt or Seasons so I was a Waldbaum’s shopper. It was a running joke between us because whenever Hubby would say that he wanted to make a killing in the market, I would respond by telling him that the only way to do that would be to go into Waldbaum’s and step on a cockroach!

I have a close friend who has the same philosophy that Hubby had. For purposes of anonymity and to preserve our friendship, I will not reveal her actual name but will refer to her as Olivia. She usually comes “late to the party” and rarely comes up with an idea of her own. Instead, she looks around and tries to copy what others have already done. Not long ago, Olivia thought she had hit on a great idea. Since acrylic shields seem to be everywhere in this ongoing age of the coronavirus, she thought she might be able to cash in on this (the shields, not the virus). To that end, she made it her business to learn about the material and how it is made.

Olivia and I speak every day. This is where my problem came in. For days on end, she made me dizzy by calling me every morning to tell me what she had just learned. Her newfound knowledge was indeed impressive. She actually knew the entire history of the material, how and when it was produced. As a good friend, I listened — or pretended to listen — to everything she had learned. Due to her enthusiasm, I was treated to the following facts: acrylic is a transparent thermoplastic, it is commonly known by the trade name of Plexiglas, it is used as an impact-resistant alternative to glass, and not all acrylic is created equal. As disinterested as I was, I was getting my own education. But there was more from Olivia. Some acrylic is low-quality and may not be as clear or as resistant to the elements as a higher grade acrylic plastic, such as Lucite. As she droned on, it took every ounce of my (often limited) self-control not to say “Who cares?”

On a daily basis, she imparted to me the most recent information she had garnered. It gave new meaning to the word boring. On the third day, after the first few minutes, I stopped listening. As she continued talking, I would silently sip my morning coffee and watch my favorite television news program, taking care to keep the volume low so that she wouldn’t know I wasn’t paying attention to what she was saying. She was serious about this business venture and was making all manner of plans to get it off the ground. I was delighted about that because I assumed that once she got busy running her new business she would let up on the daily phone calls. Little did I know that things were about to get worse.

Always on the lookout for something lucrative to invest in, and after all the time she had devoted, Olivia suddenly discovered the world of tents. That started a new round of calls. As she drove around town she couldn’t help but notice that tents were springing up everywhere and it gave her the idea that maybe tents would be a better business to invest in. All over the neighborhood, people erected open-air tents for men to use for davening with a minyan. The proliferation of tents increased exponentially as Rosh Hashanah approached.

With that in mind, she did just as she had done regarding acrylics. As she did her research, she began a new round of calls to tell me what she learned. We no longer spoke about our children, grandchildren, or the weather. We even temporarily stopped discussing the coronavirus, the rioting in cities across the country, or even the horrific fires in the west. She talked and I listened — or, once again, I pretended to listen. As much as I love Olivia, I was not sure how much more of listening to her get-rich plans I could take.

My non-listening went well, however. My only problem was that keeping the television sound low made it difficult for me to hear what was being said. Fortunately, I have a tech-savvy friend who walked me through the process of getting the “closed caption” option, so I relied on “reading” what was being said as the words streamed across the bottom of the television screen.

Thankfully, Olivia’s fascination with tents has passed so we are now back to talking about our lives (as limited as they currently are), our families, and world news. With my friend’s proclivity for making a quick pot of cash, these mundane conversations won’t last indefinitely since it never takes long for her to come up with money-making ideas.

The likelihood is that, whatever her new idea is, I will be the recipient of everything she will learn. We have to make sacrifices for friends. I will once again need to take advantage of my recently acquired closed-captioning, but she will be none the wiser. That’s just the way it is.

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and gives private small-group lessons in mah-jongg and canasta. She can be reached at Savtahannah@aol.com or 516-295-4435.


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