by Mike Primavera
I enjoy people watching. As a writer, it’s my job to observe people (or at least that’s what I say when I get caught looking), and one of my favorite places to “observe” is in Downtown Seattle on the corner of 3rd & Pike. This place is not only an intersection, but a nexus of all walks of life. From there I can see ridiculously dressed tourist on their way to Pike Place Market to have their minds blown by a guy throwing a fish; or frustrated commuters impatiently refreshing their phones in hopes that the bus won’t be 25 minutes late (it will be); or a schizophrenic homeless man yelling at the pigeons because he’s the only one who can hear the song they’re all bobbing their heads to – you know, all types of folks.
While watching these people I generally make it a point to not actually interact with any of them. The biggest obstacles are panhandlers, lonely old people, and those awful people holding clipboards. I don’t care if you have a petition to send me on a date with Scarlett Johansson, if you are standing outside of a store holding a clipboard you are a ghost to me. But the other day something happened that caught me completely off guard. Something I couldn’t ignore. An old man walked up to me, looked me right in the eyes and said, “Jesus loves you”.
Now, I’m an atheist, but I have no hate in my heart for Jesus. He seemed like a pretty solid dude. He was friendly, helpful, he made his own wine; what’s not to like? So why did what this old man said to me make me so uncomfortable? My first reaction, and go to defense mechanism when someone makes me uncomfortable, is sarcasm. “Wait, what do you mean Jesus loves me? Did he say something to you? OMG I’m freaking out right now tell me his exact words.”
Of course, I didn’t say a word of that. I couldn’t. This sweet old man just said “Jesus loves you” with a sincerity that shook the very foundation of my atheist beliefs. A foundation 10 grueling years of catholic school had hardened into a surface I could walk confidently upon, until that moment. I spent the rest of the day thinking about that old man, and eventually, I figured out what was bugging me.
I spend a lot of time on that corner watching people, but when I do, I observe with a certain cynicism and over all contempt for human beings. I don’t hate these people, but I look for flaws in them that can be spun into jokes. It’s pretty much how I’ve lived my whole life. So when this old man said “Jesus loves you”, it was like he was calling me out in the nicest possible way. Like he was saying, “Hey, you’re being the opposite of Jesus right now.” I was bothered by what he said because he made me turn that cynicism and contempt onto myself, and I was less than thrilled with what I saw.
I still don’t believe in a higher power. I believe we are all responsible for our own destiny, but I also believe that is no excuse to be a jerk. Sure, in my mind there’s no magical man in the clouds holding me responsible for the things I say and do, but that’s all the more reason for me to police myself. I still watch people on the corner of 3rd & Pike, but now I try and do so with a more optimistic outlook. I don’t just look for the bad, but also the good, and do you know what I’ve noticed? I haven’t seen one good thing happen on that corner. It’s a bad place and those people are awful. I should find an easier intersection to be optimistic on and work my way up. Baby steps.
Michael Primavera is a Seattle based humorist whose collection of comic musings can be found at twitter.com/primawesome