Tuesday, June 07, 2011

I was coming through O'Hare airport in Chicago one time with a backpack, I believe, and was accosted by a Hare Krishna who wanted to give me a book, specifically a Bhagavad Gita, holy book of the Hare Krishna. I was perhaps the only person in the airport at that moment with any appreciation of such a book, but without really looking at it or getting drawn into the pictures that he pointed out, I just accepted it and began to go on my way. But unfortunately now he wanted money for it; in addition he had another book, which was similar, but which he definitely wanted money for, but it was imperative to him that I take them both, so that I have a complete set, and give him at least the five or ten dollars that the second one was worth.

I rankled at this, not having a whole lot of money, and not wanting to part with what I had, so I refused, but said I would take the original offer, which was a single free book. Alas, now he didn't want to live up to that offer, and off we went in a kind of no-longer-pleasant negotiation. In the end I bought the second book and took them both; I suppose I got two books for the price of one, but I wasn't happy about it, not really wanting either book to begin with. Worse, I had the unpleasant taste in my mouth from acrimonious dealing with someone who is basically deceptive.

Upon arrival in the Cedar Rapids airport I collected my backpack and was going on my way when I was approached by a policeman. Cedar Rapids is a very conservative city but Iowa City is quite liberal, so he could tell I was going to Iowa City just by my hair, my backpack, and my general character. I was worried that any policeman would have any business with me whatsoever, but basically he held out a Bhagavad-Gita, and told me that, based on the fact that I was clearly going to Iowa City, maybe I could find someone who would appreciate that book, since it was left in the airport, and he didn't want to throw it away.

I was stunned, momentarily, but I took it. As a gesture, it represented something I always valued about Iowa: people's general utilitarian outlook. It's better to find a good use for something, than to get caught up in whether one religion is any better or worse than another. I never expected to see it expressed in that way, I guess. I was glad to be home.


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