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News / Clark County News

Press Talk: What if God was one of us?

The Columbian
Published: November 26, 2016, 6:10am

I’m walking.

It was a few days ago in downtown Vancouver, heading to meet a source down at Compass Coffee.

I see a gentleman standing there — he’s almost always standing there — but today he’s staring right at me.

It might be because of my Gators sunglasses. They’re a gaudy orange and blue. Who knows, maybe — just maybe — it highlights my Italian DNA. I say that because the gentleman thinks he recognizes me.

“You Jimmy Hoffa?” he asks.

Now, for those of you for whom ancient history goes no further back than Justin Bieber, Hoffa was a big-time labor leader who suddenly, ah, disappeared in July 1975. Speculation of his whereabouts swirled from his being fed to the gators in the Everglades to his changing his appearance so he could hide in plain sight. He was said to have been spotted selling hay at a Yacolt feed store with Elvis Presley.

Now I get that all Italians look alike to some people, but … really? Hoffa?

I’m past this guy now. But he won’t let it go.

“You Jimmy Hoffa?” he asks again. This time he’s yelling. He’s hoping for an answer.

I don’t turn around, but I’m in a good mood. I opt to have a little fun. I raise both my arms in a bent position to show the universal “who knows?” signal. I keep walking. He keeps yelling.

“Come on! Are you Hoffa? Everybody thought you were dead!”

I’m getting farther away. But this time I turn my head slightly so we can make eye contact. I put my index finger to my lips. I try to let him know: The less we talk about this, the better. I’m still trying to have some fun with this guy because — well — I think he’s trying to have some fun, too.

I’m still moving away from him, but now he has his hands cupped around his mouth so I — and just about everybody else around — can hear him.

“You should talk to God! You should talk to God! He’s standing right here!”

I stop.

I turn completely to face him. I’m motionless for several seconds. Then I point at him: You are God? I ask this without saying a word.

Now, look. The chances of him being God are about as likely as me being Hoffa, but after The Donald just won the presidency, I’m not ruling anything out.

I mean, I’m thinking…

What if God was one of us?

Just a slob like one of us

Just a stranger on the bus

Tryin’ to make his way home?

I’m well aware of the 1995 Joan Osborne song. So I’m cautious of whom I upset. Well, OK, I’m relatively sure God isn’t a politician or a right-wing blogger, so I can pretty much get into it with them.

Everybody else, not so much.

I’m now waiting for him — the man who looks like he’s carrying all his otherwordly belongings on his back — to answer me.

While I wait, I’m thinking, “If this guy really is God, wouldn’t he already know if I’m Hoffa? Would he really have to ask me that question?”

But then I realize he could simply be testing me. He was asking to see if I would take the path of honesty.

Regardless, my question to him was still waiting for an answer.

His head was slightly down now. I couldn’t see his face. I couldn’t look into his eyes. I couldn’t know for sure who I was dealing with.

He stayed that way for what seemed like several minutes. But later I realized it was only a few seconds.

Slowly his head began to rise. I thought he would stop when his eyes made contact, but he was looking over me now. Above me.

His pale red lips, flat throughout the rising of his head, slowly broke into an ever-so-tiny grin.

Was it an answer? Or just an inconsequential facial expression?

• • •

I’m late for my meeting. I keep walking.