Yiddish Humor


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"Elevator Talk - Vos iz der tachlis?"
(What is the purpose?)

by Marjorie Wolfe

For some Jews, an elevator is a cocktail party that goes up and down. It's an endless serch for the common ground--an Otis Blaboratory.

Before I reach my office/cubicle at Ampersand, Ampersand & Ampersand, the Otis Elevonic 40l is programmed to wisk me to the 82nd floor, but also to ask me, "vi gait dos ge sheft?" (How's business?) and to wish me a "guten tog" (a good day).

How could it be a "guten tog" when it's Monday, my husband is home ill with the gout, and my poodle is at the vet's office at $92.50 a day (Modified American Plan). To make matters worse, I have the feeling that everyone knows that I'm "oysgeputst" (overdressed).

Computerized speeh synthesis has permitted my "EVEN FLOOR ONLY" elevator to use its 111-word vocabulary. Thats 11 words more than my teenager's vocabulary after he's completed Stanley Kaplan's SAT prep course.

I must admit that the vocabulary can be informative: at 8:59 in the morning it tells me, "FLOOR EIGHTY-TWO, GOING UP," At 4:50 in the p. m. it says, "FLOOR EIGHTY-TWO GOING DOWN." That's reassuring. It can also be quite annoying to hear, "Mach es shnel" (Make it snappy) and "Shemen zolstu zich in dein veiten haldz!" (You ought to be ashamed of yourself!) when I'm late.

Recently it said, "WATCH YOUR STEP." Now I watch my step, watch my pocketbook, watch my credit cards, and watch out for shoplifters and gonifs.

During a recent blackout, the invisible elevator "person" informed me: "zol zeis shah!" (Be quiet!) and 'DO NOT BE ALARMED. WE ARE EXPERIENCING A TEMPORARY POWER INTERRUPTION." My chief concern at that moment was why the elevator inspection certificate was dated and initialed 5/2/2000--two years ago.

What really annoys me and makes me feel inferior is when Elevonc starts impressing me with its Bi-lingual capabilities. Just yesterday it conversed in Yiddish:

It said, "shver tzu machen a leben!" (It's hard to make a living!) "Takeh? Azoy." (Really? Is that so?) I'm aware that the jobless rate just rose to 6 percent and that many of my friends are attending "Pink Slip Parties."

In a confidential letter to the Otis programmer, I've suggested that the following messages be added to the elevator's 111-word vocabulary:

A successful administrative assistant continues to look for work after she's found a job. Yenteh's who gossip are often caught in their own "mouh-trap."

Button for 82nd floor is out of order, push 70 and 12...and daven.

"Meshugeneh gens" (goofy parents) form congenial groups in the rear of the elevator instead of facing the front of the car.

You will be labeled "meshugener" (crazy) if you draw a little square on the floor with chalk and announce to the other passengers, "This is MY personal space."

And "zei nit a nar! Zei nit kain goylem!" (Don't be a fool) and crack open your attache case, peer inside, and say, "You guys got enough air in there?"

And,finally, "gai shoyn, gai!" (don't be silly) and call the Psychic Hotline from your cell phone and ask if they know what floor you're on. And, don't indicate to the other passengers that they shouldn't give the answer away.

Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe is a free-lance writer who resides in Syosset, New York.


from the June 2002 Edition of the Jewish Magazine




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