One day, many years ago when I worked at the Washington Opera, I came to work and saw my colleague, Jimmy Legarreta .
“Jimmy” I said, you have some schmutz on your forehead.
“It’s Ash Wednesday” he replied.
“Oh that’s nice, would you like me to get you a tissue or something?”
“Naomi, do you know what Ash Wednesday is?”
From that day forward, when I see that first person with a blackened forehead, I immediately think is “Oh, it’s Schmutz Wednesday.”
Cut to: Present Day
My office is just 3 blocks from the giant St Patrick’s Cathedral on 5th Avenue. The Cathedral, as you can well imagine, is a very busy place, what with the tourists and all, so on special event days they open up a side door on 50th St to keep the exit traffic moving Today as I was walking down 50th Street, several blocks before the church, a steady flow of people were also walking along 50th. Not to be pedantic but I swear it really did look like an actual Schmutz Wednesday.
I have learned that the priest is supposed to make the sign of the cross on a person’s forehead. I don’t know if the St Pat’s priest was drunk, tired or just plain lazy, but maybe, just maybe one out of every four people had something that remotely looked like a cross. There were + signs-pretty close, but not quite. But more often than not, they all looked like some sad attempt at modern art. Think bad Rothko.
Perhaps the priest is a secret psychiatrist and is doing weird reverse Rorschach testing.
The worst part of all of this is, I have a colleague who takes part in Ash Wednesday and every time he comes to talk to me I have to repress a giggle. Yes, I’m immature. No, I make no apologies.
I am super grateful this day only happens once a year, otherwise I’d be forced to turn into omni-nana . I’d be spitting on a kleenex and forcibly wiping down everyone’s brow. Now that would make for a super fun holiday. Omni-Nana Wednesday!