Isaac Kaplan

"Is it any wonder I've got too much time on my hands?"

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Nice Guys Finish Last

When I think of Leo Durocher's famous line, baseball comes to mind. In sports, of course, everything is a competition. So if you try to be nice to someone else, you're just going to get your rear end whipped. But when it comes to normal everyday life, you'd figure that nice guys should finish first! After all, everyone likes a nice guy. But one thing I've found, especially in my community, is that Durocher's line rings all too true, even in the Orthodox Jewish world.

One of Poppa Kaplan's closest friends, Jeremy Scott, was president of my shul. Jeremy is as soft-spoken and sweet a guy as they come, and at least a borderline tzaddik. Jeremy would do things nobody else wanted to do, and would be the last guy to leave shul after putting all the prayer-books away. However, there were others in the shul who gave attitude to Jeremy. During meetings when shul policy was discussed, Jeremy would try discussing the issues with the members of the board, but the others had attitudes and gave Jeremy a very hard time. Needless to say, Jeremy's reign as president was short-lived. In addition, as the attitude people took power of the shul, it became a much colder place. And Jeremy simply had enough, and left the shul. I guess nice guys finish last.

When we were in Boro Park for Shabbos, we said Gut Shabbos to every Jew we saw. Many of them seemed quite surprised. One of the people whispered after we walked by, "They must be from out-of-town." Makes sense, no? Go make fun of the person who was nice enough to greet you. I guess nice guys finish last.

In general, it seems that in my community, if you want to be cool, you gotta have an attitude. Me and a friend of mine were once wondering, what separates the ordinary folks from the in crowd? Is it the clothes? I don't think so. I can put a gay pink shirt like one of these guys, and they still won't talk to me. I can overpay on a car and/or house and I'll still be ignored. What is it, then? It's the attitude. You gotta keep the clique a clique, and to hell with anyone who thinks otherwise. If someone's a nice guy but just doesn't rank, you've gotta ignore him. This problem is quite prevalent among women, but from my Yeshiva and camp experiences I must say the guys aren't much better, especially the feminine ones with the pink shirts. I guess nice guys finish last.

The only solace I can take is the famous Chazal: one Amora went to Heaven; another asked what he saw there: "I saw an upside-down world." In our case, I believe that means in Heaven, nice guys finish first. Maybe we should tell that to the local snobs. On second thought, why spoil his temporary fun?


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