“Oh, I was so worried about you.” For a brief moment, even though it didn’t sound anything like her, my heart leapt at the idea that Alisa Cooper shouted out her concern for me as we entered the hotel. Of course, it wasn’t her. It was Leon. Leon worries when I’m in the bathroom more than ten minutes. In my absence, my parents and the rabbi had left the room and joined everyone else in the lobby. You might be surprised, but I was more worried about them telling Alisa Cooper all my childhood secrets than I was about the cops outside the hotel. Leon carries a picture of me taking a bath when I was three in his wallet. It’s a good thing I liked bubble bath. Let me tell you.
“I’m getting a horrible headache,” Leon wailed, but only after he had checked that I still had all my fingers and toes.
“I asked the cops for some aspirin, Leon. I figured you’d need some.”
“Oh you are such a good son,” he said.
“So what’s the deal?” Mustafa came over to me.
“Well,” I started. “They’re going to send us some pizzas.”
“Great I’m starved.”
“Pizzas?” Neil rushed over. He never wanted to be too far from Mustafa. “But, I’m lactose intolerant. You know that. Why didn’t you tell them that I can’t eat pizza?”
“I tried for sushi and fruit juice, but he said that it says in the manual, pizzas and pop.”
“Yeah, in Ohio, they call soda, pop.”
“I don’t know.”
“Oh come on,” said Neil. It’s pop. It comes from soda pop. Pop is the noun, soda is an adjective that describes pop. Things are properly referred to by the noun, not the adjective. You say tissue for facial tissue, not facial. If you ask for a facial, in some places you’re going to get popped in the nose. Pop is the noun. Soda is the adjective. Pop is the correct term. End of discussion.”
Anthony laughed. “It’s soda. It has always been soda and only an idiot would call it pop. Go to Skyline Chili, and look on the menu board. It’s called SODA.”
“Soda refers to carbonated water, ergo club soda. Soda Pop refers to sweetened carbonated water, and pop is a shortened version of soda pop. Therefore, pop is a subset of soda and is more accurate when referring to sweetened carbonated beverages such as Pepsi and Coke.”
“I call it soda, and so should everybody else. I just have one question, why would anyone call it pop? Sure, sure, it’s a shortened form of soda pop, but so is soda. Also, how is pop in anyway a descriptor that is relevant when referring to carbonated beverage. I’ve heard claims that it’s a remnant from the days when the tops would pop off the top of the bottle. If this is the case, it is completely archaic since soda no longer comes in glass bottles. Besides, pop sounds dorky.”
I turned to the rabbi. Considering my new found roots, I wanted to know what the Jews called carbonated beverages. I know it sounds kind of silly, but you never know, there might be some deep hidden truths in all this.
The rabbi gave me a look, like I had lost his fishing rod. Finally he said, “You shouldn’t be drinking pop or soda,” said the Rabbi. “You don’t need the sugar. It’s all poison. And, this conversation is giving me a headache.” He turned to my mom. “Can I leave now?” I don’t see any way to help this leiftmenschen of yours.”
“What is this ‘left munchkin’ thing anyway? Is there also a right munchkin?”
Mustafa stepped up, and took the reigns of leadership. “Amer, man, that’s it? You told them to bring us pizza and pop?”
“No, of course not. I made a list of demands, too.”
“What are our demands?” Steve asked. “I didn’t know we had demands.”
“Of course we have demands,” Mustafa said. “What kind of takeover would this be with out a list of demands?”
“Did we vote on them?”
“I don’t remember a vote. Did I miss a meeting?”
Mustafa tried to act casual. “Of course not. It’s obvious what our demands would be, right. I mean, what have we been fighting for all these months?”
“So what did you tell him, Amer?” Neal asked.
“Um,” I said.
Alisa looked at me, expectantly.
“Well, of course they’re obvious.” I looked at Mustafa, but he wasn’t helping me. “But, I was a little unclear on the particulars, so I just kind of winged it, if you know what I mean.”
“What does that mean?”
“Well, I just kind of made them up.”
“And?” Neil pressed.
“What were they?” asked Steve.
“Um.” I struggled trying to remember what it was I had told the cop. I should’ve written them down, really. I mean, how was I supposed to know that they’d want to know what our demands were? The truth is we really should have discussed this before we took over the hotel. I mean, we probably could have used a little help in the organizational department. But wasn’t that Mustafa’s job? I mean he was supposed to be out fearless leader.
But they weren’t looking at him. No, everyone was looking at me, everyone. I had become the center of attention, which is not my favorite spot, if you know what I mean, even when it’s because I’ve done something really good. Not that I have much experience with that. Anyway, you may not know this, but I’m not so terrific under pressure. Really, I’m not.
“Oh, come on,” said Neil. “Don’t you remember.?”
“Of course, I remember.” Really, I hadn’t a clue, so I just started saying the first thing that came into my head. Considering how crowded it was in there, there was a chance that I would hit on some of the same stuff had I told to the cop, right? I think I got most of them right. It didn’t matter, though. Everyone had their criticism.
“McDonalds?” Arikman was incredulous. I love that word, incredulous, don’t you? I wish it came up more in conversations. “They have a McDonalds in Gaza,” he said.
“How was I supposed to know that?” Really, who would have thought? Arikman said they have one in Nablus and Ramallah too, but none of them serve Bacon Cheese Burgers, which really depressed him.
“Atyef’s in jail?” Steve asked.
“Yeah, she got busted on a DUI when she got home from her lecture, but you know it was clearly a case of oppression because she’s Palestinian.”
“How do you find out about that?” asked Alisa.
“Well, we’re friends on Facebook, and,” I stopped mid-sentence. I had never seen such a look from Alisa before. It was scary, but I kind of liked it too. That said, clearly, it would not have been wise to continue talking about Atyef. I think Alisa would have preferred that she stay in jail, even if she was a Palestinian.
I then let them know about our really big demand: the whole refugee law discrimination thing.
“Absorbing the Palestinians in their host country?” Arikman started shouting at me. “They don’t want that. They want to return to their homes in Israel, I mean, Palestine.”
“But Atyef said that most of them had never been to their homes. She said she likes it in Detroit.” I forgot that I had decided not to talk about Atyef anymore. It was a mistake.
The air around Alisa became fifty degrees colder. “We should demand to send her back to Palestine,” she said. Everyone looked at her. “I mean,” she hedged, “it’s what they want right?”
Then the voice of reason broke in. My mother asked the simple question that everyone was afraid of asking. “How do you plan to get out of this mess?”
“Well, I asked for a bus and a plane so we can escape to a foreign country.”
“A foreign country?” screamed Leon. “I’ll never see my baby again.”
“Which one?” asked my mother.
“Um, I don’t know. I was kind of on the spot.” I looked at the rabbi. Maybe he had a suggestion. He was supposed to be wise, right?
"Oy, gevalt!” he said.