Karma Pays a Call at a Book Fair Audition

Marion Winik comes to Washington, D.C., to convince a Jewish book fair to let her promote her latest book, Above Us Only Sky, a collection of essays about her life. Can it be a coincidence that she doubts the existence of God in the book — and that her car is nowhere to be seen when she emerges from her audition? The moral of her story: Know your license plate number!

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And here's another story about a writer trying to make a living. It's from commentator Marion Winik. She wanted to be included in the Jewish book fair to promote her latest book, so she came to Washington, D.C., to pitch herself to the organizers.

MARION WINIK reporting:

I have not visited a place of worship for religious purposes for several decades now. So I had to wonder what God would think of my showing up in a synagogue on a mission of self promotion. Still, when the coordinators of the audition for the Jewish book fair told me I would be 37 of the 38 authors scheduled to appear at the podium that night, I blamed it now on the deity, but on the alphabet.

I've been a W since kindergarten. When I nearly lost my voice in the middle of my two-minute presentation I attributed it to nerves. It was only when I'd left the temple afterwards that I found out what God really thinks of me and my blasphemous little book, which contains several passages doubting his existence.

My car had disappeared. Another car was parked in its spot. A legal space, I was sure. I had checked the signs thinking it too good to be true to find a spot right on the street in downtown Washington, D.C. When I called to see whether it had been towed, I encountered another problem. I didn't know my license plate number. Do you know your license plate number?

As I sat on the steps waiting for the police, the Jewish ladies began to pour out of the hall. They stopped en masse to hear my tale and give me advice. A representative from Detroit delegated herself to stay with me, trying to boost my spirits with hopeful tales of missing cars recovered. The night wore on. My calls to 311 became more frantic, but apparently the D.C. force had problems more important than a middle-aged lady from out of town stranded in a car thieving neighborhood.

When I finally flagged down a cruising squad car, two chubby young ladies in police uniforms emerged. They looked like they'd graduated from high school yesterday. They explained that my car was probably right in the neighborhood because there's a policy during rush hour of moving parked cars to less trafficky side streets. What? Why wasn't there anything posted? They looked around then pointed to a distant sign across the road.

Anyway, said the Asian one, what's your license plate number? I don't know, I told her sadly. I told them the car was a black RAV4 with Pennsylvania plates and an I Heart Austin sticker and they sped off into the night. Within minutes they were back to report success. One hopped out of the cruiser. You sit in the front she ordered me, the back seat is gross. I'll just walk.

The second I shut the door the two of them got on their cell phones apparently to continue a conversation they'd been having moments before. Don't say I'm a bad partner. You're the bad partner. I didn't get to hear anymore because my car really was around the corner.

As I thought about it on the drive home to Glenrock, I started to wonder were they really cops? Or were they angels of forgiveness? After all, they had never gotten out a form or even asked my name, just saved me and disappeared into the night, arguing about their relationship. No matter what I think about religion I am undeniably a Jewish mother, so I have a favor to ask. Could you go out right now, write down your license plate number and put it in your wallet? Thank you.

NORRIS: Marion Winik is the author of Above Us Only Sky.

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