Monday, March 15, 2010

The Essence of Chutzpah

Chutzpah: a Yiddish word meaning gall, brazen nerve, effrontery, sheer guts plus arrogance; it's Yiddish and, as Leo Rosten writes, no other word, and no other language, can do it justice.

A few of my friends shared with me stories that they felt were the epitome of chutzpah. I got some extraordinary answers!

  • The Hungarian definition of chutzpah is when you poop on somebody's threshold and then ring the bell for toilet paper.

  • A little old lady sold pretzels on a street corner for 25 cents each. Every day a young man would leave his office building at lunch time, and as he passed the pretzel stand, he would leave her a quarter, but never take a pretzel.
    And this went on for more then 3 years. The two of them never spoke. One day, as the young man passed the old lady's stand and left his quarter as usual, the pretzel lady spoke to him.
    Without blinking an eye she said: "They're 35 cents now."

  • An old woman, after much persuasion, convinces her son and daughter in law to let their 5 year old boy go to the beach with their grandmother. Two hours later, after driving in horrendous traffic, the alta kocka and her cherished boychick are sitting on the beach at Far Rockaway. He's at the water's edge, wearing a little white hat his obsessive mother insisted upon to avoid the sun's damaging rays, playing with a shovel and bucket. The bubbe, of course, is 50' up the beach, doing the Times crossword puzzle, holding a little battery powered fan in one hand. The rest of the shoreline is jammed with people.
    Suddenly, a tsunami sweeps the beach. When it pulls back, only the grandmother is left. She looks down on the spot where her cherished boy was playing only a minute before; she squints and looks up at the heavens; and begins to kvell to God . . ..
    "How could you do this to me? How could YOU do this to ME? It took me three weeks to get a day with my grandchild. Now, you're gonna make me drive back to the city, two hours, IN TRAFFIC, no less, just to tell my son and his no-good worrywart wife that I, not you but I, lost their son? How could you do this . . . "
    She's interrupted by another tidal wave. When the wave pulls back, there's the kid, like nothing happened, beaming at her and playing with his shovel.
    The grandmother looks at the boy; looks up, and says . . .
    "Um, he was wearing a hat . . . "

  • This Cuban drug dealer has an important meeting to make in Miami. He is circling all over the place trying to park, getting more nervous by the minute. Nothing. In final despair he looks at the Heavens above: "Lord, I must be on time for this most important meeting of my life! Give me a parking place and I will go to church every Sunday for five years, I will stop cheating on my wife, and I will donate $50,000 to the poor!" He looks around – and there is an empty spot. He looks up again: "Never mind! I found one myself."

  • Chutzpah is when you murder your parents then plead for mercy because you're an orphan.

Many thanks to all of my friends whose stories I ripped off without even asking them, purely for my personal gain. Now that's chutzpah!