Send your missionary a margarita!

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In a message exchange a few months ago, a friend and former colleague from my missionary days reminded me of a funny story from 1988 involving the elder who was then my companion.

I didn't immediately recall the incident, but then when I was rooting around the other day in a very old draft of my memoir The Accidental Terrorist, I found that I'd remembered it well enough a dozen years ago or more to include it.

Here's that deleted excerpt. My friend who reminded me of the incident is the "Sister Evans" who appears below, by the way, and the Word of Wisdom is the strict Mormon commandment against using alcohol or coffee.


Funny story about missionaries and the Word of Wisdom, if I may. This happened later in my mission, on an occasion when half a dozen elders and a couple of sisters had met for dinner on a rainy night at a mezzo-scale Mexican restaurant. (It was also, I should probably add, a time when I'd loosened up considerably about the booze-addled pasts of so many of my fellow servants.) My companion excused himself in the middle of the meal to (as he put it) see a man about a horse, and while he was gone the rest of us conspired with our waitress to have a margarita delivered to him upon his return.

The waitress appeared with a tray shortly after my companion had reseated himself. She played her part flawlessly. "Here you are, sir," she said, setting a murky, salt-encrusted, umbrella-festooned glass before him with a flourish worthy of a seasoned picador. "Compliments of a lovely young lady at another table who wished to remain anonymous."

My companion's eyes widened as he stared at the glass, then up at the waitress, then back at the glass, then all around the restaurant. "Is this—does this have alcohol?" he asked.

"Yes, it does, sir. Is that a problem?"

He looked at the rest of us with something akin to panic in his eyes, hapless victim of a two-pronged attack. "I can't have this. You have to take it back."

"You can't send it back, Elder," said one of the sisters, while the rest of us chorused agreement. "You'd be insulting whoever sent it—and she's obviously sweet on you."

"The drink is bought and paid for, sir," said the waitress.

"But who—?"

"Enjoy," she said, slipping nimbly away.

Dumbfounded, my companion stared at the drink, a confused smile playing at the corners of his mouth. He glanced around the restaurant again. "So what do I do?" he asked us.

"Well, you can't just not drink it," said one of the other elders. "Like Sister Evans said, that'd be an insult."

My companion wavered on the cusp of drinking that margarita, as the rest of us urged him on, for three or four minutes before we let him off the hook. I don't know what disappointed him more—the fact that he hadn't managed to manufacture a good enough rationale for irrigating his tonsils, or that his lush secret admirer turned out to be no more than a figment of the group's collective imagination. Probably the latter.

Another minute or two, in fact, and I think we could have pushed my companion over the edge. We had inadvertently pricked his Achilles' heel, a vulnerability I daresay he shared with most of his brethren. Women wield a strange power over the male missionary—even women who don't exist. Perhaps especially women who don't exist.

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A previous outtake from my memoir The Accidental Terrorist ended with these lines: Women wield a strange power over the male missionary—even women who don't exist. Perhaps especially women who don't exist. There's another scene in the book that ad... [Read More]

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This page contains a single entry by William Shunn published on February 5, 2015 12:26 PM.

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