Friday, March 26, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 70

The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 34
Mal Howley: my wife
Adam Dean Howley: 10 years old
Cassy Howley: 5 years old
Zvi Szafran: a favorite customer, college professor, double PHD, great guy.


Over the years of running a comic book and collectible store, I’ve gotten to know hundreds of interesting people. Zvi Szafran is one of the most interesting of them all. He began shopping at my store in the very early 1980’s. Each week I would save all of the comic books that he collected and Zvi would come into the store to pick them up once every few months. He would have come in more often if he could but he actually lived in Columbia, South Carolina. He had relatives in Worcester so when he’d come into town to visit them he’d visit my store too. He would buy all of the huge piles of comic books that I had reserved for him and then he would shop for many back issues that he needed to fill in his massive collection.

I always appreciated Zvi’s business but I mostly enjoyed visiting with him. He was always intelligent, funny, politically aware and also the first person I had ever met who was willing to share his Jewish faith with me. Zvi would explain the many differences and similarities between his faith and mine and he was never critical or judgmental. Zvi told me the following story about a trip to Israel that he and his wife, Jill, made years ago and I thought it was interesting enough to share with you.

Zvi and Jill were taking a bus in Tel Aviv, going to the beach. As they got on the bus, an elderly woman sat in the seat behind the bus driver, and Zvi and Jill sat in the seat behind her.

The elderly woman began to complain to the bus driver that he was late. In Israel, the bus drivers are part of a cooperative where they own their own buses, and they don’t put up with much from their riders. The driver said to the elderly woman, “Shut up old woman, or I’ll throw you off of the bus.” A few stops later, a second elderly woman got on the bus and sat in the seat next to the first woman. The first one said, “Don’t complain about the bus being late or the driver will bite your head off.” The second woman said, “You’re so right. That’s how youth are today. No respect!”

The two started talking and the second asked the first where she was from. The first woman answered with the name of some small town in Poland. The bus driver said, “Where did you say?” When the first woman repeated the name of the small town, the driver said, “That’s where I’m from.” He then asked her what her name was. When she told him, he stepped on the brakes and stopped the bus. He grabbed her and gave her a big kiss. It was his mother! She thought that he had died during World War II in the death camps, and he thought that she had died. They hadn’t seen each other in thirty years!

The driver and his mother left the bus parked on the side of the road, and went off together, leaving Zvi and Jill and the rest of the passengers, to wait for the next bus. It goes to show you that you never know just who you’re dealing with when you meet a stranger, doesn’t it?!

Next chapter: Brian Paquette and I publish “The Toys From Uncle” memorabilia guide.

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