BY RON FEINBERG / Web Editor //

Exactly a year ago, my wife and I were deep into home remodeling mode.

Ron Feinberg

Our collective wish list at the time included updating the kitchen, adding crown molding in the living and dining rooms, ripping down wallpaper in the foyer and breakfast nook and adding a few fresh coats of paint from, well, here to there.

We also planned to replace the wooden siding that had lovingly caressed our castle with a happening new covering – HardiePlank. It was a move, we were hoping, that would add value to our home while protecting us from the elements for years to come.

So it was, in the midst of all this planning, that a salesman from one of those mega-home construction firms came knocking at my door. He was big, burly and filled with good cheer. He introduced himself, made a little small talk about the Falcons and Braves, then asked where I was from.

I mentioned that I had lived in metro Atlanta for decades, but grew up a hundred miles south of here in a little village nestled along the Chattahoochee River just this side of the Alabama border.

“Didn’t know there were any Heebs around these parts,” he said. Ah, right. Check please!

For a moment I felt like I had tumbled down Alice’s rabbit hole in some sort of alternative universe where up was down and down was up. We both continued talking, the sales guy detailing the merits of HardiePlank, me mostly nodding my noggin in a distracted fashion.

The anti-Semitic blip continued to echo in the background as we walked around the house, checking out gutters and soffits, discussing various options for updating and beautifying the house. Mr. Sales Guy took a few measurements, called for a timeout and played around with a calculator in his van before presenting me with a formal bid.

He spent a few moments talking up the merits of his company, wished me a grand day and said goodbye. Five minutes after he’d left, all I recalled of the visit was his belief that there weren’t any Heebs living in Dixie.

For the next hour I tried to make sense of what he’d said. Did he really say what I thought I’d heard – was he serious; was he joking; was he a raving anti-Semite hiding out in the burbs? Then I spent another hour playing out how I should have responded. That conversation usually began with “beg your pardon” and ended with me showing him the door!

Finally, I simply picked up the phone and called him. I explained there was something he’d said when we first met that was troubling me and then I outlined the bit of small talk we shared. When I asked if he recalled his comment after I mentioned growing up in the South, there was a moment of dead silence, then a whispered “oops!”

What was the Heeb thing all about, I asked, and Mr. Sales Guy revealed that, well, ah, he was also Jewish! Strained laughter followed, then he offered a rush of words – silly, stupid, unprofessional, strange sense of humor, sorry.

We both chuckled, then played a little Jewish geography before he apologized yet again. Just after saying our goodbyes and just before hanging up the phone, Mr. Sales Guy-itz added, “Happy Chanukah.”

And so it was – then and now!

A footnote: Apology aside, the whole Heeb think freaked me out a bit; so I ended up going with one of the other contractors who bid on the project. The good news is that our house is now covered in HardiePlank and the doltish presentation from Mr. Sales Guy-itz is a fading memory.