by Gary Carter
Sister Bad Habit is a hairy-legged presence that’s bizarre even on the tolerant streets of the bohemian enclave of Asheville, North Carolina, where she often is spotted wheeling around on an immense bicycle and flailing at sinners with a ruler. My favorite personal sighting involved her holiness high-stepping at full speed down Patton Avenue as if in headlong pursuit of Satan, and, without breaking stride, hurdling the rail into the Thirsty Monk to the shock of imbibing patrons. One man quickly crossed himself and a woman clutched her heart, while at least three obviously lapsed Catholics flung down their pints and fell to their knees. For Sister Bad Habit, this is just part of her twisted calling.
Devoutly curious about the righteous sister, I humbly requested an audience, which was graciously granted, provided it included a frosty pint of ale since, she explained, slapping around sinners can cause a gal to develop quite a thirst. Pint of ale in hand, Sister Bad Habit paused for a moment in her dogged pursuit of evildoers to provide some insight into her eternal mission.
GARY CARTER: Is Sister Bad Habit a given name or a chosen one?
SISTER BAD HABIT: Is this some sort of joke? Who asks a sister that? Is this your real name, or the name the men in jail gave you?
GC: What led you to your calling? Was it divine intervention?
SBH: Lack of resources. There aren’t many street preachers left in America. But there is sin everywhere, and my job is to point it out and rub it out, and maybe make a buck along the way. I’ve observed people sinning my whole life. Why, I’ll never forget the day I was watching The Price is Right, and the program was interrupted by a condom commercial condoning what looked to me like premarital sex. I flew out of my recliner, kicked the television over, and hit the streets screaming in righteous indignation. Perhaps that was divine intervention.
GC: Do you feel you’ve had any real impact on all the sinning going on?
SBH: I absolutely change people’s lives. They walk, even run away from me with a stunned and enlightened look upon their faces. You see, the only way to truly be free is to admit your sins. It’s harder than one would imagine to stop a stranger and command them to confess their naughtiest sins. Me, I go straight for the juicy ones—no sin is too big for Sister Bad Habit. On a good day, I just have to start revealing my ruler, and they begin confessing. It’s a pity when I must resort to headlocks, ear-tugging, and not-so-subtle verbal threats. Unfortunately, they took my taser away in 2005. But for the record, the charges were dropped.
GC: What has been the most uplifting moment in your battle against sin?
SBH: I would have to say it was about a year ago when I was riding my twelve-foot-tall, high-and-mighty bicycle through a town in the hinterlands outside Asheville, with my boom box attached to the front. It brought such joy to the people. They eventually joined in, chasing me and screaming loudly: “Keep moving, Sister.” They felt my purpose so much that they began waving farm tools and pitchforks and firing up torches. The parade grew until it seemed the entire town had joined the festivities. But as I now reflect on it, they were probably pagans. And here I was just spreading to them my message that if you teach a dirty farmer to fish, he may fall in the water and become bathed.
GC: Is it true your two most important tools are your bicycle and ruler?
SBH: Although the high-and-mighty bike has many uses, it’s most truly a getaway vehicle, carrying my music while bringing me twelve feet closer to heaven. But I’ve also effectively used a cap gun, lasso, fishing line, and even a slingshot to wrangle sinners’ attention. You’d be amazed what you can fit under a freshly pressed habit, especially when you’re wearing pantyhose. Did you know slingshots are available in Kmarts in South Carolina?
GC: Have you ever fallen off your bike?
SBH: Often, but perhaps not often enough. It is in how I fall that attracts the most sympathy and support. The better the fall, the greater the crowd. That’s when I unleash the basket of pamphlets and catch the poor sinners by surprise.
GC: I’ve heard reports of fire?
SBH: Just a visual aid that comes in mighty handy when you’re trying to get your point across to an unrepentant heathen. Face it, you can’t “stop, drop, and roll” in hell.
GC: You’re regularly seen harassing passengers on the LaZoom tour bus as it moves around town. Any specific reason?
SBH: The passengers on that bus are always carrying on—laughing and drinking beer. Sometimes domestic beer, and that’s truly disgusting. They certainly stop laughing when I hike up my habit, pull a trash bag from my pantyhose, and confiscate their drinks.
GC: You’ve added an assistant, Sister Sin. Was there just more sinning going on than you could handle alone?
SBH: Yes, I needed help. I start on one end of town and she starts on the other. We don’t always meet in the middle. She’s a bit slow, if you catch my drift.
GC: What’s your feeling about this guy, Jim Lauzon, who claims to be you?
SBH: Who the hell is Jim Lauzon, and who does he think he is? He couldn’t carry my pantyhose.
Are you chewing gum? You’ll have dentures when you’re forty. Here, spit it out. Yes, in my hand. I’m immune to germs, even from you sinners.