It all started with a simple question.
"Are you thinking of staying next year?" the landlord asked.
"Well, we're going to have to increase the rent. It's going to be $550."
That number blew me away, a big increase from $450. I think I'm getting a little hint here.
"Can I think about it a little?"
"Yeah, sure. We'll talk some time."
So I started looking for apartments. I found a good candidate on the Nefesh B'Nefesh email list, talked to the current tennant, and liked what I saw. Turns out I can get something downtown, where all the singles live, for not significantly more than I'm paying out here in the boonies of Pisgat Ze'ev.
On my way back from the apartment, I stopped off at the Sonol station to refill my tank. Now, most gas stations in the states have two grades, 89 octane for the hotshots and the cheaper 87 octane stuff for the rest of us schnorrers. In this case, there was something with a 96 on it that was quite expensive, and something else called "Solar," which was much less. Cool, solar. Sounds high tech, like those solar panels they have generating electricity down in the Negev Desert. So I'll fill up with the cheaper Solar stuff, like in the states. And off I went.
0.2 kilometers later, by where the odometer is now frozen, the engine started shaking and shimmying. My mind quickly raced through every possibility. Mechanical failure? But the thing only has 2500 kilometers on it. Nope. Perhaps I'm driving over a gravely surface and the engine is fighting lousy traction. No, that's not it, I'm on asphalt.
The engine died completely.
Then it hits me. Uh... wait a minute... what does "Solar" actually mean anyway? My pocket dictionary provides me with the answer I didn't want. "Solar: diesel."
So now I'm stuck in the middle of Derech Hebron with cars flying by honking and cursing at me. Called cousin Rafi. Called my friend Steven. Called the towing company. Called the Mazda dealership. Called the list of repair shops they recommended.
Talking on my car cellular to the repair shop guy.
"Ah, I see, you put diesel in your engine. Yes, that will be an expensive repair. Very very expensive."
One of the motorists driving by shouts and gesticulates at me, "Do you know how dangerous that is, stupid!?"
I scream back, "You think I CHOSE to break down here?
The operator hears my American-accented retort over the phone tries to soothe me, "Yes that's how Israelis are. Hot blooded and angry. You will have to get used to it."
In the end, Steven, a dentist, was kind enough to cancel his appointment to drive out and pick me up. We managed to roll the car to the side of the road into a legal parking spot for the night.
We get back to Steven's car to head back to Pisgat Ze'ev when suddenly... nothing happens! That's right, his handheld car alarm security deactivator has failed, as has the backup he brought. So now we're BOTH stuck and can't get home, and end up taking a taxi.
The next day, I'm riding in the front seat with Kobi the tow truck driver, heading to a repair shop that my insurance rep recommended. Kobi quizzes me about my life here in Israel and sees how glum I feel.
"Don't feel bad, this is the month of Elul. All of the judgments against a person for the year are passed now. For all of the Tzarot (troubles) you're going through now, by the time you get to Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur, you'll have a clean record."
As we arrive at the repair shop, Kobi bursts out ahead of me and runs up to the Avner, the head mechanic. He holds Abner's hand gently and kisses it.
"Avner, please, be nice to the boy, he's a new immigrant!"
"Yes, I already heard this whole story from his insurance salesman. He called a few minutes ago."
"He's a good boy," Kobi continues, "a yeshivah student!"
"Yes, but is he a GOOD student?"
In the end, it cost 1603 shekels (about $400) to clean the fuel system and repair the vehicle. As Rafi put it, "I was expecting another zero on that number." And, of course, I learned my new Hebrew word for the day, solar.
So back to the apartment search. Out of curiosity, I check the prices in Pisgat Ze'ev... and see my own apartment advertised! And for only $470, not the $550 he's charging me to try to chase me out. Of course, the landlord didn't have the guts to tell me himself that I would be removed from the premises. So I'm definately going to be moving.