Monday, October 02, 2006

A Day in the Life

A-Plus: 1 Month, 2 Weeks, 2 Days

Friday, 8AM. I rolled out of bed and into my life in an instant. I walked to my living room, found my glasses, and stared at the empty spot between the counter top and my desk, where the fridge is supposed to go. The fridge which was supposed to arrive yesterday. It's too early to deal with this. After all, I'm only a new immigrant, and I can't be expected to solve everything in a day.

Before I can deal with any of this I have to ride my bike up to Shacharit (morning prayers.) But I don't have a bike yet, because it's in Be'er Sheva, two hours south of Jerusalem, with two empty tires. I'm going to Be'er Sheva for Shabbat, and the last bus leaves in four hours. But I still have to get to the mall to figure out what happened to my fridge, and it takes an hour just to get out there. First comes Shacharit. I do my best to focus on my conversation with God, but fridges and bikes keep floating by in my mind's eye. Focus man, focus! I tighten my tefillin (prayer boxes and straps) and beseech the one on high for divine assistance.

While I'm packing my bag for Shabbat, Yehoshua, my host in Be'er Sheva calls me. I explain my fridge and bike problems to him.
"Let me handle the bike. It's not in bad shape and I can get it fixed."
Now there's a friend. Haven't seen him in over four years, and he's spending his morning getting my bike fixed.
"And before you go to ask about the fridge, practice pounding your fist a couple of times."

Backpack loaded, I head for the bus stop. As I'm walking towards the intersection, I see the bus zip by. I do a quick spacial calculation, measuring the ratio of my speed divided by distance to the nearest bus stop compared to the bus' speed and distance, and determine it is impossible to make the bus. Can't win every time, and I can catch the next one in twenty minutes. I decide to run anyway. I come sprinting around the corner and see he's now pulling away from the bus stop, but has slowed down because a car is pulling in front of him. I run harder. He sees me in his side view mirror. It's a test of wills, and he's trying to escape, but he's too late, because I've caught up with him and am incessantly banging on the door and yelling at him.

I leap through the open doors.
He rolls his eyes at my victory air-punch and exclamation, "Ah HAAA!"

The bus spits me out at the mall, closer to my goal, but with an hour lost. A guard stands in the way.
"Gun?" he asks.
"You sure?"
He reaches into a box of free sample cookies.
"Kosher?" I ask.
"Parve," (contains neither milk nor meat products.) He waves his metal detector at my backpack, "Open."
I open the bag, and there he sees my tefillin and siddur (prayer book.) His eyes widen as he carefully bends over to stroke the tefillin and kiss the siddur. "May you be inscribed in the book of life for a sweet year."

My legs pumping me towards the electronics store, I try to get my angry juices flowing. I realize, however, that this violates a major principle in Judaism, that of self-control. In the religious Jewish world, a truly heroic person is one who has mastered control over his emotions. The Gra (a major Torah luminary of 18th century Lithuania) once told someone who had seemingly moved his hand without purpose that he was a, "Wild man." Rambam (Maimonades) states that if one becomes so angry that he breaks a dish, it's as if he has committed idol worship. And I'm supposed to go in there and do what, start yelling? At the same time, I don't want to be taken for some push-over new immigrant American, so I decide to go deadpan. No yelling, but no friendly handshakes.

The employee who sold me the fridge last week sees me and approaches.
"Where is my fridge?" I ask.
"Pashut ayn," he answers, matching my deadpan expression. There just isn't.
"But where is it?"
He punches up my order number.
"Ah here it is. It will be arriving in Israel in two weeks."
"Two weeks?"
"It will take two weeks to get to Israel. Expect another week before delivery."
"But you said it would be here before yesterday."
"Pashut ayn."
"But I was here last week, and you took me right over to that corner, and you showed me the fridge, in its box. It was here! You said it would be delivered before Thursday."
"Pashut ayn."
It's obvious to both of us what happened, but it doesn't seem to register with him why I have a problem here. Just because he sold my fridge to someone else, expecting me to wait quietly for an extra month, by what leap of logic should I be holding him responsible?
My tactic isn't working, so I take another tack.
"Look, I know you're busy, but understand that I haven't had a fridge for two weeks already. I'm ordering felafel and pizza every night. And the holidays are coming! How can I have guests without a fridge?"
"Let me talk to my manager."
Five minutes later, I'm being offered a fridge that's 275% larger for 15% more money, to be delivered after Yom Kippur. I grab the offer, on condition I don't pay until delivery.

Heading out, I'm feeling pretty good. The bike is being fixed... victory! I might have a fridge next week... victory! ...And why is everything turning black? Food! A quick mental calculation indicates I haven't eaten in sixteen hours. I veer a hard right and head for the food court. Coming up to the counter, the chef and I argue over what goes into a swharma.
"You can't eat harif (hot sauce), you're Ashkenazi (eastern European,)" he teases.
"Just give it to me."
When I ask for amba, a tangy mango sauce that makes most mouths Ashkenazi mouths pucker, he does a real double-take.
An American tourist wanders by and the chef immediately innundates him with English, "Shwarma like you not taste before! Twenty shekel! You love this felafel!."
But he didn't speak to me in English. He didn't mistake me for a tourist! Victory!

I head out the door for the bus, pass the guard, and lean over to grab another bag of free sample cookies. I've just had meat, but I remember they're parve, so I'm in the clear.

Riding the bus down to Be'er Sheva, I pop my headphones on. Listening to Hassidic techno pop, I watch the forested hills west of Jerusalem give way to orchards of Beit Shemesh, which gradually turns to flat farmland near Kiryat Malachi, and eventually to dusty desert hills near after Kiryat Gat, until the concrete towers of Be'er Sheva rise over the sizzling horizon. Jumping off the bus I'm back in my old town, where I lived as a student four years ago. I walk to my old apartment. The streets are emptying for Shabbat, businesses are closed, but one door is still open, "Georgie's bakery," where I used to buy treats for my hosts on Shabbat. But that was four and a half years ago. Nobody is going to remember me from that long ago.

As I walk through the door, the baker shoots upright from his chair, "Is that really you?" he asks, "You've lost weight!"
We spend half an hour trying to make up for four years. Yes, I'm really an engineer now. Wow, he's really decided to go to university? No, I'm not married yet. Yes, he is. Maal tov mazal tov.
I leave loaded with goodies, some of them complementary. I arrive at Yehoshua's, it's been too long, but it's great to be back! I am reunited with my bicycle, in his storage locker, caked with four years of dust but in excellent working condition.

The sun sets, full stop! Now it's Shabbat, and I'm back at the old Hungarian synagogue, with the old crowd, glad to see me again. May you be inscribed in the book of life for a sweet year! And why aren't you married yet?


Yaakova said...

I love it!! This ENTIRE post could be entitled "Only in Israel"!!
So glad you had a good holiday with friends and got your bike back.
Has the fridge arrived yet?

Anonymous said...

It sounds like apart from 4 years of dust on your bike, the baker remembers you as if it was yesterday.
As for the fridge! Wow see what a little self control brings! [I take this on board personally as I'm prone to getting umm assertive..]
Hassidic techno pop? I haven't heard Hassidic techno pop before.

..and 'why aren't you married yet'?

Its been almost 2 months since you've been in Israel!

lol Aaron