Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Gettin Out There

Living in the telecommuting bubble can be easy. Almost too easy. Listening to news all day in English, talking with my coworkers... in English, it's easy to forget that I actually live in another country. Mail comes in, I don't understand some of it, so I just sort of put it aside for later. And later becomes never.

But the thing about Israel is that it's the details that kill you. Small mistakes on paperwork or unpaid bills can come back to haunt you. Of course, that's true anywhere.

I recently read a horror story of an oleh who didn't pay his rent and ignored a warning letter because he didn't understand, and ended up in a perilous legal situation. I've been having this sneaking suspicion that somewhere, somehow, I've missed something, so I decided to leave the bubble for a day and follow up on every loose end I could think of.

I left the house. From the bus stop I have a pretty good look at my street.

My house in the middle of my street.

I proceeded to Kikar Tzahal (army square) next to the old city walls. They have been working on the Jerusalem Light Rail System since the last time I lived here, four years ago. Expected date of completion, June, 2006! But, since they're nowhere near done, they decided to put up this poster of what the Kikar Tzahal station would have looked like if they had finished on time.

Kikar Tzahal

I came to my bank and found the hours posted on the door.

Everybody has their little piece of Hebrew that they'll never get used to, mine is reading "Opening Hours" signs because, while Hebrew is read from right to left, numbers are still left to right.

You have to do it in the following order, illustrated below:

1. Read the day (In this case Tuesday and Wednesday.)
2. Since numbers are still left to right, you have to skip ahead to the beginning of the next number.
3. Reverse direction and read from left to right (8:30 PM)
4. Switch directions again, and go from right to left to get to the hyphen.
5. Read the hyphen right to left.
6. Skip ahead to the beginning of the next number.
7. Reverse direction and read the number (in this case, 14:00, or 2PM.)

And now you're done! The bank is open from 8:30 AM to 2 PM.

The equivelant in English would be to read a sign that says:

Tuesday 00:8 - 00:41

Speaking of hours, what ever happened to nine to five? And notice that each day has different hours? Hello?

Not only that, every office, be it the bank, post office, ticket counter, you name it, has it's very own, special hours, which are usually different on each day of the week. And sometimes you show up at the right time and the doors are locked anyway.

Anyway, I managed to make it to the bank when there were actually other humans there, which was no small feat. I checked my account balance, no, no disasters, nothing in the negative, no erronious transactions. Beautiful!

Next, I headed to Kanyon Malchah, where I bought my fridge. The problem was that since I ordered the new one over the phone, I didn't have a receipt for it. I had at the back of my mind that they could be charging me just about anything for that fridge and claim I had okayed it, so I figured it would be worthwhile to check.

On the way, I paused for a moment of self-reflection (below.)

I went back into the electronics store, found my salesman who was, shall we say, a bit apprehensive at seeing me. But when he realized all I wanted was the receipt he relaxed a bit. I checked the bill and... no mistakes, they didn't overcharge. But something still felt wrong.

Meanwhile, Moshe showed up to say hi and give me a ride.

Blurry Moshe

We went back to his place and he helped me read through the pile of mail I had been struggling with. Eventually we found a suspect bill. It was a bill from Bezek, with whom I had opened an account, then closed it after realizing that they were physically incapable of installing the line. Moshe immediately got on the phone and started yammering questions at the operators. Half an hour later, we understood that it wasn't a problem. The bill had been sent before they had closed my account. No problem. But something still felt wrong.

Moshe haggles on the phone.

Later, Moshe took me to Talpiot and helped me negotiate for a bed, as my air mattress has finally sprung a terminal leak. We found a decent deal for 900 shekels total, and he took me home.

I came home and sat at my computer. Strange... nothing went wrong. I was sure that... well, here's an email from my father. Some sort of scanned piece of mail. A letter from Wells Fargo.

MY WELLS FARGO CREDIT CARD IS DELINQUENT! Aha! I forgot to give them my forwarding address, so I haven't been paying the bills, and now my account has been forwarded to a collection agency. Yes! Thank GOD! I figured it out! So I called them up to deal with it, wasn't too bad, and they speak English.

And I'm already getting ready for the next big trip tomorrow. I have a shidduch in the morning (wish me luck,) then a bus to Ashdod to visit my old Be'er Sheva roommate Yigal, and then off to stay with some farmer cousins at the religious moshav (agricultural settlement) nearby, Moshav B'nei Darom. I'll be off the blog for a couple of days but the pictures will be a'comin'!


yoseflitvin said...

keep up the good work. love the pics and the stories

yoseflitvin said...

love your blog!