Saturday, March 12, 2011

Did That Really Just Happen!?

A friend of mine back home, a fellow Virgo - you know who you are! :) - told me that we Virgos might be faced with some challenges in our path this month. For the most part, it's been a relatively normal month....aside from a few interesting encounters that have left me jaw-dropped.  Unfortunately, such encounters seem to be piling up here and making me run for the hills out of fear of their frequency. You see, it all started a few weeks back....I had an incident occur in the communal laundry room that serves our building, but I believed (or wanted to believe) that this episode was singular. A crazy Israeli neighbor flipped the lid when he saw that I was using "his machine". His laundry had finished about 10 minutes previously and every single machine was in use. Though it's not ideal, we all do it in this situation: we take out the stranger's laundry (after waiting a given amount of time) and use the machine for ourselves. If they're not there after a given amount of time, too bad! That's the way it goes. Apparently, this guy was the wrong person to mess with. The incident resulted in him ragefully breaking open the machine (yes, breaking it open) and flinging my wet clothes around the room. Wooooooahhhhh buddy, what the hell is 'a matter with you?!! The encounter did not end well, and someone called in campus police (how embarrassing) to sedate him. Shortly after, Rafi also came to my rescue. It's kind of fun having a Hulk-like husband at times to use to my advantage. Apparently though, this guy had indeed caused a lot of raucous around here, which did comfort me a bit, but still, I had to ask myself: Did that really just happen? Well, yes, yes, it did, and I'd like to share two more episodes with you from earlier this week that have continued to pry that infamous question out of my mouth: 

Encounter #1 The other day, I scheduled a lunch date with a friend and we agreed to meet at The Coffee Bean in the center of town to grab a 'cup of joe' before having lunch. The Coffee Bean by the way caters to an American crowd, and though its an American institution, it is owned and operated by local Israelis. Sometimes, I so easily forget this fact, expecting American hospitality as soon as I walk through the cafe's doors. So, getting back to the story...there I was, I had arrived about 20 minutes early and decided to take a seat and wait for my friend. I wanted to wait to get my coffee until my friend arrived, out of courtesy to my guest. A barista made his way over to me after a few minutes and asked me - very kindly, I might add - in Hebrew if I would like a drink. I told him thank you very much, but I was waiting for a friend to order a drink. "Is that okay?" I asked. Key point: I had asked if it was okay. To which he responded, "Of course! No problem at all." I even went so far to reiterate the point, asking "zeh beseder" (it's okay?), to which he again replied, "Ken, ken" (yes, yes). Alright then, I guess I will wait right here, away from the cold, until she arrives.

Cue in a big, middle-aged, disgruntled, balding male employee (let's say he's approaching 50) who continues to meander close to my table, eying me suspiciously with condescension and dissent as I read my Hebrew homework. I give him innocent smiles in response to his angered face. After a mere five minutes, which seemed like hours, the big, bad employee was getting more and more gruff in his subliminal messages to me. I looked at my watch: a total of 13 minutes had passed since my entrance into the coffee shop. After a minute's time, I found myself daring to make eye contact with this man, so as to communicate with him, "What is the problem?" After all, I'd already worked out the situation with his fellow staff member. Did I get a civil response to my questioning eye? No, oh no. How presumptuous of me to expect courteous communication in response. The next thing I knew, I had this employee towering over me, screaming what I can only assume were curse words and inappropriate phrases into my face,  and in so doing, capturing the attention of the entire restaurant. "Woah, woah,!! Ma kore? Ma kore??? Ani lo madeberet ivrit!!" (Woah, woah, what's going on? What is it!? I don't speak Hebrew!!) With the entire cafe watching, he picked up my belongings from the table (or more like snatched them up furiously) and threw them down to the floor with intense anger. "Get out!! Get out!!" he screamed at me, as a blood vessel seemingly exploded above his furling right eyebrow. You can imagine my hurt, my embarrassment and my utter shock.

The kind barista who had permitted me to sit there 15 minutes previously entered the scene in a blink, attempting to calm the angry employee, who I can only assume was the owner. Yet, he would not have it. He did not want to be calmed and did not want any sort of explanation. He just wanted me "OUT!!!" In tears, I gathered my goods from the floor, stowed them away in my backpack and angrily let the owner know that I would be taking my money elsewhere, thank you very much, and that this was NOT how you treat a customer. If he had something to say, he should've said it to my face, and kindly requested that I order a coffee promptly if I wanted to sit there. I am fine with that policy, perfectly fine. Just tell me and I will buy an entire lunch. But no, instead, he decided to escalate his temper off the charts and tell me in front of the entire cafe to, "Never come back here again!!" The kind barista attempted to apologize to me on my way out, but I was too embarrassed to accept his condolences and quickly ran out with the phone to my ear, dialing Rafi's number on speed-dial. As soon as he picked up on the other end, he could sense my consternation amidst choked sobs, and I began by saying, "You will never believe what just happened..." 

Encounter #2 It's been a very cold week here in Jerusalem. Like, really, really cold. I believe you east-coasters call it "wicked cold". It's biting, stinging, chilling you to the bone. So cold that I use it as an excuse to stay home, cuddled up in my warm bed instead of walking the five-minute torturous walk through the frigid outdoors to the gym. However, yesterday, I decided to go early in the morning before meeting up with a friend who is here in Israel for a work stint for a few weeks. Around 8 a.m. I headed out to the gym, completed my usual workout, and headed down to the locker room for my "reward", a hot shower that would last through the entire drill (i.e. shampooing, conditioning, body wash, face wash, and of course, shaving). You don't know how much I look forward to these showers. At home, my hot shower starts off hot, but then gets slowly cooler as the minutes go by, making it difficult to truly get warmed up. I was really looking forward to this shower. Before entering the locker room (no phones allowed), I sent a BBM to Rafi letting him know I was gonna shower and be home in about 25-30 minutes * message sent at 9:09 a.m.*

I took my time getting undressed, visiting the ladies room and putting my shower items inside the shower stall. Then at long last, the moment had arrived: ahhhh, I had my highly anticipated shower and no one to disturb me. Or, so I thought. I was about...what I consider to have been approximately 8-9 minutes into my shower when I received a knock on the door. Yes, that's right. A knock on my shower stall door. A little invasive if you might ask me. Woah, this moment sent me right into flashback mode to the summer before my senior year in high school when a friend, who shall remain nameless, played some shower pranks on us in the dorms at American University. Back to reality, though. I peeked through the crack to make sure I'd heard the knock correctly. What I saw was a religious woman, dressed from head to toe, with her hair wrapped up and wearing a floor-length skirt, peering through the crack and into my privacy. I covered myself up quickly, and managed to ask her in my broken Hebrew: "Ummmm, can I help you?!" She immediately began spattering out words and phrases in angry Hebrew. To which I responded with my usual comeback, "Ani lo madaberet Ivrit!!" (I don't speak Hebrew!!) 

Do you think she cared? Oh no. She began gesticulating and gesturing wildly, spewing out words of fire at 100 miles a minute, of which all I could understand was "mayim! mayim!" I know enough Hebrew to know that this refers to the word "water", which by virtue of the situation implied that she thought I was using too much water. Wait a minute, lady. For your information, I have only been in this shower for about 8-9 minutes and if you don't believe me I will prove it to you by showing you the time stamp from the last sent message to my husband. And who are you to tell me how long I can shower?! This happens to be the ONLY good shower I have gotten all week. And hold up, aren't you and I both paying to use these facilities?! I can use this shower for however long I want to, thank you very much!  Who are YOU to tell me what to do?! All this was going through my head when suddenly, the religious lady pushed open my shower doors and had the audacity to reach in and TURN OFF my water (while continuing to shout profanities at me in Hebrew). Wait a second, that did not just happen, did it?  No seriously, pinch me, am I dreaming!? Oh, but it did happen, my friends, it really and truly did. I was so flabbergasted (and so in the middle of my shower) that I did not know what to do next. I waited until she walked away and turned on the water for another 30 seconds to wash the conditioner out of my hair. Out of fear or cowardice, what have you, I exited my shower stall, put my towel on and walked right over to my phone to see how long I had indeed been showering. The time? It was 9:25 a.m. That means that only 16 minutes had passed between the time I had sent Rafi a message and had, a) entered the locker room, b) walked over to the shower area and placed my stuff down, c) undressed and covered myself with a towel, d) placed my items in an open shower stall, e) used the restroom, f) taken my shower, g) been screamed at by a crazy lady, and e) finished my shower and walked back over to my bag.

Almost like déjà vu from the episode earlier in the week, I immediately called Rafi (knowing full well that this lady was somewhere in listening distance - I didn't care if she couldn't understand English) and recounted to him what had happened. I was fearful that this lady wold sneak up behind me and grab my phone from me, too, given that I was in a phone-free zone (everyone else uses their phones in there too, p.s., even though it's technically not allowed...). Thankfully Rafi was just as in shock as I was and it felt good to have someone on my side. After hanging up, I proceeded to finish getting ready and to blow-dry my hair. I thought she would admonish me for using too much energy with my blow-dryer, but fortunately for me, she stayed away. I walked out of my gym that morning, recreating the scene in my mind, asking myself, "Seriously, did that really just happen?!"

One thing is for sure: Israelis really are brazen and not afraid to speak their mind. Back in the US, perhaps you might be confronted or advised for your actions, but some Israelis (from my experience) take it to a whole new level. If someone is not careful next time, I might just bite back! Apparently it's just part of the culture, but some things are so ingrained in us from our own culture back home that it's difficult not to judge it or take it personally. For now, though, I've been too flabbergasted to process the situation and react simultaneously. I hope you have "enjoyed" hearing about these interesting encounters. I feel a whole lot better having told you guys about it! Ah, onto the next week. Let's see what sorts of adventures this week has in store for me.


  1. Wow! Those are some crazy experiences you have been having, Unbelievable!

  2. Ya I know, I think I'm officially ready for a vacation!

  3. Oh the beauty of living in a foreign country :)...just remember not to take it personally because clearly if they moved here they would probably be faced with a realm of crazy experiences too (although these definitely seem out of line no matter what the culture).

  4. I cannot believe that happened to you. Like, Or and I are both STUNNED that someone would be so unbelievably rude. Three someones in fact. In three different situations. And they got progressively worse! At least Laundry Lunatic had the conceivable excuse that you did something to him. And at least Crazy Coffee Comrade had the conceivable excuse that you were taking the place of a paying customer. But who in the hell did the Shower Soldierette think she was?! For her INFORMATION, I have a lot of choice words about the resources wasted on the Orthodox community. What a horrible woman...I'm so sorry you had to deal with that. Let's schedule some solid venting time next week at somewhere other than the Coffee Bean (which I am now boycotting).

  5. Erin, I hope you appreciated the shout out! ;) I'm not so much taking it personally, but thought it deserved a posting because of its ridiculousness. Next time I can't let them see that they've gotten to me!

    Ariele, ha ha, I can always count on your responses to leave me with a smile! I'm in love with your nicknames, they're leaving me laughing out loud :) I totally agree that LL and CCC had clout to get angry (arguably so...) but SS, wtf?! I hope you're having so much fun back home and can't wait til you get back!!!

  6. As always, great blog reports. Eventually, you can write a book (or 2).

  7. lol those expressions were crazy!! and amazing.


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