Friday, June 24, 2011

Shopping, Arguing (is there a difference?)

On the way to Jerusalem from the airport, I was attempting to use my rented Israeli cell phone to juggle coordination with the rental apartment, my dinner meeting, and my babysitter – until the door next to me suddenly opened, revealing the highway racing beside us. “Ayelet!” I yelled, still on the phone with the babysitter, and through the haze of jetlag tried to activate the appropriate muscles to close the taxi door my daughter had somehow opened.
“Get off the phone!” the cab driver started screaming at me. Even after I managed to get off the phone, his screaming rampage continued, questioning my priorities (and sanity) in not immediately hanging up when all this transpired. I could have answered that I was a) used to multitasking, or b) giving my babysitter a taste of what was in store for her, but instead I simply asked him to lock the door and spent the remainder of the trip worrying that I was being driven by someone genuinely angry at me.
“Thank you very much! It was a pleasure. Have a good trip!” the very same cab driver said to me upon arriving at our destination. I took a double-take to determine whether drivers had mysteriously switched at some stoplight. Observing that they had not, I watched him drive away in a daze, contemplating the finer points of Israeli arguing etiquette.
Apparently, however, I hadn’t learned much. After settling into the apartment a little, I ventured out to a nearby Mister Zol, where Ayelet, exercising her freedom after so many hours of airplane confinement, proceeded to knock down entire sections of beauty products. “Next time you’re going to have to pay for all this!” a supermarket employee screamed at me in Hebrew. Still holding all the products I had selected for purchase in my hands, trying to steer Ayelet away from everything she had knocked down, and a little dismayed by the level of customer relations, I told her, “I’m sorry, I can’t hold everything at once. Do you know where the shopping carts are?”
She chose to completely ignore me. I wish I could believe that it was because I didn’t know the Hebrew word for shopping cart and just said “cart,” but somehow I don’t.
I made a beeline for checkout.
And the haggling continued. On a future shopping occasion (this time with a cart), after selecting items based almost entirely on what was on sale, I was asked by the checkout lady for my Supersol card. “I don’t have one,” I said. “How do you get one?”
She told me that it was entirely possible – I just had to go over to the customer service booth after I checked out and ask for one.
Sure enough, customer service gave me my very own Supersol card. “Can I apply it to what I’ve already purchased?” I asked.
“Not possible,” she said definitively.
I know in retrospect that in all of these situations I should have argued more, defended my turf, insisted on my point of view – but really, does every small incident demand a confrontation? If you must know my perspective, it’s that life’s too short to spend it fighting against the details. Yet it seems that in Israel, if you don’t, you end up losing money, respect – and ultimately, your patience.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Flight

Ayelet burst into tears practically the minute we entered the airport. Helping me with the luggage, my husband exchanged looks with me to the effect of, “Well, what did you really think was going to happen?”
She screamed the whole way through check-in, bag check, and security. The cause of all the aggravation seems to have been an unwillingness to be tied down in the stroller while so many interesting people and pieces of luggage rolled by. Ultimately the only article able to keep her at bay was her elephant blanket Ears, to which she clung fiercely, including while going through security. It hadn’t exactly occurred to me to pry him from her arms and put him on the security belt along with her little baby sandals, her stroller, and, well, everything else, but never fear, Ears was subject to a strict wand-test instead.
Amidst the ordinary ordeal of laboring our way past security, I suddenly witnessed the extraordinary: the proud Israeli flag on the tail of our airplane sticking up in the air. “We’re going to Israel!” I told Ayelet.
I’d need that sense of purpose to get me through the next 10 hours. The highlights of holding a 2-year-old in my lap for that length of time included dinner, during which I attempted to shovel food above Ayelet’s head with the hope of getting it into my mouth, mostly unsuccessfully as much of it fell onto my lap and onto the other logical place, Ayelet’s head, while Ayelet sprayed rice over us both as she tried her best to eat herself. The plane’s bumpiness at that particular juncture didn’t help the process much either.
Finally Ayelet fell asleep on me, and I discovered something. Ayelet is a very mobile sleeper. She shifted on me from position to position, trying her best to keep comfortable, which ensured that I definitely was not. But better that I watch her sleep than the other way around.
One way or another, we made it! Crusted with airplane food and sleep-deprived, I felt underprepared to meet what the day had in store for me. Still, the first step is showing up!