Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Swirling Thoughts #13 – birthing pains and fighting the good fight.

My landlord came in the day we were hanging the ceiling fans. There were moving boxes everywhere, piles of plaster dust and chunks, wires popping out of the ceilings and walls and Bob was upstairs scrubbing a mysterious stain off a wall with bleach (we don’t use the “m” word, we call it “retibut”). The landlord smiled and started laughing. He said something in Hebrew that translated roughly to this: with the coming of Moshiach, a new baby, or a new house there is a period of pain to pass through. I thanked him for the words and warned him with a new Hebrew word I recently picked up ‘Sakana!’ (danger) as he walked upstairs to check on Bob, who was, no doubt, passing through a period of pain at that very moment.

Spent the day fighting. Feeling more Israeli by the minute.
Normally I back away from a fight. I give up parking spaces to people who came after me but think they were there before me. I yield to people who cut the line. When I told my friend Natalie I was moving to Israel she laughed. She said they’ll eat you alive there. I have strong opinions and will yell and scream about politics and all sorts of stuff but when it comes to face to face confrontations, I am the definition of non-confrontational. That’s who I’ve been up til now, anyway. Somehow confrontations feel personal. In Israel, they are more like a sport.

Last night when Bob was packing for the States he did not open his closet and look for clothes. His closet was empty and his clothes, like mine and the kids, were sort of folded, mostly smushed in orange plastic garbage bags all over the floor, all around the house. This is how clothes come back from the laundromat (okay and they come back faster than I have the energy or inclination to put them away). It’s less ‘Fluff and Fold’ and more ‘Fluff and Stuff’. When we notice mysterious stragglers who’ve joined our wardrobe we sort of wonder about what’s gone missing. Like we’ll ever figure that out. And so it’s been for the past month (remember the washer in our first house was broken for more than a week). Now, with my beautiful brand new full-sized American washer and dryer staring me in the face I can’t wait to be done with the laundromat and the orange plastic garbage bags.

The company who carries the warranty for my washer and dryer also does the installation. This is not a ‘welcome to Israel’ gift – I paid for this service! Like so many companies in Israel, they only send servicemen to Gush Etzion (Efrat is in Gush Etzion) once a week (I’ve heard some only send once a month!). When I called to let them know my washer and dryer had arrived they told me they’d let me know which day they would be in the Gush. The next day they called back to tell me they were coming this Thursday between 9 and 11. I hesitated when she said Thursday and she was quick to offer the following Thursday as an alternate date. Knowing full well I will be in the north on the following Thursday and that the first time I’d be doing my own laundry would be early September I quickly told her to keep me on for this Thursday.

Two of my good friends are here in Israel to make bar mitzvahs for their sons. The bar mitzvahs are on the same date and at the same time. But instead of splitting my time and running from one to the other, I get to attend them both as they occur simultaneously at the same place. This Thursday at 9am I fully plan to be at the Kotel.

I explain this to the coordinator for my washer-dryer service call. I ask her to kindly switch me with one of the afternoon appointments in the Gush. Since they did not offer me a choice of time I can’t imagine they offered anyone else a choice. And so, why can’t they just call someone back and tell them their time has changed? She tells me if she can do it she will. And I believe her.

I called her back today, re-introduced myself, re-stated my request and asked her how it was coming. She said she hadn’t been able to make any changes. I pushed a little asking if she could make some calls to switch my appointment. She said she’d have to speak with her boss. We left it at that.

I mentioned the scenario to my babysitter today. She laughed and said they are not going to just switch my time like that. I told her about the ‘speaking to the boss’. She laughed and encouraged me to call back and fight. I called the lady back, re-introduced myself and repeated my request for a time change on Thursday. She patiently advised me that she knows I need a time change but no one has called in to cancel their appointment yet. And so the fight began. “You cannot WAIT for someone to cancel their appointment! You scheduled a whole day in the Gush, nachon?” Yes. “You gave me no choice as to my time. Did other people get a choice?” No. “So you can call someone with an afternoon appointment and tell them you have changed them to a morning appointment, yes?” Then some muttering about how her service guy has to be back at the central office early. “What time does he leave the Gush?” Some stuttered answer about he leaves when he’s finished, no particular time. “So he can come to me in the afternoon, yes?” Something about speaking with her boss. I was about to demand to speak with her boss (Bob taught me this trick) when she mentioned her boss is out of the office. I restated my request which, by now, had become a demand. I feel empowered by the babysitter cheering me on from the couch. It really IS a sport!

I hang up with her and move on to my next opponent. Before Bob packed his bags last night he swept up chunks of plaster and tons of dust. As he was sweeping I was wiping down every exposed surface with Lysol wipes (which arrived on my lift just in time!). While he was packing I continued sweeping. This morning when the Sparkle cleaning girl arrived I put her on the job. She spent 4 hours cleaning up the dust and plaster mess. And so I email the ceiling fan guy telling him not to come back to my house before calling to speak to me first.

When my phone rang I was ready to pounce. Alas it was the service coordinator! She was able to change my appointment after all. Thursday from 12-4. I blessed her with long life, told her she was a tzadeket, and thanked her profusely, to the point of making her uncomfortable.

And then I called up the ceiling fan guy. I mentioned the amount of cleanup involved after his visit, the fact that he’d not forewarned me, and that he’ll need to show up tomorrow a little more prepared (read: drop cloths). He gave me a whole thing about how this isn’t America and why he can’t come prepared with drop cloths and that plastic tablecloth covers are the best he can do and if I want he’ll even go to the store and buy them for me. Yes, I told him. Go to the store and buy them for me. Not much of a victory – I know I will be left with another ridiculous mess. At least this time I am anticipating it. And soon I will have ceiling fans. To enjoy the glorious wind. Which still smells like poop.

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