Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Swirling Thoughts #210 - the saga continues...

Ultimately we ended up using our own insurance company – the one we use for car insurance – to do the mandatory life insurance. Bob broke it gently to the bank insurance guy. But I don't think he took it so well.

Speaking of car insurance…
Some would take it as a sign... I understood our getting into a four car collision on the way to the lawyer’s office as a reassuring signal that our house purchase will be like everyone else’s, here in Israel. Not straight. Not easy. Not even close. We know we're lucky to have found a house!

The car we drive (drove)
So we crashed the Grandis. What are the chances that in a four car collision on Derech Hevron in Jerusalem, two of the cars will be from Efrat, two of the passengers will be pregnant women, and one of the drivers will have the name Mazal Tov? Everyone was okay, nobody yelled, the driver we hit offered me cookies to calm my nerves, and the one who hit us called me twice that day to see how I was feeling. We chatted amiably while we waited for the police. It was the most pleasant car accident imaginable.

I once had a conversation with a waitress about the difference between Hebrew and English. In her estimation, English had too many words for the same thing. The example she gave: Rotev. In English, it can refer to Sauce, Dressing, Juice, Gravy, or Vinaigrette. In Hebrew it’s all Rotev.

Shamai: Appraiser, Assessor, Valuer, Estimator, Adjustor

Enter the Shamai. Again.
So when you get into a car accident there is a claims adjustor who comes to assess the damage. In Israel he is called a Shamai. Not to be confused with the house appraiser Shamai. But (foreshadowing) there will be some confusion.

And again.
When you get a mortgage in Israel you also need to buy insurance to cover the things inside your house. Homeowners insurance, if you will, except that in Israel, someone from the insurance agency comes to your house and pre-emptively values your sofas, your gadgets, your clothing, your stuff. This ’stuff appraiser’, in our case, comes from the same insurance company as our car insurance and now our life insurance. And he’s called, you guessed it, Shamai.

The car is totaled
Not by my estimation. It drives. That’s all I need. But, evidently, there is a threshold beyond which it doesn’t pay for the insurance company to fix the car. My car teetered on the threshold for a while.

And so, you turn over the ‘totaled’ car and hope they actually pay you the seemingly too good to be true amount of shekels they mention in one of a bajillion phone conversations. Including this one, which occurred after the decision to fix the car was overturned in favor of the decision to total the car….

Hi, insurance company? I want to know if we can upgrade the week-long rental we are entitled to from a 5 seater to a 7 seater. To fit my family, you know. I will pay the difference.

You will have to speak to the middle man company who arranges for the car rental. They know you are entitled to a week long rental (because of the ‘totaling’) instead of a 3 day rental (for fixing).

Hi, middle man company? We are supposed to get a 5 seater rental for a week----

(Screaming mad) NO! We had a rental for you. You were entitled to it for 3 days and you never picked it up. Why didn’t you pick it up?

Fast forward to today
I dropped Bob at the car rental place where the middle man company assured me a 5 seater would be waiting as would the opportunity for an upgrade.

Everything is seasonal in this country. Including minivans.
No matter how Israeli Americans try to be, they are still Americans. It matters to Americans to have a car that fits every member of your family. Israelis have no such concept. They are happy to drive around in a tiny fuel efficient car that seats only part of the family at a time because, let’s face it, when is the whole family piling in the car together, anyway?

Allow me to answer that question
In the third or fourth week of August, every single Israeli family takes a vacation of some sort. The scale, location, and duration will vary but trust me on this one. They’re all on chofesh (vacation). And so, families will either split into two groups – those traveling to their vacation destination by bus and those by car – OR they will rent, for one week out of the year, a minivan large enough to seat every member of the family.

And so, like those elusive tzimmers in the north with private pools, the supply of minivan rentals all but disappears by the third week in August.

Take a look at the calendar
The timing of our crash couldn’t have been better. Or worse. The kids kept asking where we were planning to put the new baby. And into our third year of aliyah, we might just have needed that push to use our new immigrant rights which entitle us to 10% off a new vehicle purchase within the first three years of making aliyah.

But it’s also mid-August. We have a vacation coming up for which I don’t exactly see us loading into an Egged Bus. And 10% off a gagillion is still pretty close to a gagillion. (Cars are taxed at about 110% in Israel).

And even if you can wrap your brain around the ridiculous car prices here, as per everything else, nothing happens right away. The car cannot be ordered until the passports have been surrendered. For an unspecified amount of time. Maybe ten days. Maybe twenty.
Me to Chevy dealer sales guy: Um, my husband travels to New York on a regular basis. To work.
Chevy Guy: If you really need to leave the country you can always drive to the customs office in the Port of Ashdod and try to get your passport back.
Bob: So you’re telling me if I have to go to New York I should stop by the Port of Ashdod on my way to the airport?
Chevy Guy: It is possible, yes.

I plugged in our vacation dates and desired vehicle to every short-term car rental website in Israel. They all promised to call me with confirmation. None did. I waited and waited.

A week into the process (and 6 days before we depart), I received a promising sounding email. *Sounds of rejoicing in the finding of a rare, overpriced minivan*

Remember the free rental (and upgrade opportunity), for which I dropped Bob at the car rental place?

So not only was there no upgrade opportunity. There were no rentals. There were no cars at all. Bob sent me back to Efrat with the Grandis (which we were scheduled to turn over to the Shamai that day) and said he’d wait since the rental place assured him,
If you need a car, we will get you a car.
Don’t worry. Just wait.

And so he waited. For our five seater. Which turned out to be a four and a half seater.

Asher: Hey mom, where’s dad?
Me: He just brought home our rental car.
Asher: Where is it?
Me: It’s in the driveway.
Asher: I didn’t see anything in the driveway.
Becky: Hey mom, is that the new car? It's pretty small!
Barbara: Yeah, mom! How will we all fit in that car?
Rosie: Wow! That car is teensy!
Me: Guys! Be happy we have a car!!!

And then the Shamai called
Perfect timing! The Grandis is at the garage. You can take it from there.
Why would I go to the garage. Why are you telling me about your car?
Who is this?
The Shamai!
Which Shamai?
I will value your stuff.
The ‘stuff’ Shamai!

A few minutes later the phone rang again. Barbara answered in a sing-songy,

Someone for you Aba.
Who is it?
He’s speaking Hebrew.
You speak Hebrew. Ask who it is.
He’s speaking really fast.
Bob was pretty sure it was the life insurance agent from the bank.
Barbara, please find out who it is.
Poor Barbara.
(In Hebrew) My father cannot speak to you unless you tell me who you are.
Aba, he says it’s about the car.

Bob takes the call.
Hmm. Yes. Really? Okay! I will be there.

Who was that?
It was the police!
What??? Why didn’t they just say so?
I don't know.
What did they want?
I need to go report the accident in person.
I thought we reported it on the spot.
I thought so too.
Do they need anything from you?
My driver’s license.
As long as it's not your passport.
And also the vehicle registration.
We no longer have the vehicle registration.
Why not?
We no longer have the vehicle. The Shamai has everything.

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