Sunday, September 7, 2014

swirling thoughts #230 LESS is MORE (on expectations and happiness) as illustrated by the Toshiba situation

It started out with a brief email conversation between me and Bob from Israel to New York.

Toshiba laptop battery not holding a charge. Pls advise.  

A week later we revisited the Toshiba situation with customer service. A benign phone call from Bob’s home office would have gone unnoticed if Bob’s office wasn't also the bomb shelter and a rocket alert hadn't also sounded mid-call. Continuing his call, now with an audience of 7, Bob quickly realized Toshiba was less than amenable to helping us fix the laptop in Israel (and as such, the kids got a lot of giggles when Bob told the customer service rep that, although she had been most pleasant to deal with, he was VERY DISAPPOINTED in Toshiba). The kids laughed about this for days.

Many animated phone calls and emails later, it turns out a Toshiba laptop CAN be fixed in Israel. Fast forward to today. Our big adventure. A Bob and Lisa special day. First we figured out that the Toshiba service center in Petah Tikva was closer than the one in Netanya. Funny that neither of us instinctively knew this. Then we phoned ahead. They assured us it would be no problem to diagnose and fix the computer. Based on that assurance, we lowered our expectations accordingly. 

Bob said he'll be happy if they don't take the computer for 2 weeks. 
I said I'll be happy if they don't break it more.
We both agreed we'll be pleased if we arrive at the address and there really is a Toshiba repair shop there.

I recently pointed out the difference between new Israelis and veteran Israelis is all in their level of expectations of customer service. When you lower your expectations, you will just be happier!

On our drive to Petah Tikva we passed a Coca Cola tanker. We had passed a tehine tanker on our last "getaway" to the Carmel Spa (definition of “getaway” has been somewhat broadened). We debated then whether or not the tanker was filled with tehine (I said yes) or oil with a tehine advertisement on the truck (Bob’s argument).  We never settled that debate. This time, however, I think I made a strong case that the Coca Cola tanker was indeed filled with the syrupy beverage when, just after we saw it, we passed a Coca Cola distribution center. I mean, come on! What are the chances?

Toshiba was exactly where the GPS said it would be. Parking was as expected - more than one turn into a promising lot resulting in several minutes of awkward backward maneuvering to exit said (full) lot. We found a 13 nis/2 hour lot right next to a 15 nis/full day lot but chose the former as it was slightly less full. The attendant, a woman who could have easily been one of Bob’s Tel Aviv aunts, asked how long we'll be.
Bob: I just don't know!
Attendant: Well, it has to be less than two hours.
Bob: It could be 20 minutes. Or it could be 2 days!
Attendant, laughing: 2 days? Go home!
Bob, explaining: We have to fix the computer so it could also be that I won't survive the ordeal and then someone else will need to pick up the car.
Attendant, laughing: For a computer it's not worth it. Buy a new one!

And so we went. And they took the computer and sent us to lunch.
Toshiba lady: We will fix it now. Go get lunch.
Bob: We only have 2 hrs parking! What does now mean?
Toshiba lady: Don't worry. Now means now. It will be ready before 2 hours.

And so we had lunch. Breakfast really.
Me: Do you think they will have fixed the computer when we go back?
Bob: No. I think they will be out on lunch break when we go back.  

Alas they DID fix the computer (note: this was not even on our radar as a remote possibility!). We got the computer and left Petah Tikvak in exactly 2 hours. And spent the rest of the day HERE. 
Thank you, Toshiba!

While bob did point out that the El Al business class seats are more comfortable than our beach lounges (a post on the sub-culture of commuters another time), it turned out to be a day that exceeded all expectations. A true getaway!

And guess what?

Monday, June 23, 2014

swirling thoughts #229 Am Yisrael Chai

dear boys,

like every single Jew i pray for your immediate and safe return.

but even when that prayer is answered (please Gd!), you will have missed out, because of your captivity, on simply experiencing the world through your senses these last many days. i wish to share that sensory experience with you so that it’s not as if you missed it all. because for us, you are here, breathing the same air. why shouldn’t you see, smell, feel, taste and hear all that’s been going on outside............

i see.
i see glimpses of the heavenly sparks that reside in the souls of my friends and neighbors – as we greet each other with a knowing look and take leave of each other, somewhat strengthened from the shared emotion, eyes filled with prayer and hope.

i see chayalim.
chayalim from the tzafon. chayalim from the darom. chayalim from the merkaz. chayalim with optimistic smiles and, maybe because of their young age, a tender demeanor that i recognize from my own children.

i see degel yisrael.
i see our roads and our tachanot decorated with our proud flag. many, many flags. speaking of tachanot, every local bus stop/trempiada is adorned with hand painted murals proclaiming “Am Yisrael Chai”.  

i see you.
pictures of you and your full hebrew names. i see you on facebook. i see you in the newspaper. i see you at ma’arat hamachpela. i see you at the kotel. i see you outside rami levy and i see you at the matnas.  all over israel there are photos, beautiful photos capturing your happiest smiles, and a degel yisrael with your faces imposed on it has been created to let the world know there is no separating the jewish people from three of its boys. or maybe it was created as a welcome home banner. in any case, you’ll see that for yourself, soon enough, please Gd.

i smell the smell of bar-b-q.
last night soldiers camped out in the local branches of b’nei akiva and ezra, welcomed by everyone. people just wanting to strengthen this team of brothers that is searching the judean hills day and night for you, their brothers. and also we get strength from them.

i feel the warm embrace of am yisrael and jews abroad.
while physically i feel real embraces -  from my smallest to biggest child (not wanting to miss an opportunity to hold them close) and from each friend i see as we busy ourselves with activities we pray will prove meaningful in bringing about your return. activities including communal prayer. supplying the pina chama. raising the overall level of chesed in our lives to, please Gd, effect a change in this harsh decree.

i taste tears.
this will probably continue even after you return but i welcome those tears – tears reminiscing how we longed for your return. you were torn from your mothers’ arms but we are all mothers. you are, each of you, a precious pikadon on this earth from haKadosh Baruch Hu. our purpose is one with your mothers who were initially charged with guarding and raising you.  bringing you back is the only thing. for each one of us.

and i hear.
of all the senses, hearing is the one most fraught with the sort of incongruous emotions we are experiencing all at once. i hear my children playing while i recite tehillim through tears. i hear soldiers greeting each other and greeting local residents and it has the feeling of the first day of summer camp – the excitement and the uncertainty. later i hear sirens. sometimes total silence. we go to sleep and wake up to the relentless dull hum of drones scouring the hilltops and the wadis for signs of you. there are noises of life as usual – construction equipment chipping away at bedrock, ice-cream truck jingles signaling the start and finish of school, cars beeping, and smachot – graduations, weddings, britot, bar mitzvahs – each containing tefilot for your immediate and safe return.

the smachot feel surreal. but they continue as a testament, please Gd, to your return to the cycle of life – graduations, weddings, britot, bar mitzvahs.  and to all the sensory experiences they entail.

lisa m.

chayalim – soldiers
tzafon – north
darom – south
mercaz – central israel
degel yisrael – the israeli flag
tachanot – bus stops/hitchhiking posts
trempiada – hitchhiking post
Am Yisrael Chai – the nation of israel lives
ma’arat hamachpela – cave of the patriarchs
kotel – western wall
rami levy – a supermarket franchise in israel
matnass – local community center
b’nei akiva & ezra – youth group movements
pina chama – a volunteer run cafe for soldiers to stop in for home-baked goodies, coffee or slushie 
chesed – acts of kindess
pikadon – something on loan
haKadosh Baruch Hu - Hashem
tehillim - psalms
smachot – happy celebrations
britot – circumcision celebrations
tefilot - prayers

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Swirling Thoughts #227 - an Israeli in London

[random weather tidbit:
Every weather change in Israel seems to be preceded by a sandstorm. Even with closed windows, Israeli homes gather dust at an amazing pace.]

After spending four years analyzing Israel through American (but really Brooklyn) eyes, I had the opportunity to visit London. For four brief days I couldn’t help but analyze the capital of her majesty’s royal kingdom through my now mostly Israeli but still Brooklyn eyes.

Everyone told us the department stores were a sight to behold - everything so mesudar (orderly) and CLEAN. I didn't really get what they meant. Weren't our department stores in New York and in Israel orderly and clean? Were my standards so low so as to not realize? And then we visited our first London department store, Marks & Spencer and I had my answer: Apparently and definitively yes.

Next we decided to ride the subway. But it's called the tube. There are lots of posters and signs in the station. Including this one, fundraising for bees.

Instinctively, we looked for rats on the tracks while we waited for our train. (This seemingly bizarre behavior is a known habit/pastime of all subway-traveling New Yorkers).  Not only were there none (NOT ONE RAT!), but in fact, you could eat off those tube tracks. There was not a drop of garbage on the tracks. But there were also no garbage cans. Which means Londoners CARRY THEIR GARBAGE WITH THEM UNTIL THEY FIND A CAN. I believe not littering is the modern understanding of Admiral Nelson’s 1805 signal to the British people: "England expects that every man will do his duty."

The juxtaposition of proper decorum (the people were extremely polite!) with pride in a history of sophisticated torture devices and beheadings left me with the not so subtle message that littering in the tube station carries a serious consequence.

And so I carried my garbage with me. Sort of. Not being a native Londoner, and perhaps not properly fearing the reprisal of doing such, at one point I started looking around for a place to set some garbage down. At that very moment, what I can only describe as a fairy angel in a uniform swooped down in front of me holding an open garbage bag. I kid you not.

We did all the touristy stuff. Including a bus tour with a cockney accented guide whose English we barely understood save for the part about how a certain show was so funny she "nearly wet herself." Apparently this is something Brits say. The highlight of our trip was Barbara doing barefoot back-flips across the lawn at Hampton Court
Grass is a really big deal for Israelis. Myself included:
Our trip concluded with the joyous realization that Heathrow Airport is littered with Cadbury vending machines. It was those very vending machines that welcomed me back to Heathrow exactly one month later on a connecting flight from New York. This time, extremely harried as I raced from terminal to terminal in order to catch a connection that would bring me into Tel Aviv just hours before Shabbat, I inadvertently left my laptop in a grey tub at security. I was on the road to Bet Shemesh before I realized it.

And so began Operation Get My Computer Back from London. With the polite and expeditious TSA workers in Heathrow, I actually believed filing a claim with the on-line lost and found system would yield results. Every day I called. Every day I was politely put on hold while someone "went to check" in the warehouse. "I'll go check" must be code for "it's tea time."

After about a week of playing polite Londoner I reverted to aggressive New Yorker/Israeli, explaining to a Brit named Bob that I would wait on the phone for as long as it takes while they check the warehouse.  I joked about how my husband is also named Bob to keep things light as he checked through the inventory. Finally he found a Sony laptop. "Does it have any identifying features?"
"Can you turn it on?"
"It is out of power."
"Hmmm." I thought for a good minute while British Bob waited. What could possibly distinguish my black-ish grey-ish Sony laptop from any other? As I noticed the approaching sandstorm from the living room window I quickly had my answer.
"The computer is very dusty. The screen, the keys, the whole thing."
"Yes! Then this is clearly your computer."
Eureka. I knew no self-respecting Brit would expect for a computer to be so dirty!

From there we had it set aside for a friend to pick up. My friend lives in Israel but travels to London for work. And he is British. When he got back to Israel he called to tell me he had my computer. But he wasn't quite sure it was actually mine. "Lisa - I have a computer here but..." he hesitated, sounding embarrassed, "'s just SO. VERY. DIRTY!"

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Swirling Thoughts #228 - the mail keeps coming

Every few weeks I collect it.

This system hasn't improved much over the past five years - even if I do try to decipher the important looking stuff and even if my kids actually sit and read the magazines/circulars that arrive in Hebrew.  For some reason, I'm just never in a rush to collect a pile of making-me-feel-stupid.

As luck would have it, the last mail pickup contained an ominous looking letter from the government. I've been expecting an ominous letter from the police for about a year regarding a ticket I think I protested. (I think I protested it because even though I sent it in, and even called to follow up and was told not to do anything until I am contacted, I'm pretty sure once they do contact me it will be to put me in jail for failure to pay the fine or properly protest the ticket). So I naturally assumed the ominous government letter was my police letter. I decoded words like PAY and CANCELLED and LICENSE. There were deadlines - dates that had, of course, long passed while said scary letter sat in the mailbox. Also, the letter was addressed only to me. I showed it to Bob. 
"That looks scary."
"I know! I think it's from the police. I think they want to put me in jail. Can you read it?"
"You go to ulpan! What does it say?"
"I don't know. It doesn't look good."
"Let's remember to ask one of our Israeli friends."
"Good idea."

A few days later Bob was sitting with some of his Israeli friends drinking Turkish coffee and teasing me about my never ending ulpan experience. Suddenly I remembered the letter and brought it out for elucidation. The friends took turns looking it over.

As they read, they muttered words like licensing bureau, drivers license, registration, penalty and payment. After about 5 minutes of intense study - maybe these letters are not so easy for Hebrew speakers to understand either! Could it be?? - they agreed that the letter was telling me my inspection and emissions test was overdue (by a good three months) and that I need to take care of it asap.  Me.

"Inspection and emissions test?"

"Oh...." Bob seemed to go into a deep fog. "There was something..... I think I saw it in the mail the last time....."

Needing a quick answer, I started drilling his friends.
"Is this about me?"
"No, it's about the car."
"Is my license expired?"
"I don't think so."
"Do i need to go to the licensing bureau?"
"No - to the post office!"
"Of course. Am i going to jail?"

Okay, not so bad. By the end of the week Bob had found the original notice and taken the car to the garage to see if we could do the test even though our tail light was broken. He was told we need to replace the tail light. 1300 nis. This is not the garage ripping us off. This is the price for a Chevy tail light in Israel (~$375). Bob asked the garage if we could just tape it with duct tape. They told him he could try but that he would most likely fail the inspection. Not definitely. But most likely.

Later that day I asked him, "What made you think you could tape a tail light with duct tape and pass the inspection? That's so third world! Where do you think we live?"
"I don't know," he answered, "but I feel like I saw it somewhere."

Three weeks later (and one $70 tail light smuggled back in a suitcase from America), we are the proud bearers of a new inspection sticker, the whole episode nearly forgotten. And then today I went to the hardware store to buy some duct tape for Asher's Purim costume. And what do you know. This is the picture on the box of duct tape:

Did I say three weeks later? Ugh. Time to get the mail