Monday, October 19, 2015

Swirling Thoughts #235 - really just an ordinary day

Since the great (Target) credit card breach of 2013, we've been suffering the effects of “once you give someone in this country your credit card number, you'd better pray there's never a great credit card scandal leaving you with a new card because then you will just be screwed.” Yes that is a real effect.

Recall my myriad pleasant exchanges with Cellcom. OMG just recalling that brings up bile.

Enter Israeli social security - lovingly known to all Tehudat Zehut (national identity card) carrying Israeli citizens as Bituach Leumi. Let me start by saying Bituach Leumi (once you find the branch you need – there are four all within an impossible block in the center of town – making the chances of finding the one you need on the first try just 25%), has higher security than the airport. They pat you down. Then they laser scan you. They ask way tougher questions than any El Al agent has ever asked me (Come on! Everyone knows their Hebrew name and who packed their luggage!). But not everyone knows the answers to gruff questions like "yesh l'chem va'ada?" In the 10 seconds it takes for me to process the Hebrew (and that's on a good day) the door has already been closed on me while they pat down the next guy. I'm left mentally translating an answer when they come back to me and offer an equally gruff "English?"

In any case, the last time we gathered up the tall pile of Bituach Leumi notices that have been relentlessly filling my mailbox since the credit card number was switched, we arrived to an amazing line of zero people! What luck! We were then told Bituach Leumi is closed on Wednesdays. And it was told to us in such a way that basically translated to,
“Duh. Aren’t you citizens with Teudat Zehut cards? Everyone in the country knows Bituach Leumi is closed on Wednesday.”
Well, that’s how it felt, anyway.

And so we made a date of it, had some lunch, and put the pile on hold. For about another year.

I should add that in the interim we successfully reached them by telephone - a whole other story involving a lost secret code - and tried to give over our credit card info . Who refuses credit card info? Hint: if you are missing a secret code, Cellcom & Bituach Leumi. Make no mistake. In Israel, the secret code is king. We thought we'd untangled the mess but that Bituach Leumi pile of mail kept flowing in. And the truth – it felt kind of ominous.

And so today, a Monday, mind u, we arranged for gan pickups, babysitting and carpools. All through my morning yoga class, instead of clearing my mind, I debated back and forth: to bring my gun or to leave my gun. (Did I forget to post about getting a gun? Oops.) As I’ve been toting it around Efrat (recall Nir Barkat, Mayor of Jerusalem, advising Jerusalemites who have guns to carry guns and the subsequent advisory from our Minister of Defense…) it would seem like a no-brainer to bring it into town. Except for pat-down guy whose job it would be to check my gun, coat-check style. Except what if he asks me questions, fast, in Hebrew, faster than I can answer him and we’re left with him finding my gun while I’m fumbling for my license? My yoga class would have been better spent 'staying in the present' as my question was answered in 2 seconds flat by my fellow yogis at the end of class: Have gun? Bring gun. Sababa.

Mission Impossible
So I didn’t clear my mind but I did clear my calendar.  We had all day. And so we gathered up the oppressive stack of Bituach Leumi notices and made our way in to the center of town. Me, armed and ready to protect my beloved. Now - an aside - I kept hearing how town (Jerusalem) is empty on account of all the terror attacks. Couple that with the one- in-a-million parking spot I found ONE time in the impossible area surrounding Bituach Leumi, and I put my faith in a really hopeful silver lining and had my beloved turn into the impossible area. About 40 minutes after turning onto Shlomtzion Hamalka Street (and moving about 40 meters) Bob looked at me and said “It’s probably best you carry the gun.”  

Ignoring the obvious (hungry man suffering from traffic fatigue will want to eat meat), I pointed out my favorite dairy café as we inched along. An alternate silver lining.  Alas we found a spot and made our way to A (not THE) Bituach Leumi office where we were promptly asked if we had a va'ada. Va’ada? I repeated, buying myself some time, but not really as the door promptly closed on us. After a moment it reopened and there was a gruff offer of "English?". To which we answered by presenting our stack of papers and asking where the appropriate Bituach Leumi office was located. The way the guard looked at my stack of papers made me think not too many people let their Bituach Leumi mailings accumulate over an almost two year period. And so came the answer, gruff and in Hebrew.

Closed? On Monday?
Yes. Closed Monday.
This must be terror related.
Just today?

No. Every Monday!
But I thought Bituach Leumi was closed on Wednesday!  
Yes.  Also Wednesday. Open tomorrow from 8:30-12
Of course. I just don’t understand how they can generate all the mailings they’ve sent me on a 4 day work week.

There were no real words at this moment – just hunger and so, being the sport that he is, Bob agreed to view the menu of said favorite dairy café.  As we approached I saw some obvious security guys moving about. The curly behind-the-ear wire  is a dead giveaway. Then there was Mister Enthusiasm – literally a guy sitting outside the café announcing to anyone who passed by, “Nir Barkat, Mayor of Jerusalem is inside the café! And the American Ambassador just walked by!” He said it to us twice and then to a friend on the phone as Bob eyed the menu. He was really enthusiastic about it all. I contemplated popping in to let the mayor know how I’m following his advice but thought better of it in light of all the security.

In the end we walked further into town, looking for a certain bookstore. Mistaking the Mashbir (Israel’s version of Sears) for a mall, I got my big chance to get through security with my gun. It was quite uneventful but a sort of milestone nonetheless. We had a traditional his and her’s Ben Yehuda Street lunch – me a smoothie, him a falafel – and we chalked it up to another failed errand turned lunch date (of which we've had countless in 6+ years).   

And as sure as the mail will arrive, I know we will try, yet again. Stay tuned...

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