Shalom from the land of chul. More on Jspace in a moment. But first….
February 29th at some ungodly hour…
Nothing like a visit to Ben-Gurion Airport to get my blog juices flowing again. (Hey, I have a tag cloud! How fun. Here are all my blog posts tagged with “Ben-Gurion Airport.” Have fun.) What is it about wanting to shove a sharp metal object in your own eye while waiting at check-in that makes me want to write? I flew to the States Tuesday night/Wednesday morning for a couple of weeks and, boy, were my (Iranian nuclear) arms tired. I was initially supposed to fly Lufthansa through Frankfort (ech omrim “foreshadowing”?) Hey, did you know that the Lufthansa check-in desk is on the first floor of the airport near the arrivals hall? My friend Ziv said that when they built Ben-Gurion, they messed up and didn’t leave enough room in the departures terminal so they had to cram it down there. Whether or not it’s true, is there any story that wouldn’t surprise you about why things are the way they are?
“Why in the world is there an upscale mall across the street from the Old City?”
Well, it’s funny….when Israel reclaimed those areas in ’67, they were eager to finalize the cease-fire agreements before Shabbat. The United Nations was set to call for a return of the old Mamila neighborhood to Jordan unless Israel could present a compelling reason to maintain possession. At the eleventh hour, Abba Eban suggested an American outdoors and camping store whose English name written in Hebrew would be transliterated in English as “Deh Nort Face.” Yada yada yada, Mamilla.” Is any of that true? Of course not. Except for the store name. And, by the way, it’s foreshadatzia.
No, really-that’s what they call it.
I know. Let’s move on.
I know we talk about the buses being the worst of the elbow parties but how crazy is check-in at Ben-Gurion? Jockeying for position plus baggage carts. It’s like airline roller derby. I think that’s where small Israeli children first learn to push. It’s a coming-of-age thing like when mothers bring their babies into the swimming pool with floaties. “Go, little Dudu! Over in line 17, Continental! I see a millimeter of space between their carts, get in there. Spread your wings and FLYYYYY!!!!!!” Then everybody breaks into “Uf Gozal”, an Israeli gets his wings, and four hundred people wait three minutes as the people in front of them untangle their carts.
B’kitzur, why the crazy lines this time? Because of a strike and no, it wasn’t Israel’s. What are the odds? Might as well happen on Leap Day. I guess anything is possible. Maybe this is the one day a year where crazy stuff happens. Did the falafel guys all wear disposable gloves? Somebody report back to me on this, please.
What’s that? I haven’t made sweeping generalizatiot about cultural differences in 15 seconds? I thought about the following last week and wonder if there’s anything to it. Ok, service is better in America-we get it. I’m a little used to it after five years so I preface the following point by saying this is not an angry vent but more an observatzia (and when I say “I’m a little used to it”, I really do mean a little. Like I could be more) We’re all waiting in line last night and it’s NOT MOVING AT ALL. It was bad enough that the people around were like, “b’ima sheli, what in the halva is going on up there?” Only when I got to the front did they tell me about the strike and that I’d have to go to the re-ticketing line around the corner. I don’t know what exactly took so long at the counter but the woman next to me and I agreed that it would have been nice if someone had made an announcement to calm the mob of people. My point: everyone focuses on the differences in service in terms of how polite and customer-oriented service people are but to be a bit more nuanced, I have seen recently a couple of examples where the Israeli service provider was in fact working hard but maybe focusing on what was in front of his/her face at the time, and less on the big picture. It just doesn’t seem right that they should attend to a single passenger for half an hour without giving the rest of the customers an inkling of what was going on.
Another example: at a mostly empty café recently (where there were not people waiting for a table or a high-level of work stress), the waitress cleared a table instead of taking our order (or bringing our drinks or whatever it was). Was she doing her job? Yes. Was she attending to a dirty table instead of humans? Yes. Did we want our café hafuchs? You betcha. This went on for a good few minutes. Again, five-plus years into this thing called “craziness”, I often have the ability to chill and be patient. But I don’t think I’ll ever stop noticing or trying to understand. And although the odds of me ever waiting tables in Israel are slim (I was a waiter in Atlanta about 10 years ago and part of me is DYING to do it again to help make at least one restaurant a better place), much like Ben-Gurion dreamed to make the desert bloom, I too dream of not having to point a semi-automatic weapon at my waiter to get a glass of water.
America: A country where there exists more water than coffee. Can you even imagine? When I get back to Israel, I’m going to start showering in hafuch. (And will then lick myself dry.)
ANYWAY….b’kitzur, I waited around 2.5 hours to get reticketed on Continental, am currently flying through Newark, and should get to Dallas around 7 hours later than expected. Could have been worse I suppose. At least Continental has great in-flight entertainment.
Best part about the delay? Getting a pass to the Dan Lounge. After passing through security, I made a beeline (ech omrim “beeline”?) there to see what the buzz was about. When I walked in, the woman at the reception tried to tell me that because I was no longer flying Lufthansa, the pass they gave me wouldn’t suffice. Ok, to be fair, let me now go the other way: that was a totally bulls*** American answer. Seriously? That’s why Lufthansa gave it to me, to compensate me for screwing me. I was about to….what’s a level below “fight”? Dispute? I was about to tell her it was mamash lo b’seder until she couldn’t reach someone on the phone and let me in anyway.
Two things about this:
1) Again, it’s amazing how much easier it is to raise your voice or be aggressive in Hebrew. Holy crap, I had a real moment recently getting onto a sheirut. While walking to the back, my jacket which I was carrying accidentally brushed a guy’s face as I walked by. Instead of not making a big deal out of it or saying nothing, he swatted it and made some kind of noise. I instinctively responded “sli-CHAAA!!!” in a way I had never before, in the same tone of voice someone might say, “JEEEE-sus! Oh-KAAAAAAY!” On one hand, I was a little embarrassed that I had matched his obnoxiousness with an impatient combative tone but on the other hand, I also had a small inner smile as I thought, “I just became 12.4% more Israeli.”
It’s so easy to be aggressive in Hebrew, is it surprising that we have a war every five minutes?
2) I don’t know if it’s even a normal response to tell someone “zeh mamash lo b’seder, MAMASH lo b’seder” but everytime I do it, I feel like I should wag my finger like Babu Bhatt on “Seinfeld”. “Jerry, you are very bad man.”
The lounge: overrated. It was a big room filled with tons of comfy chairs (comfy for the airport, anyway) and a food area. Dried cereals, fruit, coffee, bottled drinks including beer. Obviously, it’s fun to get free stuff but whatever. The whole idea that it’s a “lounge”: who the hell wants to sit in a chair before an eleven hour flight? That’s exactly what you’re about to do, sit on your ass for half a day. If they want to pamper passengers, they should have a weight room and a jungle gym.
I made sure to take pictures anyway to document that I was in fact in the lounge (overrated in hindsight). By the way, if there’s a surefire way to demonstrate that you don’t belong there, it’s by taking pictures. Fellas, there’s a tip for your next fancy date: when you take your lady to a fancy restaurant, take a picture of the bill to prove what a stallion you are. And in the words of Jerry Seinfeld, you might as well get your genitals in a to-go box because you won’t be needing them. (Random question: in 2012, is it gay-unfriendly to say “fellas….when you take your lady”? Writing “significant other” takes too long. I want my blog to be LGBT-friendly.)
Here’s the sign just outside the lounge.
What the hell is the Hebrew word? We didn’t learn that in Ulpan, probably they knew we’d be in no position to need to know it anytime soon.
“Hey, Dafna, do you teach your students about deh airport lounge?”
“Ma pitom???? These freierim don’t even have jobs yet! HAAAA!!!!”
By the way, I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before but has anyone else noticed that the only place you’ll see the big-ass American coffee cup sizes is in the airport? A few of the kiosks have a large sized cup which would probably be the smallest size at Starbucks. Kind of like how the plane pressurizes on the way down, they need to gradually get you used to it again so your head doesn’t explode when you walk into Starbucks for the first time and see it.
So, yes, as I was saying, my tour has corporate sponsorship. How cool is that? Jspace is a new site, designed to be your one-stop shop for everything Jewish. Like most sites, there’s a social networking component where you can create a profile but more than that, you can see events going on in different cities, you can find information about any big Jewish organization (if they’re not all there yet, they probably will be), there’s a dating site built in, etc. Jspace had an impressive booth at the Federations’ General Assembly and it sounds like they could be on their way to being a great resource. Everybody gets it (including them): they’re not going to replace Facebook. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be a great resource for “what’s going on Jewishly in your and other communities. I’ll be blogging on their site over the next couple of weeks so be sure to go check out the site. Here’s a recent article from the new Times of Israel site about them.
I know, I know, after naming your past tour “Chumusface”, it just doesn’t sound the same but trust me, this is better for all parties involved.
After a few days in my hometown of Dallas, I’ll be in a teeny, tiny town in Illinois on March 4th (Benton, and it’s nowhere near Chicago so I know no one’s heard of it), in South Bend, Indiana on March 10th, and Madison, Wisconsin on March 14th. What these towns have in common is that they all host Jewish Agency shlichim. As always, I’m excited to work with them and to bring laughs to their communities. Maybe I’ll leave out the story about the Ben-Gurion check-in.
So that’s it. Hold down the fort for me in Israel. Bigger life update coming in the next month.