Friday, August 26, 2016

Everything's (a) fine

For reference

Thursday...Thursday. First thing was to return the car. Maddie and I drove over to the return place in Romema where there was absolutely no instruction as to what to do once we got there. In Tel Aviv, at a little, local airport, we expected a lack of English. In Jerusalem, we expected English. We found precious little at the rental place. Also, the idea of a line and waiting on it seems foreign to this culture. The guy in the "office" (a makeshift trailer with a sign on the door saying "stay out") said "what do you want" just in Hebrew. Hebrew is a lyrical language in which complex and poetic concepts are reduced to a shrug of the shoulders and the word "Mah?"

After he finished shouting with another customer (Israel is a land in which everyone is always almost angry and almost always angry) we explained that we were returning the car. He had another guy check the car out, telling him that we had had an accident and that there was a dent in the rear of the car. This was not entirely true and by that I mean, this was entirely not true. The other guy took a look, took some pictures, checked some stuff on his computer and said "You are ok. Bye." No paperwork, no nothing. So we left.* We DID ask how to pay the parking ticket I got that morning. I know, I know, why pay a ticket on a rental car? Either because I am hopelessly honest and got the ticket fairly, or because with my luck, I will get pulled off the plane and placed in a Turkish prison which I hear is no delight. I was told that I could pay it in any post office. Makes perfect sense.

We started walking back (we found a shortcut) because Maddie's friend was meeting us back at the apartment. On the way, we passed a post office so I ran in. I wasn't sure what button to push on the machine which spits out the number you wait to be called so when the woman said something to me in an annoyed tone (it sounded like "Parah Aduma" but I doubt she was calling me a red heifer) I played the card that has been so useful recently: the "I'm a happless American tourist" card. I waved the ticket and said "I need to pay this please." This works for when the teller/service provider is a woman because they all then imagine their own hapless husbands and have mercy. So she motioned for me to come up and took the ticket. She was shocked when she looked at it. She asked "You just got this! You want to pay it already?" She didn't know it was a rental car but was shocked that I didn't want to wait until the due date and then 3 weeks more before I paid. I gave her the fine and she smiled, amused at my silly American naivete. I ran out and caught up to Maddie just as she locked the door to her apartment.

We welcomed Maddie's friend and sat and talked for a few minutes. Our plan for the afternoon included meeting Steve who had the cash that his father got changed so that we could open the bank account, and buying all sorts of little things that Maddie still needed. We started off down Ben Yehuda to get some food. Ben Yehuda is a perfect street on which to say "what do you want to eat?" "I dunno...what do you want?" And so on. We ended up at a bagel place. Bagels in Israel are sort of like bagels but not quite and spreads are much more diverse. The friend had cream cheese (esque...) with pesto and something else. Maddie had a LOT of butter and sweet potato. In Hebrew, that's batata. I don't know why, but it is fun to say. Batata. I had a whole wheat "bagel" with cream cheese and tomato slices and cucumber slices. I should have had it toasted (which is really "pannini pressed").

From there we walked a couple of blocks to buy some water and catch a cab. Off to "Cinema City" to meet with Steve and receive an unmarked envelope of cash. Perfectly reasonable. Then we got a Lyft/Gett/Taxi back to the bank to wait like groupies on line for a concert. On Thursdays, the bank opens up again at 4PM, til 6:15. We were advised not to go in the afternoon but we threw caution to the wind and, using Maddie's friend's cachet, we went in and took the number (M111). We were called pretty quickly and worked with Aviva Sharvit (if you are in Bank Leumi, ask for Aviva Sharvit. It won't help but there you go) to open the account. The friend peppered her with questions (do you really need a three hour lunch break? How did your bank win that award? Who was Nisim Behar?) while I played the "hapless American dad" bit and she had the requisite mercy. To open an account, one has to deposit EXACTLY 10,000 shekalim in cash. We tried depositing 13,000 but were told that any transaction over 10,000 would require an additional level of managerial involvement. Any less than 10,000 wouldn't meet the minimum. And you can't have 2 transactions in one day so we couldn't open with 10,000 and then deposit the rest later.

There are fees for everything -- transactions, no transactions, going below the minimum, staying above the minimum holding a debit card, using a credit card, speaking with a teller, breathing the air. Once we signed our lives away (and Maddie settled on a spelling for her Hebrew name) we emerged relatively victorious in that Maddie has a bank account which temporarily had 10,000 shekalim in it. I am sure that because of the fees, she has less now. Also, you have to do the majority of your banking at your home branch. Not your bank, your actual branch. They won't let you open an account at a branch too far from your home address. And changing branches is apparently harder than changing banks.

Then back to go food shopping. We went to Supersol and bought everything. Some things twice. We carried it all back -- in Jerusalem, most everything is walkable if you have anough time and muscles. I had the time and by the middle of the walk, I developed huge pains in my hands as the plastic bags dug into my fingers. But we made it. The evening was spent putting food away, fixing bits around the apartment (I put a lock on Maddie's bedroom door as the lock-set in the door only locks from the OUTSIDE), changing bulbs and putting everything in its place. We ordered pizza and watched the first 45 minutes of Bad Boys before it was bed time. I dealt with a call from work at 11pm and slept.

*This morning I was notified by Julie that the security deposit of $1,000 which was not supposed to be charged if we returned the car was, indeed charged. So that is what I have on tap for this morning, plus maybe a walk to this "Old City" which I keep hearing about.

Good shabbos, all.

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