Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Israeli Style Repairs

Dealing with simple, day to day household tasks can sometimes be a little intimidating when you have very basic language skills. Making calls, understanding automated responses on phone lines, explaining your problem, arranging appointments and understanding customer service advisers all becomes a challenge.

For this reason I put off dealing with the rubber seal which was coming away from our relatively new fridge. I didn’t know the words to use to explain what had happened and I just didn’t get round to it. Over time the fridge started to drip a little and I knew that the problem had now reached the top of my ‘to do’ pile. Luckily a neighbor offered to handle it for me and I was extremely grateful. They had problems convincing the shop to deal with it as the fridge was now out of guarantee. However, finally they were successful in organizing a home visit for me.

I was a little perturbed when the repairman arrived without a spare seal for the fridge. It seemed obvious that he had already made the decision that he would not replace it for me and was going to fix it up instead.

I waited for him to produce some kind of professional tool or gadget to repair the broken seal but instead he asked me for a hairdryer. He used this for a while over the rubber seal, expecting it to spring back into shape. It didn’t. Finally he asked me for some cotton wool and appeared to be cleaning the seal. I didn’t like to hover over him and left him to sort out the problem.

When he was done he showed me the seal which appeared to now be working better. However, when you opened and shut the door it did not automatically stick to the inside of the fridge and a gap remained unless you pushed it hard to seal the contact. I was not particularly happy with this but before I knew it he was out the door. On closer inspection I could now see that the cotton wool had not been used to clean the seal but was in fact stuffed inside it bring it closer to the inner door and help it to connect. I made a mental note to learn the Hebrew for, ‘bodge job’, which I felt sure would come in handy on many future occasions.

Israeli repairmen always seem to come up with improvised and crude methods of fixing things.

I once had a gas man come to the house to investigate the smell of gas. I was expecting him to produce some kind of gas sensory device to take a meter reading but instead my Israeli ‘Mr Fix It’ simply poured washing up liquid over the pipes and looked for bubbles.

Somehow they continually fail to inspire me with any confidence and they just have a very amateurish air about them. They are rarely dressed in any kind of uniform, their tool kits contain general household items as opposed to technical gadgets and they always look for the cheapest way to resolve the problem, even if that means it is likely to recur.

Yet again the language barrier clouds my decision making. Do I bother my neighbor again who already took time and effort to arrange the visit? Do I phone up myself and try to express my dissatisfaction? Or do I simply shrug my shoulders and live with it?

What do you think?!

Sharona B

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Voting, Israeli Style

Yesterday was my first experience of carrying out my civic duty and voting in an Israeli local election. I guess that’s some kind of a landmark. I think however, those monitoring the election process must have wondered who on earth they had on their hands and whether I had the mental capacity to cope with voting at all! I must have seemed a little clueless whilst trying to cast my vote. The whole process is different to ‘back home’ and I didn’t really know what to do or fully understand the instructions I was given.

I was given two envelopes and for a while afterwards stood around searching for a ballot paper inside each of them and looking for pen to mark an x. After a while I realized things were done a little differently here and that I was standing the wrong side of a booth, which was hiding numerous slips of paper, two of which I needed to insert into my envelopes.

Having rectified the error I mustered as much dignity as I could and prepared to post my envelopes in the ballot box. The officiator, having surveyed my confusion repeatedly checked that I had managed to put the yellow slip in the yellow envelope and the white slip in the white envelope. I assured him that (even) I had managed this.

Later on I walked to the local supermarket and brought a trolley full of food. I asked for a delivery and was initially told there were none today (no reason given, just, ‘not today’). I stood for a while considering which items I needed the most and could manage to carry home. Suddenly the loud speaker unexpectedly announced that deliveries were back on.

Later on in the afternoon my delivery arrived whilst I was on the phone. I noticed the man deliver two boxes and then return to his van for more. I was conscious that I had a final box and assumed he was rummaging around in the van for this. Finally, call over, I peered outside to see what was happening. There was no sign of him. Realizing that my final box had not arrived I phoned the store. I established, in the best Hebrew I could, that I had just had a delivery but that my box of fridge and freezer food had not materialized. I gave them my name and address and waited for them to respond. The phone was passed around to a few people and finally I spoke to someone who acknowledged that one box was indeed missing. Rather than apologizing (An Israeli apologizing? Does that happen?!) I was asked whether they could now deliver my box tomorrow. As I needed some of the items that night I said, ‘no’. Their caring, customer-focused response was, ‘why not??’. I began to pull together a sentence in my mind in Hebrew, explaining that there were things I needed. Suddenly I realized that a better approach was simply to treat the question as an Israeli would. ‘Cacha’ I said (‘because’). Israelis rarely back up a ‘cacha’ with anything, a ‘cacha’ is simply enough. I am proud to say my tactics worked and my box arrived shortly afterwards.

So I guess I may be a little inept at all this new election stuff but I am starting to feel my way in dealing with everyday situations.

Sharona B