Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Doors are Locked

The drive between Israel's two most prominent cities takes less than an hour. It is impossible to conceptualize an Israeli suburb, simply because once you've effectively left the urban place, you've almost immediately entered another.

Jonah and I hitched a ride to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv/Herzliyah. Our hitching was a much more controlled version of the image that just flashed through your mind (you know, the one where we stand on the side of the highway with our thumbs out). Our buddy Tomer, with whom we were staying in Herzliyah, had another guest from Jerusalem. This man was a friend of Tomer's from his military unit, and came to share Shabbat with his buddy. Conveniently, this man decided to return home precisely at the time we wished to leave for Jerusalem. He obliged to drive us.

We paid for a cab from the city outskirts to Jonah's new apartment. The cab driver had to stop once to ask for directions, but found it quickly afterward, no harm done. The true challenges occurred when we stepped out of the taxi.

Jonah's landlord had written the address as 5 Ben Yefouneh St., which is where the taxi let us off. We stepped onto the front porch with our luggage, only to have a blinding light projected in our direction accompanied by the suspicious voice of a little old lady. "M'daber anglit? [Do you speak English?]" "Ken, what do you want?" Jonah proceeded to explain his situation, and the lady opened her front door stared us down.

She was about 5 feet tall with a cigarette draping from her lips, her dark brown eyes penetrated the glass of her purple spectacles. "Maybe you go around back. More apartment in back. I come help you. This here is not your place."

We proceeded to lug our luggage (a term that I have recently realized to be both ironically haughty and extremely apropos) up a flight of stairs, followed by Jonah trying his luck with the two apartments in the back. No luck.

"Maybe across street you try."

We lugged our luggage back down that flight, and I waited with the bags with our old lady friend as Jonah probed the area. He came back confused, citing a conversation with a man with limited English skills saying to use another door.

Jonah began to walk around the back of the building despite the assurances of our old lady friend that no door exists in the back. While he was out of our sight, she affixed her concern over Jonah's choices. "What does he do in the back of that building? No door lives there. He wastes time." My simple response was, "I dunno. He must be onto something."

I even tried to change the subject, telling her about my Birthright trip, etc. but she continually came back to the topic of Jonah defying her advice. I gave up.

Just then, a car with a young couple with American accents rolled up to 5 Ben Yefouneh St. Our little old lady friend proceeded to explain the situation to these people who subsequently turned to me to ask the scenario. Jonah was on the phone and walking around in front of the building across the street, too engulfed in his own problems to entertain the curiosities of these two people. I had no information to share with them, since I was just a boarder at Jonah's place for the evening.

When Jonah was off the phone, all three people (little old lady, and the couple) flocked to Jonah and began bombarding him with questions and advice. There were hands pointing in every direction of the street, and each person had a hand on the small Google Map. I was just perched on a cement wall watching our bags, and even more so, watching this scene.

Finally, it was decided that the non-English speaking advisor was right in the beginning. There was another door to the second half of the apartment, Ben Yefouneh 4b. All three of Jonah's helpers followed in a row as he entered the building. They waited outside of the gate, and I heard someone yell "He turned on the light!" Needless to say, they were more excited than I was to find the apartment. It's a testament to Israeli hospitality.

After checking out the apartment (which is very nice) for a bit, Jonah and I went out to get some food. We found a pizza restaurant down the street, and walked back immediately afterward. When we placed the key in the keyhole, however, the lock stuck. "This didn't happen last time." I tried to do it. No luck.

An apartment below opened, and Jonah sprinted with the word "Shalom." A fat man trudged up the stairs to try his luck. No can do. "Fuck." I sat in the stairwell, my head on my palm, trying to rest. "I guess we gotta call a locksmith."

To make a short story longer, the locksmith came relatively promptly. I guess all we needed was some WD-40, because he got us right in after applying that stuff. Unfortunately, the ease of our entrance did not knock down the 400 NIS price of his arrival.

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