Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Phone Tales

One of the issues you encounter when living in Israel and visiting America is that you don't necessarily have or want a permanent US cell phone, but you need one for the duration of your visit.  I mean, are we barbarians?  Living without a cell phone in 2012 is utterly unthinkable.  It's like...living without a horse in 1812.  [I have a sinking feeling that that was a horrible analogy.]

So, many olim coming for visits will perform various feats of magic to obtain a temporary cell phone - borrow one from a neighbor, pay an exorbitant fee to rent one from their own cell phone company, etc. etc.

I figured I'd out-smart them all (any sentence that starts like that is sure to have a sad ending), and decided I'd just pop into an AT&T store when I got to Baltimore and buy a cheapo phone that only makes phone calls (no email, no web, no camera) and a prepaid card and I'd be all set.

It went well for a few days.  Then two things happened. 

First, I went on a cruise to Alaska with a phone that could not take pictures.  I pointed my little dinky phone at the glacier but it just sat there and stared at it.  It sort of looked at me with a condascending glare, "OK, Mrs.Penny Pincher, remember how you told the man at the AT&T store that you wanted the cheapest phone?  Well, you got ME so live with it and stop pointing me at glaciers."

The next thing that happened was that I received a text message.

The message was,  "What is the date of the wedding?"

Hmmmm.  I sat down for this one.  I know I'm getting older, and sometimes I get confused, but is there a wedding coming up that I've somehow forgotten about and yet that I know so much about that people are asking ME for the date?  I don't think so, but I gave it a few extra minutes of think time just to be sure.

Nope, nope, I'm 99% sure there is no wedding coming up.  I texted back, "Who is this?"  No response.

Two days later, another text.  "You need to tell me the date of the wedding."

Wow, this person is serious.  I did toy with making up a date, but couldn't do it.  So I texted back again, "Who is this?"

Two days later I get a response, "This is Terrell, your DJ."

Aha!  So, Terrell, my DJ, certainly deserves to know the date of the wedding so that he can hone is DJ'ing skills and DJ away on the night of the wedding.  If only there was a wedding.

I wrote back, "You have the wrong number."  Never heard back from him.

A couple of days later I started receiving phone calls, several times a day, from the same number, one  that I didn't recognize.  I finally picked up. 

This is what the recording said, "This is ___________ company with an important message for ....Cynthia Hayes.  If this is NOT Cynthia Hayes, please press 1."

Well, I am pretty sure I am not Cynthia Hayes (I checked my license just to be 100% positive).  So I pressed 1.  Then the recording said, "Please stay on the line for an important message for Cynthia Hayes."  Wellllll, if I just said I am NOT Cynthia, then why do I need to listen to a message for her?  Should I listen and then try to find her and pass the message on?  How would I even start looking for her?  And really I am so busy right now, I can't take on any more projects.

So I hung up.  After receiving the same call about 5 times the next day, I called the number back.  A person answered!  I told my story.  He said he'd take care of it.  But he must have been so busy making other incorrect phone calls that he did not take care of it.

Then, a few days ago, I started getting calls for Samantha something or other.  I told them twice that I am not Samantha.  They keep calling me.

So....let's sum up here.  SMART me that I got the cheapo phone and saved money. Not so smart phone company that can't recycle phone numbers very well.

I have a little comment, for AT&T.  Listen - there are over 6 bazillion possibilities of phone numbes in the US (I looked that up) - couldn't you possibly find a brand new number for me?

Oh, and Terrell, if you're out there, I hope you got the date of the gig.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Noise Machine

My name is Susan and I am addicted to my noise machine.

Way back when we lived in New York.  New York is a very noisy city.  Our apartment was situated next to the elevator.  All day and all night, we heard the following:


You get the idea. 

So we had to find a way to shut out that noise.  Fans didn't work, neither did staying up all night listening to the noise (very bad idea).  Finally we knew we had to do something.  I mean this was pre-kids so we didn't have any reason whatsoever to be up in the middle of the night.

Now this was in the Stone Age.  There was no Googling, ordering, and waiting for UPS.

Somewhere we heard about something called a white noise machine. And we heard that the store which every New Yorker knows, Hammacher Schlemmer, sells them.  [Say that store name fast five times, I dare you.  Our kids ended up calling it Hemcher Shemcher]. That was good enough for us - we hopped on the bus and made our way down to West 57th Street. 

Sure enough, there it was.  In all its beige, retro beauty (see above.)

That night we slept. Ahhhhhhhhhhh, all we heard was the insistent SHHHHHHHHHHHHHH of the machine, and nothing else.  Heavenly.

Then, a bit later, we were blessed with our first child.  A beautiful girl whose middle of the night crying would wake up people all over the tri-state area.  After feeding, burping, and walking back and forth with her, she'd still refuse to settle down.  Our doctor said we had to let her cry.  I couldn't bear it!  I mean, what would she think?  That we'd abandoned her?  How could I do this? 

So, after much soul-searching and many, many sleepless nights (why don't they ever tell you about this in the pregnancy classes???), I left her weeping, trudged back to bed, and let the noise machine (sort of) muffle her cries.

It kinda worked.  I mean, 6 months later she was indeed sleeping through the night.  I, however, was no longer able to sleep soundly, ever again.  But that's another blog post, and if you're a mother you already know what I mean.

So we got used to the white noise machine.  And when this baby got older, SHE became a light sleeper - every little footstep woke her up.  But did we have a solution?  You bet we did!  The noise machine!  Did we give her our noise machine?  Are you kidding me? 

No, we bought her her very own noise machine.

Then her brother came along, and he had one in his room. And on and on....

We kind of felt like dealers, you know, "Here, just try this for one night - see, it's good, right? OK, you can have it forever."

On Shabbos, our house sounded like Niagara Falls, with WHOOSH noises coming from three rooms all day long.

So now we had addicted all of our children to this machine.  Thankfully, they all grew out of it and none of them uses it now.

However, we still use ours - we are so addicted that we bought an extra for when we travel to people's houses, hotels, etc., and when we made aliyah we made sure we bought one in the 220v version.

I can honestly say that we cannot sleep without it because - get ready for this - it is too quiet for us without the whooshing noise.  If we're away somewhere and we forgot to bring it with us, we will do anything to recreate some kind of whooshing noise, short of one of us staying up all night and saying "WHOOSH" so the other one can sleep.

I don't recommend addiction of any kind, BUT if you want to block out noises (street, children, neighbors, annoying relatives) I highly recommend this machine. 

When you realize you can't sleep without it, call me and we'll talk.


Friday, August 17, 2012

Time, Date, Direction

Full disclosure - I am one of those people who does not know my right from my left.  All I can say is thank goodness for public school in the 1960s - the way I remember my right hand is that that is the hand we would put over our hearts when we said the pledge of allegiance.  See?  There are some good things about having attended Pimlico Elementary School #223.

TIME: So there's one problem.  Another one (I'm full of them, don't get me started, oh I started, never mind) is that I have a little, eensy, weensy problem with time changes.  And this happened to me in stages.  Let me explain, because I know you're anxious to hear more about me and my problems:

1. My daughters moved to Israel - they were now 7 or 8 hours ahead of us.  Every time I looked at my watch I added 7 (or 8) and think,"Oh,  they now [fill in the blank]."

2.  My son moves to Chicago - he is now 1 hour behind us.  Every tine I look at my watch I add 7 (or 8) for the girls and subtract 1 for him.

3.  We move to Israel.  Now we are at the same time as the girls, but 8 hours ahead of Chicago.

4. Israel switches time near Pesach - for a while we are 8 hours ahead of Baltimore, 9 hours ahead of Chicago.  Then Israel switches back.

5. I have a job - great news!  My clients are in California (10 hours from Israel), Alaska (11 hours from Israel), London (2 hours from Israel), East Coast (7 hours).  Help!

6.  I keep an app on my desktop which lets me know what time it is in all of these places.  I look at it constantly. 

7.  I have appointments with people in these various cities - soI  have to figure it out so that I don't make a meeting when either of us is sleeping.

8.  We come to Baltimore for a visit.  Now all my time differences have changed!

9.  I go to Seattle for a cruise - change again!

By this point I just stare at my watch with my jaw hanging open and drool threatening to drip out. 

I have been in a lot of airports in the past couple of weeks.  There is now a sign when you're standing in the security line - it states that "if you were born on or before this date in 1937, you do not have to remove your shoes in the security check."  I stared at that sign for about five minutes.  All I could think of was - Do they change that sign every day?

Basically when I tell my husband to turn right, he asks me which right I am referring to.  So here I am on the ship last week with aft, port, starboard, down, up, around, in, out. One day they say the ship is sailing north.  I stare outside.  If the ship is going north, where is east, west, and south?  For the life of me, with the ship moving one way and the water moving another way, I could not figure it out.

Maybe all of this has to do with getting older.  I mean, I do crossword puzzles like crazy to keep my mind sharp as a tack, but I don't think it's working.  Maybe I need more naps. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Shipped Off

I am getting adventurous in my old age, or maybe once we did the aliyah thing, smaller adventures don't seem quite so daunting.  I mean I have tackled the cheese counter at the supermarket in Modiin, so really there is not much left after that.

So, last week I went on a cruise.  My daughter Leezy works for a cruise company (Kosherica - shameless promotion!) and suggested I accompany her for a week, on a cruise to Alaska.  So off I went, la di da, just like that.  Believe me, I never would have done that before, but I think moving to a new country, learning a new language and making new friends has given me a wee bit more confidence than I used to have.

But shiver me timbers (yes, I am going to use all of the ship lingo I know in this blog, so just deal with it), life on board a cruise ship is verrrry interesting, I've learned. Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh.

So I flew to Seattle and got to the pier.  Me and the other over-3,000 people going on this ship.  Yes, you read that correctly.  The kosher group was only about 90, but all told on the ship there were over 3000 people.

We go into the pier building and proceed to experience what can only be called (l'havdil) "Ellis Island In Reverse."  You are waiting in line after line after line, shlepping your bags, sweating, trudging forward slowly - to get ON a ship, OUT of the country.  I was actually waiting for someone to test me for cholera or look at the tag hanging from my shirt.  It was weird.

Finally you get on the ship and then you are officially - lost.  This thing is beyond massive.  There are 14 decks, and suddenly you have to get oriented.  I mean, the nice lady in the crisp white uniform tells me that the room I am looking for is "aft."  Excuse me, but I haven't eaten "me spinach" yet, so can you please use normal words like "this way" and "that way"?

I finally find the dining area for the kosher group.  AHHHH!  NOW I am feeling at home!  Food galore!  piles of it!  Fruit! Cake! Salads! I start to relax. 

Then, I find my daughter who is busy directing everyone, welcoming guests, answering questions, dealing with the chefs, with the mashgichim, with the scholar in residence, etc. etc. etc. We have a warm hug and then she goes back to directing and I go to eat.

So after the first face-stuffing of the cruise, I go to find my stateroom.  I know they are called "staterooms" but maybe it's better to think in terms of tiny villages instead of actual states, unless the state is Rhode Island.  I mean these rooms are compact, but you know what, they are very nice - everything is well organized in a small space. It's ingenious, really.

OK, now I can find my way to my room and to the food.  Good start!  First thing I do in the room is plug in my laptop so I can check my email.  Then something happens.  I look out the window and realize that this thing is moving.  So I am sitting still and the water is moving.........ugh...... I begin to feel a bit, uh, queasy.  OK, very queasy.  But yay Leezy who warned me to bring Dramamine.  I take some and yay drugs, I start to feel better.  Just don't look at the water, I tell myself.  Well, that's going to make for a fine cruise, spending my time trying not to look at the water.

The next day we are "at sea" meaning that - we are at sea.  Not at a port.   I wander around the ship a bit, but not too much because I'm afraid I'll get lost and end up in the brig.  Do they still have those?  Or I may have to walk the plank. 

The rest of the week was really amazing - Alaska is beautiful in a wet, rainy, and foggy sort of way - actually it is quite beautiful and the sights we saw (glaciers, mountains, etc.) were breathtaking.  I did not need to take dramamine again - I actually got used to the motion of the ship.

The ports were interesting - Juneau, Skagway, Katchikan - and Leezy and I even got in a little sightseeing and some shopping (I mean we HAD to buy the socks with pictures of a moose on them, didn't we?).  And there is a lot to do on the ship if you are a do'er - there is even a library and a card and game room.  And, yes, there was shuffleboard.  I kid you not. 

There was a couple on the ship who were going on the Nefesh b'Nefesh flight arriving Tuesday morning - they decided to spend their last week in the US on the cruise.  While I felt a bit sorry for them knowing what those first few weeks are like, I was also a little jealous knowing that they were about to to experience that thrill of coming off the plane as an oleh.

So it was a great experience but you know what?  As beautiful as Alaska is, it made me miss Israel even more.  There is something about the desert that speaks to me like no other landscape.  It is bleak, dry, hot, dusty, and rocky and I can't get enough of it.

So ahoy, matey, Popeye the sailor man, aye-aye Cap'n, and all that.  (had to get the rest of my sailing phrases in somewhere).

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Coming to America

We are in America for six weeks - stuff to do, people to see, etc.

For many, many olim, the trip to the US in the summer is expected.  It's almost like you ask, "When are you going?"  Instead of "Are you going?"

I'm not someone to wax lyrical and poetic over missing Israel, comparing the US to Israel, etc. etc.  I mean it is what it is.

But what I found amusing was that I hadn't realized how I had gotten used to the Israeli way of things after only 7 months (sounds like a little or sounds like a lot, depending who you, the reader, are):

1.  The magazines for sale are NOT covered in plastic
2.  I did a double take when I saw the cars - so many are not white and none are very dusty.
3.  I went into an airport store and didn't do my usual pre-thinking before I walked in - What do I want to ask for?  What is the right word?  How do I ask for it?  I just spoke!  English! 
4.  The...um...facilities - the...um...mechanism.....oh, let's just say it.  The Israeli flushers are all on the top of the  tanks.  The American ones are not.  Enough said.
5. I keep looking for the code pad before I start the car.
6.  I keep expecting the yellow and green traffic lights to blink together.
7.  Drivers are so polite!
8.  People wait in line.
9. I look at traffic signs and wonder what the Hebrew translation is.
10. The day after Shabbos will be - a real honest to goodness Sunday.

Then again, I do miss some things.  Tomorrow (Friday), for example, I can't go to a mall and see everyone buying food and flowers getting ready for Shabbos.  And the DJs on the radio don't wish you a Shabbat Shalom in between songs. 

And, well, Baltimore is lovely, and I grew up here and spent most of my life here, but over the past 7 monhths I've realized something. 

It's a nice place, but...........it's not home.