Sunday, October 20, 2013

Car Wars, Episode III: The Tax Man

I'm sure you've all been waiting to find out what happened next in our car saga.

Well, wait no longer.

We are moving forward at the speed of.....matzo ball mix.

Last week was spent working with the insurance company to figure out our next step.  First of all, now that we knew that the car was officially "totaled" or as you say in Hebrew, "tohtall lohss," we had to think about what kind of car we wanted to buy. New? Used? Make? Model? Price?

We called friends and asked them what cars they had, did they like them, what did they pay, etc.  We wondered not HOW MUCH money the insurance company would give us, but HOW LONG it would take to get that money.

So we visited a Toyota dealer nearby and just as we were looking for something, Bern's phone rang.  It was the insurance company.  He was listening for a while, then his jaw dropped and he said, "You are kidding me."

Oh. no.

It seems, he told me, that the car appraiser that works with the insurance company was all ready to issue a check but found out that we had purchased the car with our aliyah rights.  That means our tax was different than it would be without using those rights.  Which means it didn't compute somehow - it made it look like we hadn't PAID our taxes and there was a lien on the car.

So NOW we had to GO to the Appraiser's office, pick up the appraisal report, and TAKE it to the Government Tax Office and have them verify the tax situation.  Yes, just two more annoying steps, Mr. and Mrs. Leibtag!  And then you're done!  Really!  We mean it this time!

So Bern went to pick up the appraisal form - unbelievably, the person recognized his name and just handed him the report, just like that!  And today was our day to go to the Tax Office with the appraisal form and get some document signed.

We get there.  There is no line!  Yay!  Some guy waves us into his office.  He does not smile.  He is a tough looking older dude who probably led some huge regiment during the Yom Kippur War.  We look through our papers and start to tell our story.  "Just give me the papers."  We give him the papers.  We are not messing with this guy.

He looks at the papers.  He says (are you sitting down?  If not, please do):  "This car is not totalled."

Our jaws are now dragging on the ground. I am seeing our future, going back to square one, fighting with the garage, with the insurance company, with the government, with Netanyahu.

"But...but....but....they told us it was officially totaled."  "No," he says, "see, here it says 54% not totaled."  We simultaneously put our heads in our hands and look like we're about to cry.

We think that got to him.  All of these gruff guys are softies underneath.  Suddenly he stops arguing with us and goes ahead and does his thing.  In 5 minutes we have our form and he is wishing us a good day, and even faxing the form over to the appraiser and calling the appraiser to tell him it's on its way.

Crisis averted - we think.  Although we are still terrified every time the phone rings that it will be some other office dropping another bit of bad news at our feet.

So, lesson learned - it pays to cry, or at least look like you're about to.  Remember that next time you are visiting the Ministry of Taxation.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Car Wars, Episode II: Return of the Lunacy

When we last saw Bernie and Susan, they were handling the red tape following Bernie's car accident. 

Fast forward to today - time to return the rental car, clean out the personal items in the totalled car, and move on with life.  Simple!

First stop - gas station!  Fill up the rental car - gotta return it with a full tank.  Simple!

Stop at the pump.  Turn off the car.  Pull out the key.

Uh oh.

Yes friends, the key broke off in the ignition.  I kid you not. Gas station attendants tried to get it out, but nope it was not budging. So there we are stuck in the gas station with a rental car that we cannot return. 

Luckily, I was driving my son in law's car so I kept going to the garage where the old car was, emptied it out, and returned.

Then the drama of the keystuckintheignition got ugly.

Bernie called the rental company.  He told them what happened, and that we were on our way to return the car anyway, so they could just come and take it.  No problem!  We will come with a tow truck, they said, and you can just sign something and go home.  Yay!  Simple!

Not so simple.  After waiting about 1/2 hour, Bernie calls again (see, we have learned how to be Israelis - if someone says they're coming in 1/2 hour,  it means they have just decided to have a long lunch, go on vacation, and find a new job - in other words, they're not coming - it's a secret code.)

So the second call he gets someone else who gives him a different answer, "Oh!  no problem we will bring another rental car to you!"  No, he says, I don't WANT another rental car, I want you to take this one, I was on my way to return it to you.

Another 1/2 hour..  Another call.  Another person.  Another explanation. Another answer.

Finally someone shows up.  In a car.  Not a tow truck.  Where is the tow truck, Bernie asks?  Why do you need a tow truck, don't you need another rental car? 

Explanation once again.  Then the rental car guy tries to get the key out.  Guess what, it doesn't come out.  Then the rental car guy sees that the windows are open.  Hmmmm... better close the windows if we have to keep this car here for a day or so.  But....oh...the car has actually been "on" this whole time since the key was never removed, so now the battery is dead.  This means that they can't even close the windows and push the car off to the side in a safe place.  The rental car guy wrings his hands.  The gas station guy says, "Um, you're in a gas station, we can give it a hot shot."  the rental car guy is skeptical but lets the gas station guy try.  DUH.  It works.  Windows are closed.

Now what?  It seems to my husband that he only needs to go back to the rental car place and sign something, but the rental car guy needs to have a lengthy conversation with his boss before this happens. 

Finally they get to the rental car place.  The lady behind the counter has to hear the story 5 times before she gets it.  Then she says, "OK, that's 1000 shekel for the broken key."

Seriously, you can't make up stuff like this.

Bernie finally loses it and says, "OK, guys, I'm walking out of here - you gave me a car with a broken key and now you want ME to pay for it."  He walks out.

We shall see what happens, and I'll be sure to keep you informed - watch this space for Car Wars, Episode III:  The Israeli Adventure.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Car Wars

Listen, if you can help it, NEVER get int o a car accident in Israel.  I mean, well, never get into a car accident anywhere, but if you thought you experienced red tape in your own country, you ain't seen nothin yet.

Here is how we spent our time over the last two days:

  1. Gathered all of the necessary phone numbers and addresses - put the addresses in Waze so we can find where we have to go.
  2. Go to the Police Station in Rehovot.  Found the building, found a place to park (itself a miracle).
  3. Sit in a waiting room and try to fill out a form in Hebrew, guessing at what a lot of the questions were.  It was probably a question like, "How did the accident happen?"  But our answer probably sounds like "It was a sunny day."
  4. Finally barge into a room, after waiting 1/2 hour, and ask the woman if we are next.  Not only are we not next, she says, we are in the wrong place.  Go upstairs!  Second floor!  Ask for Zamir! [But did you get that I barged in?  How Israeli of me!]
  5. Go upstairs (which is, of course, floor #1 - don't ask), and find Zamir.  Friendly guy.  He says, "sit in those chairs outside my office until the person across the hall has time for you."  There is one person ahead of us.
  6. We wait 1/2 hour (see a pattern here?)
  7. I go back to Zamir and ask if we really have to wait this long.  This is my new strategy here - wait a bit and then ask if you REALLY have to wait.  So I kinda show a pitiful face.  Zamir softens and asks to see my papers.  He says, "Oh, you've been waiting in the wrong place!  You need to see Gabi!  He will be here in about an hour or so.  Go, sit THERE and wait for him."
  8. THERE is about 2 steps down the hall.  We are in front of Gabi's office.  It is a little frightening that the sign on the office door does not name anyone called Gabi as one of its inhabitants.
  9. We wait 1.5 hours, during which Zamir, who has not forgotten us, tells us that Gabi is indeed on his way. Via South America, it seems.
  10. GABI SHOWS UP!!!!  We practically kiss him.  He asks if he can have 10 minutes for lunch.  We say, "Sure, no problem!"  We are so happy he is: a. Real and b. There, that he could tell us he's only going to meet a woman, get engaged, get married, and have a child and we'd still wait patiently.
  11. Gabi finishes lunch after about 30 minutes [pattern]
  12. Then we get to go into Gabi's office.  Gabi, it turns out, was the investigating policeman at the scene and needs to get a statement from My Husband, the Criminal.
  13. We spend 2.5 hours giving the statement and answering questions.
  14. During this conversation, Gabi starts talking about the judge and the court.  Judge? Court? Now we get it - it's a traffic violation, therefore a crime,  and therefore the "perp" (love that word) has to be interrogated.
  15. THEN we are told that we have to go to the police garage and show them a paper, and pay them, and then they can release the car to the towing company to take it to the garage for repair.
  16. The police garage is in another city.  It is too late to go there.  We have to go tomorrow.
  17. I ask (I am so smart), "Please give me the address and phone number of the police garage."  Gabi makes like 10 phone calls and finds this information out and writes it down for me.
  18. We review next steps 32 times because by now we are totally confused.
  19. We go home and rest.  Then call the garage.  The number is wrong.
  1. I [smart!] call the Police station in Rishon Letzion, where the lot is located.  They give me the correct number of the police lot and they tell us to just come over.
  2. We go to the police garage, which is not a police garage at all - it is a private garage which apparently the police use - so dumb us we were looking for police signage.
  3. At the police garage there is a little shack.  Outside the shack, on a gravelly square of land, are three couches covered in middle-eastern looking blankets, and a little table too.  Apparently this is the reception area.
  4. We open the door.  An old man is sitting in the shack drinking tea. On the customer side of the desk. I ask, "Do you work here?"  He says , "Yes, what do you need?"  I need to release my car.  "Next door," he says.  We open Door #2 of the shack.  There is one woman with a desk and a computer.  I am NOT making this up. I was sure Jethro and Ellie May were going to come round the bend any time.
  5. We pay them, and they give us this form saying the car is released.
  6. Then we have to contact the insurance company so that they can contact the towing company so that they can take it to the garage.  This involves several Hebrew phone calls and me learning the word for towing.
  7. We then are told we have to go to the garage and fill out more paperwork.
  8. We go to the garage. We fill out the paperwork
  9. They tell us - now you have to wait until the tow truck shows up with your car.
  10. We wait about 45 minutes, and then I've just about had it.
  11. I ask, "Do we really have to wait for our car to show up?"  They say, "No."  Huh.
  12. We sign more papers and they arrange for our rental car.
  13. We go to the rental car place and they say the car is ready.  The woman behind the counter mumbles a long litany to us in Hebrew, which neither of us understand but we're so exhausted that we smile and nod and agree.  She probably asked us if we were willing to hand over our first born if anything happened to the car.  [So, Gila, sorry about that, but they seemed nice so you will have a happy life, in Rishon LeZion. I promise to come visit.]  The best part was that we didn't have to wait too long.  
So now we wait to hear from the police about court, and who knows what else will surprise us.  We probably did this totally the wrong way and lawyers all over Israel will be using this as a test case for dealing with stupid Americans. 

But we are home.  We have a car to drive.  And our pretty little red Hyundai (which, by the way, the Israelis pronounce YUNDYE so you don't pronounce the "H" when speaking about these cars) is getting fixed.

Nap time.