Patience – or savlanut, as they call it in these parts – may well be a virtue. But it is most definitely not an Israeli one. And, while the natives are notorious for being incapable of standing in line, inability to queue is only one symptom of their lack of patience.
Walking Stuey and Dexxy through the labyrinth-like streets of Tel Aviv, lost motorists will often ask me to come to their rescue. Instead of stopping and listening to the directions that they have requested, however – as they would in any normal country – drivers here continue moving forward, almost expecting you to carry on giving them while running alongside their vehicle. The attitude seems to be: “I want to get there as quickly as possible, but I can’t wait for you to you explain to me how.”
Walking down Melchett, last week, a middle-aged cyclist asked me for directions to the beach, all the time continuing to pedal.
“If you stop,” I responded, failing to conceal a different type of impatience, “I’ll tell you.”
“This rough direction or that?” she screamed – signalling left and then right with each arm – as, continuing to look at me from over her left shoulder, she moved further and further away.
Resisting the temptation to stick out my left arm, I grudgingly held out my right.
Indeed, this may be the only country in the world where one gets penalised for trying to be courteous . . .
Last Friday morning, I trudged along to my post office, on Yehuda Halevi Street, to find out what treat lay in store for me. I had received one of those dreaded postal service collection notices, which in the UK usually signifies a parcel or goody of some sort, but here more often than not indicates notification of a road traffic offence. And, with three pending court hearings for speeding, I was fearing the worst.
I pulled my number from the dispenser, but – due to the rather less-than-warm greeting extended to Stuey and Dexxy by a fellow hairy beast – we waited by the open door so as not to disturb the patrons (i.e., my attempt at courtesy). We were no more than 30 feet from the counter, and with a clear view of the electronic board, on which I was keeping a beady eye.
About ten minutes later, as it ticked over to 91, I immediately strode over to the indicated clerk. It must have taken me all of six seconds.
Alas, just before I could get there, an old dear – hovering for a hesitation – submitted 92.
It is almost acceptable – even normal – in these parts to push in. The attitude seems to be: “With our lovely neighbours, who knows how long we’ve got . . . so why waste time queuing?!” Indeed, tell an Israeli not to push in and, the chances are, you will be met with an extremely quizzical gaze.
And rather than politely inform the old lady that “Sorry, madam, this gentleman was first” – the words one would undoubtedly hear in such circumstances in the UK – the twentysomething frecha behind the counter instead barked, Soup Nazi-like, at me:
“Me’oochar midai!” (Too late!)
I slid my hand between the glass and the counter, grabbed Frecha by the throat, and yanked her so violently towards me that it was a miracle that the glass didn’t shatter as her thick head thudded against it.
Well, at least I fantasized about it.
When the red mist had lifted somewhat – regular readers of melchett mike will know that it was not the first time that it had descended – I ruminated over what I was going to say to Frecha when my chance would finally come. Alas, still hardly collected, “And that is why you are working in a post office” was the best I could come up with. Needless to say, I didn’t use it.
In the end, when the old lady had finished and moved aside, waiting a metre or so behind her, I lunged at the counter like a sprinter through the finishing tape.
Frecha gazed at me as if I was demented.
“Maspik mahair?!” (Fast enough?!), I fired, eyeballing her with contempt.
Frecha didn’t flinch . . . though I did catch a hint of satisfaction as she pointed out the box on the collection slip ticked: “Available for collection from next week.”
“At ro’ah – hayiti mahair midai!” (You see – I was too quick!), I quipped, in a last-ditch, though futile, attempt to save some face.
With which, the three of us exited. Two tails were wagging. The third was firmly ensconced between its owner’s legs.