Taking the SMS: Avi the Texting Masseur

Just when you think that the chutzpah can’t get any worse, the Israeli will usually surprise you . . .

During a massage, last week, in her holiday home in Herzliya Pituach – the hot destination, these days, for British “Deckchair Zionists” – my friend Donna’s blissful indulgence was intermittently disturbed by a faint clicking sound.

She ignored it.

Opening her eyes, however, towards the end of the one-hour session, Donna caught her masseur, Avi, with one hand on her foot and the other typing a text (SMS) message on his mobile phone.

Now, call me old-fashioned, but I would say that a masseur on 300 shekels (50 British pounds) an hour can reasonably be expected to use both hands!

The incident reminded me of a university flatmate whose girlfriend, in the middle of doing something to him that he could not do to himself – would we males ever leave the house? – looked up to find him channel-hopping with the TV remote. (In his defence, there was footie on the box . . . but she gave him a mouthful anyway. The cheeky chappie, meanwhile, eventually migrated to his natural habitat . . . Israel.)

Such chutzpadik multitasking was also exhibited by an Israeli first date of mine who, on arrival at the pretty garden café handpicked by me – and having evidently resolved that I was not as attractive as I considered her – insisted on sitting inside, so that she would not miss any of the goings-on in the Israeli Big Brother house.

Indeed, the Israeli is a multitasker nonpareil, who can, for instance, smoke, devour garinim (sunflower seeds) and cuff the kids and/or missus . . . all while driving at excess speed, with one foot on the dashboard, cursing down his mobile and gesticulating at other road users.

While now – having lived here for over ten years – conditioned to Israeli chutzpah (and not averse to dishing out some of my own when required), I am also far less likely to put up with it . . .

Overhearing, in my local hummus place on Sheinkin, that I was flying back to London the following morning, an Israeli woman who I know from the area enquired whether I would mind taking something for her son, sojourning in Wood Green (of all places).

“Of course not,” I foolishly replied.

The woman scuttled away, returning a quarter of an hour later not with the latest Amos Oz novel or Arik Einstein disc, but with a plastic bag – from the makolet (supermarket) over the road – weighing several kilos and bursting with family-sized bottles of Osem tomato ketchup.

“He is used to it,” she declared, as if that should have been of interest to me.

Some years earlier, I would have been so taken aback by such chutzpah that my only reaction would have been momentary paralysis, an awkward smile, and a hasty unpacking of my suitcase to accommodate the condimentally-challenged nincompoops. And I may even have thanked her for selecting me for the honour.

But no longer.

“I’m not taking that,” I laughed, almost contemptuously. “I am already overweight.” I wasn’t. “Anyway, what’s wrong with Heinz?!”

What could she say? She had been outchutzpah’d.

You see, it is just that on encountering foreign accents – usually accompanied by indications of (relative) meekness – many of the natives see a flashing “Freier!” (sucker) sign.

And not to be taken advantage of here, one, regrettably, must become like them.

Avi “the Texting Masseur” no doubt calculated that – unlike his Israeli clients – Donna would not mind him sending SMS messages while he was supposed to be giving her a massage . . . and that, even if she did, the English lady would not say a word.

And he was, at least, half right.



11 responses to “Taking the SMS: Avi the Texting Masseur

  1. Such multitasking is hardly new or of Israeli invention, as born out by this amusing exchange from the70s theatrical blockbuster, “Deep Throat” … She says to the grocery delivery boy, “Do you mind if I smoke while you eat?” LOL At least she asked! 😉

  2. thanks for the travel-lore

    very enjoyable

    in my youth when men were supposedly less skilled than they are today 😉 stories about women going to sleep or continue reading a novel were quite common. The novel reading may have been urban myth but the going asleep I have from very reliable sources.

    the tomato lady sounds very much like the kind of behaviour one has to cope with in a house full of eager to force their ideas of a social life on you widows.
    It has made me master the art of broadly smiling and growling at the same time.

  3. One does not need to become like ‘them’ (i.e. we do not need to over-compensate and become more devious than the worst people one might find here), indeed not all Israelis display the behaviour of which you speak. I think in general, one could find people (in any society) out to take advantage of hapless ‘newbies’.

    It is however, more pointed in the Jewish/Israeli milieu, from the point of view that the shtetl mentality does not allow for a Jew cheating his neighbour, I recall as a child (after a visit to Israel) relating the story to my Grandmother, of a Jew being robbed by another Jew. My grandma exclaimed, “No! A Jew would not steal from another Jew!”

    That being said, the leitmotif of many Israelis does seem to be, “Do unto others as you would not have them do unto you”!!!

  4. Blogger seems to be very good at multi-tasking being sanctimonious and self deprecating at same time and writing entirely non-sensical drivel in intelligent language.

  5. “I always love reading Mike’s idiosyncratic glimpses into life in Israel. Keep up the good work!”

    A response to the very same piece on the Jewish Chronicle website (where I sometimes post my blogs), earlier in the week.

    So, you see, Ari, not everyone shares your disdain . . . even though – like a nagging, bitter dose of gonorrhoea – you keep coming back for more!

  6. is it known whether Ari is an “intellectual”?

  7. No clue, Silke . . . all I know about melchettmikewatch is that he is in Israel.

    But I do know what you mean . . . Ari exhibits the same self-righteous bile as the Gerts of this world, who can’t seem to stay away from the very blogs that they so decry . . . and before 9 on a Saturday morning!

  8. Man-up Eminem I was just messing with ya!
    Just keeping you on your toes and I’m sure you’ll be better for it. Although I am sorry if I am getting in your headspace. I don’t really want to break the rhythm of your idiosyncratic and very personal prose.


  9. The way in which people multitask in such delicate situations is in some ways due to ethics getting stuck far behind technology on the road to a good and just life. I fondly remember my first interview at Hasmo with Mr. Taylor, who asked me what ethics was and when I fumbled some response told me that most people think its a county outside London.

    I was on a date lately with a gorgeous young lady who had the temerity while driving and supposedly communicating with me to answer a phone survey on her cell. When I asked her what prompted her to risk a 1000 shekel fine (and more likely risk any future relationship with me) she responded that she felt sorry for the survey lady who sounded old and tired and wanted to help her make some money. I must say I was peeved! But this kind of conduct is endemic until someone comes up with a decent set of rules – someone English maybe?

  10. Yoel,

    Judging from my life in a rather remote mountain village the only way to change ingrained habits is to make different ones the fashion for young ones.

    Therefore I suggest you start a rebellion of youngsters against yesterday’s folk’s habits of multitasking by for example making Zen-like focusing the “it” thing of the day.

    When I walk I walk, when I stand I stand, when I sit I sit.

    How you keep the laudable compassion of the young lady for the old tired one intact though may create a bit of a problem.

    How do Israelis use mobile phones in cars? With or without headsets? And maybe incorporating a typepad in the middle of the steering wheel may make blind texting while driving easier.

  11. Mike
    I’ve got a good linkage for you, reading the above story. There was a story in the JC recently about a religious NW London family who were very unfortunately attacked and tied up by burglars in their house.
    Read the article in the JC archives if you can because – nowithstanding the truly awful circumstances for which they deserve our sympathy – there are some unintentionally hilarious comments in the article. One of them comes from one of the kids in the house who says they realised something wasn’t quite right because the intruder was black and she didn’t know anyone who “looked like that”. But the truly classic comment is from one of the other kids who successfully managed to alert friends to the danger by sending a text message from his phone while still holding it hidden inside his pocket. He had learnt this feat of dexterity, he said, from being a pupil at Hasmonean.

    (Good to speak yesterday. Hope to catch up in person one day soon.)

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