with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

To the Galilee for Meat

Where was I? Oh, I was going to tell you about our anticipated trip up north to the Tiberias area in the Gah-lil (Sea of Galilee area) to buy meat. That’s right. I’ve been a whirl all day long. So, Wednesday, my whole day was a bit screwed driving to and from Beersheva in the morning to pick up Ruth’s daughter and bring her back to Tel Aviv, but I did get a bunch of work done once I got back home. I had to cancel my massage with Ida, but she understood that “a friend in need…” since I’d dropped everything for her in the past. Ain’t it nice to have friends like that, where you can just say “I’m needed elsewhere” and they completely understand. I’ve the best friends like that. So Wednesday night I get everything all set for a whole day driving north in search of meat.

I packed up the Creative Labs Zen MP3 player, once it was fully charged, and then threw in a bunch of CDs for playing on our portable CD player…just in case the Zen ran out of juice. It’s not been charging very well, and we’re not sure what is going on. Might be a bad cord. I put the plastic ice packs in the freezer, all ready to put into the cooler for the journey, filled up water bottles, checked for money and driver’s license and everything I needed. I was READY.

I was up at 5:30 the next morning, racing around to finish a few work details while Brent showered and left for work. I was in the shower when he showed up and informed me that for the first time in four years, he had missed the bus. It was a couple minutes early and he ran to catch it but they didn’t see him. He had found out a couple weeks ago that there was a seven o’clock bus that stopped on Dizengoff, so he dilly dallied around and then left a few minutes before to catch that one. I got all the ice into the chest, and put on my backpack loaded with tunes, and reached for the car keys. No keys.

I tore the whole house apart, pulling out furniture, tearing up my backpack three times, going through everything and anything. Turned the whole place upside down. I went down to the car thinking I might have left them in the trunk lock, but nothing. I crawled down all around the ground and nothing. I walked around the whole apartment building looking at the mailbox racks to see if someone had found them and set them there. Nothing. I went back upstairs and called Maureen with the bad news. She was feeling terrible with her swollen hand from the cat bite, so delaying our leaving was fine for her. I kept on looking.

I called Brent’s work, knowing he hadn’t arrived yet, and left a message for him to call me immediately. I figured he picked them up when he was late out of habit to take the car. But it didn’t make sense. Maureen was cute and had told me that after three weeks of looking all over the house for her makeup kit that she brought back from London with her, she found it the other day in the freezer. Now WHY she put it in the freezer, we may never know, but it was worth a good giggle. I tore through the freezer, since I had been in and out of it to get the ice packs, but no keys. ARRRGGH!

At eight I called the car rental company. No answer. I tried three of their numbers around the area and no answer. I kept trying and by 8:30 someone finally answered. I explained my predicament and asked if someone could deliver the keys to me. The ass told me that “we don’t deliver keys. When the customer loses the keys, he must go out to the airport to pick up a spare set, IF we have such a set available.”

“Do you have a spare set of keys for this car?”

I will have to call the airport office to find out if they have one.”

“And if they do, you will have them delivered to me, right?”

“Ma’am, we do not deliver keys to customers. No car rental company in the whole world does that.”

“That’s not true,” I corrected him. “I don’t lose keys often, but I travel a lot all over the world and when I’ve needed keys, an extra set, or anything else, the car rental companies have delivered them to me. No questions. No debate.”

“Well, in Israel, no rental company does that. You can call Hertz, Avis, no one will deliver keys.” I realized I was hearing the same crap I hear over and over again in this country. When they can’t be troubled, it’s just too much to think about, or too much effort, or they don’t want you to go any further, you get the same old story: “No where in Israel can you -” get, find, have, or do that. I’ve heard this line enough to recognize manure when I hear it.

“That is not true and you know it. We’ve been with you guys for four years and you have delivered keys, cell phones, cell phone replacements, and other things to us before. You just don’t want to do it this time. This is seriously unprofessional behavior. Why do you have to call the airport to find out if they have the keys? I got the car from your office.”

“We keep all the spare keys for all our cars at the airport,” he answered, totally oblivious to my attack and correction. I thought this was bizarre, to have all the keys for all the cars at the airport, when their main office is in Herzliyya and they have offices all over Israel, even down in Eilat. But then, probably most of their rentals are initiated from the airport, so I guess it makes sense, but what a pain. It’s the middle of rush hour so it would take me about an hour or more to get to the train/bus station to get a taxi out to the airport, pick up the keys, and then another hour or more to get back via taxi and bus, costing a small fortune…I asked him to call the airport and let me know if they had a set and hung up the phone.

He called up a few minutes later and told me that they had a set of keys, so I would have to go out to the airport to pick them up. I again argued with him about having someone deliver them, and he kept to his selfish, lazy position. So I told him again that this was bad business, and that SOMEDAY I really hoped I would meet a company in Israel that actually believed in the phrase “customer service”, and I hung up, pissed.

There was no way I was going to get there and back and still have enough time in the day to get up north with Maureen, pick up the meat, having lunch, hit the dairy, and get her back in time to teach her English student that night. It was almost nine and the day was already shot. I was furious. So I tore apart the apartment one last time.

I finally got ahold of Brent and he reported that he had no keys with him, but he did agree to get a friend at work to run out to the airport (he works literally AT the airport but really “next door”) office and pick up the spare keys and bring them home. God, I love him. But the day was still shot for the trip, so I decided to take one more look downstairs and then come back up and get some work done. Downstairs, I ran into my neighbor, whose window my kitchen and utility room stares into (her kitchen and utility room) across the courtyard. She asked me what I was looking for and I told her about the keys. “You’re kidding. I lost MY keys! Must be something in the air.” I wanted to scream something obscene to the air, but it was a strange coincidence. I returned upstairs and finally settled down and got some work done. Maureen actually made it out of her house (she had to call a neighbor to help her tie her shoes because she could only use one hand) and visited me after having a little lunch with a friend who lives nearby. Her hand was swollen up like a baseball bit, the old rounded and overstuffed kind, so I made her sit with a bag of frozen beans on it for a while and the swelling went down a lot by the time Brent got home at five, with the keys! Bless him. I took Maureen home in the car, just to keep my “commitment” about a road trip that day, even if it was to her house and back. Oh, weary me.

Brent told me about his ordeal in getting the keys. His friend took him to the airport office of our rental car company and he walked in to find the guy, who recognized Brent from our many trips in there to turn in cars and rent them, standing at the counter with a set of keys in his hand. “I’m here to pick up the spare set of keys for our car. The Tel Aviv office called you, right?”

“Spare keys.” He held up the keys in his hand and nodded.

“Are those my keys?”

The man seemed to nod, but then asked Brent if he had called the Tel Aviv office. Brent repeated that his wife had and they had called here and told her that there was a spare set of keys for the car here and to come and get them.

So you talked to Tel Aviv.”

“Yes. They told us to pick up the spare keys here. Are those the keys?”

“Well, you know you have to get permission from Tel Aviv before you can get the keys.”

“Did the Tel Aviv office call you to ask you if there was a spare set and to tell you that I’d be coming to pick up the keys?”

“Yeah, but you know you have to talk to Tel Aviv before I can give you the keys.”

Brent finally insisted that the man call the Tel Aviv office to confirm that he was indeed here to pick up the spare keys and he did. Brent also told him that the lack of a delivery service for getting the keys to his wife was completely unacceptable and unprofessional. He made him pass on Brent’s condemnation to the Tel Aviv office while Brent stood over him. The guy passed on the message and then handed the phone to Brent, who reiterated his bad feelings. “Over the past four years, we have paid your company over USD $40,000, which would pay for at least two of your vehicles brand new! Only once before have we lost the keys and your company had them delivered to us. Now you say you don’t deliver. This is seriously unprofessional, and for the amount of money we pay you, this is a small thing. You will get a letter from me about this. I am not a happy customer.” He handed the phone back to the slow man and reached for the keys, which finally, the guy released from his grip.

We are so tired of the lack of customer service here. We get it from small, surprising places, but when it comes to companies which should specialize in doing everything possible to make the customer happy so they will come back, like in mall shops, electronics stores, car rental facilities, grocery stores, and even a few restaurants, it seems to be the policy of the store to make the customer feel like they are below dirt. I wish I could say that it is the rare event for us, but we seem to battle with this on a weekly basis…well, I have to correct that. We battled weekly for the first two years, and then I got smart and quit shopping so much. I figured out where the discount huge grocery stores were and I would stock up for three to five weeks on everything we needed, filling up the fridge and freezer. Then I’d go out for only the barest of things I needed. The thrill of shopping was totally gone and the calluses are built up. My neighbor, Naomi, used to call me the saving grace of the Israeli economy, the true capitalist that was single-handedly pulling the country out of their economic depression, but now, I stay home and save our money. It’s so sad.

The next morning, rushing around to get last minute food stuffs, I ran into my neighbor again walking towards the ice cream/newspaper stand outside our apartment. She told me she still hadn’t found her keys, and we commiserated. She asked the ice cream man if he had found some keys and he smiled and said yes, and handed her HER KEYS! We were stunned. She must have dropped them out of her bag or pocket. I asked if he had a second set, but he shook his head. Damn. But I was thrilled for her. I got my fresh groceries and hauled them back upstairs and raced around to get lunch ready so we could eat and leave to head up to Tiberias to visit the doctor up there. At the last minute I decided to gather up some papers to work on during the long drive and – you guessed it – the keys fell out of the papers. Unbelievable. I’d been through those papers thoroughly during the mad search, and at least four times during the day, but there they were.

What a pain. So we made it up to Tiberias in time to meet with the doctor, only to have him tell me that I just had the normal (for me) throat infection, get antibiotics, and drive the two hours home….so tired! Today should have been a breeze, getting done the three things I had on the list: fix our computer network, clean the bedroom (way WAY past due and becoming a dump), and bake havosheen (quince) that I got at the veggie stand yesterday. I haven’t had quince since last winter and I miss that incredible taste. I got the quince done, but the bedroom was completely ignored. I spent the whole day screwing with the network and finally got all three computers to “see” each other, but the desktop will connect to my laptop but not Brent’s. My laptop will connect to Brent’s and his can connect to mine, but both of us can’t connect to the desktop. I am too tired to keep going. I’ll hit it again tomorrow after my seven in the morning walk with Maureen, who has reported that the hand is almost back to normal…close to kitchen glove size.

Tel Aviv, Israel

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