At the bratty age of 16, I used to complain my way through Israel, jokingly remarking, “I didn’t sign up for this.” As a teen, it was in reference to things out of my control like a long hike or being held hostage in Haifa for four days too many. I complained about the cucumbers and the country’s weird obsession with cheese. Why did the Israelis have to be so…Israeli? These grievances were always coupled with a myriad of reasons that I loved Israel, yet I expressed them nonetheless.
This time around, I did sign up for this. I filled out the forms and marched my way into the lishkat giyus and enlisted myself into an army. This time my woes are more legitimate yet less relevant. I want to complain about the army? I chose to draft. I want to complain about the country? I chose to move here.
I have adapted to accept my circumstances and be at peace with my decisions. Israelis and bureaucracy and daily life don’t faze me anymore. I have acclimated and conditioned myself to assume the Israeli reality with which I am presented. Despite my adjustments, I have recently encountered uncharacteristic annoyances that I haven’t been able to brush off:
- Israeli Customer Service
- While I expect bad Israeli customer service, I don’t always anticipate that I am to blame for whatever problem arises.
- Technicians came to replace my air conditioner. I was alerted of this an hour before their arrival. When they arrived, I was bombarded with questions about why I didn’t move all of my furniture and remove everything from my wall to accommodate them. I should have known that I needed to destroy my entire apartment before they came. I also needed to put a sheet on my bed so it wouldn’t get dirty; when my bed subsequently did get dirty, it was my fault for not covering it, not theirs for dirtying it. Apologies for being the customer.
- Prior to my AC replacement, I informed my landlord and my real estate agent (who has somehow become the point person for my apartment troubles lmk) that my AC didn’t work. “Well, is it set to cold? Maybe you didn’t turn it on properly. Is it plugged in? Check the filters.” Following these inquiries, a technician came to check the legitimacy of my worries. “It works,” he said, feeling air emit. “It’s not cold,” I told him. “You have it set too low, of course it can’t cool the entire apartment!” Apologies for expecting my AC to cool my entire apartment and work properly. I am also sorry for my shoddy knowledge of centigrade (17? 20? 23? Sure.).
- My old landlord is the embodiment of Israeli customer service. One of the reasons that I left my old apartment is because things started to get shifty in management. After weeks of not responding to messages about a broken stove, my roommates and I finally received a message from our property manager that she would no longer be managing the apartment; the new guy would reach out shortly. In short, this woman had been pocketing our rent into her own bank account instead of to the company’s account, which as it turns out is illegal. She was getting sued. None of this was my problem, yet somehow in every meeting I have had with the new old landlord, he has lamented about his lapse in attention, guilting me for paying less than the expected price for my room. Sorry for not knowing that the woman was whack and that she didn’t have the authority to negotiate with me. Apologies for his inattention to his assets, I am sorry he did not know who was living in his apartments for six months and where the rent was going.
- In my last meeting with my new old landlord, I snapped. He whined about his misfortune and I told him, “I am sorry that this happened to you, but I don’t care. I don’t want to hear any more about it. This is not my problem.” Earlier in the meeting he had also belittled my misuse of a Hebrew word, which is when I stopped accommodating him by using my second language and bulldozed in English. English is a power move. I have the most control in English; I am the most poised and articulate in English. In a very poised and articulate manner, I exclaimed, “You are not listening to me!” He was not listening to me. Apologies for him being bad at business and for my imperfect Hebrew. Apologies that Americans are not receptive to being swindled, especially when they feel disrespected and unacknowledged.
- I am an Israeli. My work falls within the customer service umbrella. If I approached customer service the Israeli way, I would be sent to army jail. The Israeli approach isn’t applicable when it comes to diplomacy, nor should it be when dealing with educated Americans who know what they deserve.
- I went on an army bonding trip and we went rafting in the river. Somehow I forgot that rafting is a wet activity. I wore Blundstone’s and leggings. I made it clear that I did not want to get wet. This declaration of course spurred my Lt. Colonel to drag me into the water by the back of my life jacket, others following suit to ensure my dreams of dryness were crushed.
As I enter my last few months of service at the ripe age of 23, I blame myself in true Israeli customer service fashion and adopt a new mantra: “I signed up for this.” Here, the customer is always wrong.