Israel Stories

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Restroom

Oscar Wilde once said ‘we are all lying in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars’.

They say you can always tell a good hotel by the state of its toilets. And lets face it if you are going to be caught short; a five star hotel is the place to be. These hotels certainly top the restroom league when it comes to local water closet comfort.

That’s where I found myself last week, in one of Jerusalem’s five star hotels. I headed quickly, always keeping my composure and looking as official as possible, to the toilets. It’s a funny thing, using hotel toilets, and restaurant toilets for that matter. Really they are for patrons. Some people have trouble walking into a restaurant to use the facilities. In the UK it was never an option, but here in Israel if you actually grit your teeth or cross your legs instead of using a restaurant toilets you’re a real frier.

Hotels are a little different and most people can easily, and in a relaxed manner walk straight in (passed security) and make a b-line straight for the bogs.

Along the far wall of this particular restroom were three urinals. Now women never have this problem but in men’s toilets there is the issue of urinal etiquette. For example always use the one nearest the corner. Never use the middle one and never, never, never stand between two men. If there are three urinals and the outer two are occupied, wait or use a booth.

And so the situation arose with me. With urinal one and three being occupied I found an empty booth. Entered and locked the door, no one wants someone shoving the door open when you are standing there, it can be painful and embarrassing. I’ll leave that to your imagination or ask the first available man.

As I tried to leave the booth I found the lock wasn’t working. The first thing to do was use that multi-purpose tool that every dati man has upon his person, a silver kippa clip. First I tried to pick the lock, then to unscrew it and finally to try and force the lock.

No luck. So the next option was scaling the door and climbing over, except there was very little space for me to climb through, and, as athletic and nimble as I am I still couldn’t do it.

Finally the last option open to me. I waited and as soon as I heard a flush and door unlock I shouted for help.

“Hello, can you help me, I am trapped in the toilet and the lock is broken.”

“I am sorry, I do not speak Ivrit I am French.”

“Hello, can you help me, I am trapped in the toilet and the lock is broken.”

“I am sorry, I do not speak English I am French.”

“CAN YOU GET HELP!” I shouted in English

“I am sorry, I do not speak English I am French.”


“I am sorry, I do not speak English I am French.”

For some reason the thought of King Saul failing to kill Amalek and Wellington failing to finish of the job at Waterloo came to mind.

“ASSISTANCE!” I shouted in a French accent. Well the word sounded like it could be French.

Then I was hit with a barrage of French and the man left. All went quiet. I sat there waiting for the flush from a booth and the squeak of the toilet door signaling another potential lifeline.

Then I heard the unmistakable sound of a tool box being set down by my door. A little bit of scratching and the door suddenly flew open.

“There is nothing wrong with this door!” the maintenance man grumbled.

“But it wouldn’t open, see I’ll show you. I closed the door, locked it and once again confined myself to my restroom prison.

Then I heard the maintenance in a cool and calculating voice explain the problem.

“In our toilets the doors swing out and not in!”

Sometimes, even if nobody pushes the door open, it can still be painful and embarrassing.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Trend Setter

A long time ago in a country far, far away I let a friend borrow a music tape. I promptly forgot about it and several years later decided to look for it, but it was gone. I had since lost contact with my friend so I went to every second hand music shop to try and buy it again. I obsessively phoned every shop in Camden, famed for its secondhand record shops, and then realized that just around the corner from my apartment was a small dealer. He had the tape. I raced to the shop, explaining to the owner the story of my prized possession. He found the tape and as I checked the box, low and behold, I found my name written on the inside cover. The owner still charged me, even after I showed him my driver’s license, threatened him with trying to sell stolen goods and generally tried to appeal to his better nature and sense of fair play, but all to no avail. 50 pence later and the tape was back in my possession. Of course I didn’t have a tape player so had to buy the disc, but that’s another story.

It’s hard to let go of prized possessions. Next to music I reckon clothes rate highly in the nostalgia stakes.

The day of the big purge had arrived. I had tried to avoid it but it was no good, I had no choice and what had to be done had to be done. My wife had already thrown out 7 bags of clothes (see girls, it can be done!) and now it was my turn.

I think that men tend to hold on to clothes for nostalgic reasons. So sorting through my clothes was a trip down memory lane. By the way I have a question for the women; why is it that if a hole develops in a pair of boxer shorts you feel the need to make dusters out of them? What you don’t understand is holes are a sign of a well used, comfortable and reliable garment.

While I was busy sorting through my clothes, hiding various items so they would be spared the black sack, forcing myself into clothes that fit me before I was married, and generally being in denial about my waist and collar size, my wife was looking up suitable charities. There are thousands of charities catering for all types of religious observance, culture and country of birth.

But while, to you and everybody else my clothes have no real value, could I really give away an Armani jacket to a charity. Would the wearer appreciate it? Would they understand that the tie (one careful owner, no creases) they were wearing was bought in 1996 for £70? So I had to decide what sort of needy person was deserving of my designer clothes. Then I instantly felt guilty of my materialism (no pun intended), the shocking realization that the snob in me had made an uncharacteristic appearnce and that after all its only cotton, silk, and wool, much the same as money is only paper! So I packed my clothes into black sacks and left them in the basement while I tried to decide my next move.

That night I had a strange dream about charedim wearing designer jeans and T-shirts, sipping cocktails in a nightclub. I think it was New Years Eve 1994.

I learned a new piece of crucial information a few weeks later. You can no longer do a U-turn back to Bet Shemesh outside of canyon Harel in Mevasseret. Apparently this isn’t so new but I haven’t been there for a while. So on my way back to Bet Shemesh I drove up the street opposite the canyon by the absorption center. There was a bit of a traffic jam so I sat watching the mainly Ethiopian olim sitting on the wall outside.

When you’re stationary the world takes on a different perspective.

My friend at the Mercaz Klita now wears an Armani jacket. His kids have designer jeans and their shirts have a small polo player on the chest. I did hear that a couple of H&O sweatshirts were thrown out because of the poor quality.

There is an Ethiopian quote ‘the prosperity of the trees is the well being of the birds’. I am sure there is a Jewish equivalent.

By the way if you’re wondering, all my old boxer shorts ands socks didn’t even make it to the duster basket although one pair of socks has been hidden away, something about New Years Eve 1994, but that’s a different story.