Thursday, August 26, 2010 Tel-Aviv Yaffo
I’ve been out of the US visiting with my fam who live in northern Tel Aviv in Israel, for a lil while now. I love the US, I miss it. Everything is so very convenient, and cheap. Go ahead and disagree if you like but most of the stuff you can buy there is about quadruple the price in other places.
It has come to my attention that many peeps really don’t realize how different life outside the US can be. And also how lucky they are to be in such a free open country. Of course it has got many many downfalls that I find appalling and absolutely despise much of the legislation in various areas, but over all, it really is the land of opportunity.
I had a rant on fb a while back about Transformers 2. Terrible movie, don’t see it. The comments I got on it led me to realize that duh, how could most people know what its like in other places that they’ve never been to? They can't.. That’s where I come in.
If you have seen Transformers 2, you may remember the part where they transport over to the middle east, which is where the big fight goes down, mainly the pyramids of Giza. Other than the geographic inaccuracies which are horrendous, what really annoyed me was the ridiculousness of the situation. A yellow, brand new, sports vehicle, shows up at this flimsy looking Egyptian check point.
Can you count how many things are wrong with this scene? That’s correct, infinity. Not the car, the number of errors.
Ok, here we go –
- There are no flimsy check points. They are heavily guarded, and they are not small barricades you can just drive around, the idea is you don’t get around unless you pass through them.
- There are no yellow brand new sports cars in the middle east. They do not exist. You can’t purchase them here. You can’t import them to all countries. If you are in a country that you can import it to, you pay 150% of the sale price in import/port taxes. Yes 150%. Not kidding.
- Believe it or not, you can’t just wake up one morning and say “Oh yea guys, umm, I'm bored, let’s grab our car and go on a road trip, like a big road trip, we’ll hit Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, and Israel” Yea you see, no, that world doesn’t exist right now. Although there are peace accords between Israel and 2 of those 3 aforementioned countries, that certainly does not mean you can just DRIVE your car across the border! I mean hello! Car bombs! Suicide bombers! Security! No, not happening. Even if you were allowed to, you would NOT want to have foreign license plates in these places, are you mad?? You WILL be stoned, looted and probably shot at. I had no idea so many peeps didn’t realize this. It’s not a game. This is for real.
So no, unlike in the US and Europe, you can’t just go on a big road trip. DUH.
Other stuff that’s different from the US.. Well ok, let me think..
Free refills. That is an entirely American made up, and dare I say ridiculous concept, that does not fly anywhere else I’ve ever been. Certainly not here in Israel. They’d look at you funny if you asked for more tap water. Ok, it's not that bad. But no, there is no such thing as a free refill. There is also no such thing as a ‘large drink’ there’s only one size, and it ain’t big. There certainly aren’t huge coffee mugs or those crazy jumbo soda plastic container things you can get at a 7/11. Those things, when filled, weigh as much as a baby! No one should inhale that quantity of soda or coffee in a week, let alone a car ride!
Speaking of which, there aren’t any pretty and clean and welcoming service plazas along the highways. No tourist information centers with pristine bathrooms, no pamphlets with coupons, nada. That concept is also nonexistent here. Imagine my surprise the first time I came across that stuff. I was in shock, awe, and lots of envy. Clean toilets that don’t smell so bad you rather hold it the rest of the ride, coupons for stuff along with informative educational data in colorful paper form, was this a dream? No! It was just the Florida turnpike, but to me it was a fairytale. Oh and this idea that you can pump your gas before you pay, hah, yeaaaa.. that would be sooo laughable here.. never gonna happen. Not to mention that the price we pay per liter is more than what you pay per gallon. And yes, I do see the irony of being in the middle east and paying more than you for oil.
Next we have availability of everything in the universe.. Walmart/Target/Costco holly hell I love those places. I do. I don’t need most of the shit there, but I love having the option to buy all the crap I never knew I wanted for what to me seems dirt cheap. Not that I condone their treatment of slaves or I mean employees, and not that I have the cash to waste there, but the fact is, it is there, and it is available in most cases 24/7. That is still amazing to me and I love love love it. Yea, again, those concepts don’t fly here. There are NO all encompassing stores that carry everything you need. Nothing is cheap. And only quickie marts are open 24/7, and those are not the quickie marts that you’re thinking of that have it all, these are the tiny ones you’d find at a crappy gas station outside rural Valdosta, GA.
There are also some things I like here better, first and foremost, the Hummus. Omg. I missed that so very much. Nom nom nom!
People are honest here. Not in the sense that they won’t fuck you over, or screw you on a price. Hah, no no they’re masters at that. This is Israel man! You haggle for the price, always. And you double, no triple check anything you sign, and you don’t sign anything in the first place, don’t be stupid. They’ll also take advantage of you if you let them, so you gotta be, and everyone IS, very quick to think, quick to respond, there is no time to pause. But they’re honest in the sense that, unlike in many places in the US, no one will smile at you and pretend to care, no one will put on that ridiculous fake ‘Omg I am so happy to see you, you look so great’ routine. On the contrary. If they don’t like you, you’ll know it. No big. If you put on weight, they will tell you that as soon as they see you. If you look older, if you’re ‘still’ single, if you didn’t get that raise, they will point it all out right away. They are very blunt, about everything. I love that. It is socially acceptable to walk around with an angry look on your face, and not be asked why you haven’t taken your Prozac that day, or if maybe you should get some happy pills.
They’re also a lot less oblivious than most Americans. You have to be. There are bombs to watch out for. There is suspicious behavior to be aware of.
You know what else I like? The traffic light system. They have some extra cool stuff. When the light is changing from red to green, there’s an in between step where both the red and yellow lights are lit at the same time, this is brief and informs the driver, ’Hey, rev your engine now!’ Then when the light is green, it has an extra stage of blinking green, this is to inform the driver that it's about to turn yellow. There’s also no right on red, and no left-turn-wait-in-the-middle-of-the-intersection thing. It’s a lot simpler. If you have a green light, you can always go in any of the indicated directions.
The cops are more decent too, imagine that. You don’t have to say ‘sir’ and be on your top behavior around them, they actually know they are regular people. They won’t fucking tase you, they really won’t pull you over for ridiculous shit. They also won’t just arrest you if you were near some disorderly conduct (as I’ve seen so many times happen in places like the Landings in JAX for the FL-GA game, or New Orleans, that kind of behavior is so unnecessary, and it is unjust.)
And get this, if they’re causing a disturbance, you can actually honk your horn at them, or yell, and they will move. One thing to look out for which may be confusing is when they’re on duty, their lights are on always. That does not mean they’re stopping you, that just means they’re working. Their lights are blue. Only blue. Red is for fire/ambulance. And if they do pull you over, they don’t put a siren on.. they just talk to you on the bullhorn and say “[Enter car type and color here] Pull over!”
What else, what else.. Movie theaters. When you purchase your ticket, it will tell you where your seat is. No, you cannot switch your seat. No deluxe seating with the huge cup holder for your nonexistent gallon slurpy, and no movable arm rests for snuggling. Also, half way through the movie, there will be an intermission. Just a random point where movie will be shut down temporarily, the lights will go on, and you will be able to go spend more money buying more expensive non refillable shit. And use the gross bathroom.
Oh! And how could I forget this one, AC is not standard. Not everywhere has it, and it’s insanely hot/humid to the point that I’ve been growing gills. Call me AquaGurlEvie.
Army. It's mandatory for Everyone.
There is also… No goth/punk/emo fashion statement bullshit. You go to the army when you’re 18, you get a gun and you protect your home.
No drive through anything not fastfood/bank/pharmacy/liquor store, none. You get out your car and you walk in the place of business.
No parking anywhere other than parallel. And it’s bumper to bumper, literally, and usually also 2 wheels on the side walk, bend your mirror and hope it won’t be smacked off by another car.
The lanes here are not 10 miles wide like over there. They’re small. Drivers are fast. Tons of tiny motorcycles that weave everywhere, don’t try to stop them, they are better than you.
No Harleys. Very few ridiculous SUVs and they do not fit in parking spots nor do they fit in driving lanes.
In order to get your license you have to learn to drive on a stick shift. You also have to take a min of 28 lessons.
Soldiers on the boardwalk in Tel Aviv
The work week is 6 days long, starting Sunday, as is the school week. Friday is a half day, and some companies have in recent years decided to just take Friday off. But not school. When I moved to the US I felt like I was on permanent vacation. 2 day weekends. My own goddamn car. An entire open continent to use it in. Unreal.
Ok, yea that was an odd string of thoughts. Hope you enjoyed it. And I hope you learned something.
Any questions you may have about life, the universe or anything, do feel free to ask them in the comments and I will gladly respond.
Thanks for reading.