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Swine flu, fooya. What this country's suffering from is shiputzim-itis, renovations run mad, a very contagious disease that strikes at the heart of unsuspecting urban dwellers, felling hundreds in its wake.
It's 8 a.m., and time for the man with the drill down the street to start work on that new kitchen in your neighbor's apartment. Brrrrrrrrrrrr goes the drill as you wonder whether Hades has anything worse to offer.
Why sure. It's 8:10 a.m., and time for the fellow ripping up your neighbor's garden above your home office space to start pounding. Boom. Boom! BOOM! goes the hammer, before the noise turns into what now slowly becomes stereo drilling.
At about 10 a.m., there's a special added attraction - continued drilling and banging leads to the power in your apartment going off. Forgot to save your Word document? Kiss it good-bye, as the workmen continue apace.
THIS PAST summer we have witnessed at least six of our neighbors doing renovations - on half a block. It seems like if you don't go abroad, you stay home and renovate. Kitchens, fences, entranceways - anything goes when renovation season strikes. I swear I saw a snail renovating his shell on my living room window one day.
And there are no fixed hours for when such activity is allowed. The other night we wandered past our neighbors close to 11:30 p.m. to find them still drilling away on the newly improved gate around their house, presumably built so that no one can see the rest of the renovations inside. They looked up at us for a moment as we walked by, as if to say: "Yeah, we know it's late, but hey, go ahead and do something about it. If you do, we'll be out here tomorrow night till 1 a.m."
SOMETIMES THE renovators around us try to fool us. They'll be really quiet for a while, say around 2 p.m., and you assume they've knocked off for lunch, or otherwise decided to abide by the Geneva Convention on Renovations in Urban Neighborhoods, which states that "Quiet shall prevail between 2 and 4 p.m." At least I think that's what it says. If our ambassador to Geneva is not working on this, he should be asked to do so immediately.
There you are, lying in bed, preparing for a nap. You snuggle up to your pillow, the fan's on, and all is right with the world. Two hours nap time, here we come. Not. Whirrrrrrr. Whirrrrr, scrape. Whirrrrrrr, scrape, scrape, whirrrr.
Then a pause. You settle back, thinking it was just a temporary fix of the banging that went on earlier. Nope. Whirrrrrrrrr!! goes the damned drill, with no conscience, no awareness of time, your precious nap time.
LYING THERE, now you start imagining revenge scenarios. You imagine a man with a large drill slicing your neighbor completely in half. Ha! Take that! Or better still, he's carried off by huge eagles who chain him to a chair and make him listen to the sound of the hammers until he begs for mercy. Ha!
Then there's the one I have where an IAF squadron flies directly over the house being renovated and in a flash turns all the renovations into rubble.
We were actually once threatened by a neighbor whose dog bit my wife, and told me that he had a LAW missile in his house and "wasn't afraid to use it." Now that we have a son in the army, we're thinking of stocking up on munitions with which to threaten the renovators.
BUT IT doesn't help, all these revenge scenarios, although they are fun. Imagining all your renovating neighbors tied to chairs, forced to listen to old speeches by David Levy, there's a new sound, one you haven't heard before. Because the neighbor across the street, whose house hasn't been heard from all day, suddenly gets into the act.
Frrrrrrrrrrrrrrr goes the sound of the machinery over there, leaving you wondering whether someone is digging for lost Canaanite treasure, electrifying a cat or simply installing a new kitchen.
In between, your neighbor upstairs is on the phone with his contractor. "No, I said white, not off-white tiles! Take them back right away! And put in the new ones tomorrow!"
This is followed by phone calls to his bank, lawyer, brother-in-law who convinced him to hire the contractor in the first place and nephew who knows an Arab fellow willing to do the same work for half the price.
Next door, the Abramowitzes are putting in a deck to replace their lawn. Blam! Blam! goes the huge hammer, smashing the garden foundation to bits. Damn water-saving conscious neighbors! Later, you walk past to see little garden gnomes looking like lost children, sitting alongside pots of plants that once were a lovely garden. And you imagine the grandchildren. Yes, those same grandchildren who roll marbles on the floor at 5 a.m. on Shabbat that wake you up thanks to the paper-thin walls. You see them blasting a soccer ball on the deck; playing basketball, playing marbles, for God's sake, while you just try to sleep.
SO WE'VE been planning our own line of revenge. In the dead of winter, when no one expects any renovation to be going on, we will strike. It will be sharp, painful and delightful.
First, we will go down to the railroad-car-sized dumpster that still contains all the concrete and other building materials they've dug up and spread it evenly outside their doors.
Then, as the clock strikes midnight, we will reach for our stereo and switch on The Ride of the Valkyries, or something else appropriate for a night of vengeance. Finally we will turn on the tape recorder, on which we have collected all the sounds of summer renovations, to full blast, speakers pointed out the window.
BANG! BOOM! WHIRRRRRRRRR! With tears in their eyes, the neighbors will beg me to stop, but I shall show no mercy. Louder, louder the cacophony will grow, but I'll ignore their desperate pleas. Ha! At exactly 2 p.m., I'll stop - for five minutes. Then it's back to Renovation's Top 10 at full blast.
We won't get a new deck out of it, or a new entranceway, or kitchen. But revenge will finally be ours against the raging renovators. Whirrrr! Bang! Boom!