People do funny things while alone

"You can observe a lot just by watching" – Yogi Berra

Shaving in car driving 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Shaving in car driving 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
When one of my daughters returned from a year of National Service in a Los Angeles Jewish day school, along with describing the opulent residences and glitz of movie star sightings, she reflected on the dearth of actual pedestrians in La La Land.
“No one walks there!” she exclaimed. “The school was only a 10-minute walk from our apartment, and whenever the other Israeli girls and I decided to hoof it, we were stopped by tons of people asking if we were all right and if we needed a lift.”
When I commented that so many of the women and girls in her pictures from that year were thin and looked fit, she explained, “Everyone belongs to a health club. They walk a lot, but only on treadmills – never where they can be seen.”
This made me think about other things that people do when they think they may not be seen. Including myself, perhaps.
One of my fondest childhood memories is that of sitting across the breakfast table and discussing the plans for the day ahead with my handsome daddy, who began his daily commute before seven in the morning. I’d still be wearing my drop-seat Dr. Denton pajamas, while daddy wore a crisp white shirt, conservative striped tie and several torn pieces of toilet paper stuck to his face and neck with clotting blood. (No one within a four-mile radius could miss the pungent aroma of liberally doused Old Spice cologne.) Indeed, until he became the proud owner of a Norelco electric shaver, he fearlessly traversed the entryway of the pink-tiled bathroom fully aware that blood would be shed. Ever the trooper, he wasn’t deterred.
Before exiting the house, however, he removed all telltale signs of the morning carnage.
Memories of those uncomplicated mornings have returned of late, especially during my morning walks.
Several times each week I lace up my trusty sports shoes, don a backpack filled with the day’s necessities and begin the six-kilometer walk to my place of employment. A good portion of the walk takes me over highways and along heavily traveled city streets, past construction sites and hospital parking lots.
Weaving between impossibly mired traffic jams. I’ve lately noticed just how much body hair removal takes place in automobiles.
Men who drive are, apparently, men who shave. Am I the only one who still thinks that shaving should be kept private? That driving and shaving are not complementary activities? The only upside I can find about this borderline repulsive exercise is that the traffic is so stalled in Jerusalem that there is plenty of time spent idling at traffic lights, which consequently means that the requisite jaw-extending and neckcraning do not endanger other drivers or pedestrians.
And before the women lose themselves in smug, unbridled laughter, let me announce that the passenger seat is no place for leg shaving. Ugh! Admittedly, I have not yet seen this take place in the winter, but summer motoring down the Ayalon Freeway toward the seashore provides great comparison opportunities for those comparing the merits of waxing strips and pink-plastic, straight-edged razors.
Joking aside, there is nothing humorous about the number of accidents attributed to women who put on makeup while driving, and I guiltily admit that until a few years ago I also prepped my face behind the wheel. No more. But eyebrow tweezing? Even if a gal is sitting in the passenger seat, the car next to hers is more likely to drive onto the pavement after witnessing such indelicate personal grooming. Am I allowed to issue a wee value judgment here and say, “Gross!”? You betcha.
THE BUILDING across from where I live is quite weathered, and the residents of several apartments are resilient old-timers who witnessed the founding of the state. Aged and grizzled, they sit on their balconies on long Shabbat afternoons and sip endless cups of tea, while loudly bemoaning how young people have gone to hell in a hand basket. I admire them for their verve, their near insatiable devotion to the art of sponja floor washing and the beautiful displays of flora that overrun their balconies and small gardens.
What I can do without, however, is their stripping down to the skivvies (and less) while selecting clothing from the laundry line that faces my bedroom window.
Now, I would never think of discriminating against someone based on his/her age. My revulsion is equally apportioned. Keep your clothes on unless requested to do otherwise.
Entering my apartment after a long and frustrating day at the office, I dropped my briefcase and let my jacket fall to the floor. Grabbing a tablespoon from the dish drainer, I pulled open the kitchen pantry and dove straight into a half-empty jar of chunky peanut butter. The pure pleasure of the sweet-and-salt mixture worked immediately to soothe away the disappointments of that day, and the sounds emanating from my throat merited an R rating.
“Has Ronney ever seen you do that?” queried a particularly testy child, referring to my husband-to-be.
“Not yet,” I answered defiantly, flicking a small nut chip off my right nostril. The feeding frenzy was getting aggressive. “But he will.”
And I meant it. But only within the sanctity of my four walls.
Yesterday morning I was stopped by a police cruiser while walking through the Jerusalem Forest. Granted, it was 7:15 a.m., but it is a public thoroughfare and the few cars that passed were not impeded by my presence.
“Boker tov, Madame,” said the young steel-jawed, head-shaven cop. “How are you today?” “Good morning to you, too, officer,” I responded, my broad Anglo accent stronger than even I remembered.
“Everything is good.”
I was smiling so broadly – and madly – that even I thought I should be cuffed and hauled into the station.
“Why are you out here?” asked his female partner.
She didn’t sound so friendly, and anyone who grew up watching Hawaii Five-O would have understood immediately that they were playing good cop-bad cop.
“This is what I do in the morning. Uh, I’m walking to work.”
Looking down at my ankle socks and rubber-soled footwear, assessing the improbability of the hour and wincing at the mangled Hebrew, in unison they reached the same conclusion: “Ah, you’re American.”
Eccentricity aside, it seems to me that if one can see someone else, it’s reasonable to assume that he, in turn, can be seen. Subsequent logical thinking encourages most of us to keep our pants on in broad daylight, shave and tweeze in private and reveal all food quirks well before marriage.
And start walking. You never know just what – and whom – you may see.