Life Lessons: Stray yarns

Following are a few remnants and stray yarns, accumulated over the last year, that may or may not suggest a pattern.

A kettle (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
A kettle
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Most journalists generate more story ideas than they use. Some don’t work out. Others don’t fit the format. Still, like a knitter who always has some yarn left over after a project, the strays and the remnants accumulate. And every so often, you can knit them into a single piece.
Following are a few remnants and stray yarns, accumulated over the last year, that may or may not suggest a pattern.
If so, what sort of pattern? Your call.
The People Upstairs
In Israel, things often seem to work in reverse. For years, I’ve been annoyed and infuriated by routine delays in chemo treatment: lying on a hospital bed, waiting and waiting. So last December, I brought my doctor and nurses expensive candy, ostensibly as a Hanukka treat, in reality a shameless bribe to speed things up.
They loved the candy, and yet the normal in-bed wait went from one hour to three. I did a pretty good imitation of Israeli petulance.
My doctor patiently explained that these treatments were expensive (“Hey, I’m an American; I’m worth it”), and that The People Upstairs couldn’t prepare the various potions until I was physically there.
Further questioning led to some conflicting answers about what The People Upstairs actually did and why it took so long to get the stuff down.
But in the end, we agreed: henceforth, everything amiss would be blamed on The People Upstairs.
A definite multi-situational and multi-use explanation.
‘Kumkum’ as metaphor
Our old kumkum (electric kettle) started leaking. My wife decided to violate the talmudic prohibition against buying the cheapest model and brought home a kumkum that said “Fix Electric” on the label. A brand? A company? A warning? Not even the Internet knows.
Whatever its origin, it must have been designed and manufactured in consultation with The People Upstairs. It has everything wrong with it that a functional kumkum can offer: it leaks from the bottom whenever it gets the urge; it leaks from the top whenever it’s heated more than half-full; the lid is too loose and won’t stay up when you flip the lever; it heats in a most leisurely manner; it shuts off long before the water boils; after the morning’s first use, the “on” lever won’t stay down, so you have to stand there and hold it.
I was going to take it back, but the thought of another encounter with some nasty sales person didn’t appeal to me – but now, I’m starting to like the thing.
It speaks to me. While holding down the button, I ponder The People Upstairs, wherever those stairs might be, and what they might be doing to the rest of us and our planet.
Anger’s better than coffee to get you going in the morning. Plus it’s occasionally fun to call some Person Upstairs a kumkum. They understand that they’ve been told something; they just can’t figure out what.
Israelis and their cars
A complex affair. Israeli driving habits, we need mention only briefly.
So the (expletive deleted) kumkum almost ran you down? Nothing unusual there. Of greater interest is how, once again, things work in reverse.
Those flashing yellow traffic lights before the red turns green – great idea. It doubles drivers’ chances to run the yellow.
And, of course, all those international road signs need interpretation according to the “Works in Reverse” principle.
“Yield” really means “Rudeness Opportunity Ahead.”
“Stop” means “Real Men Don’t” or “Hey, I’m Gorgeous – At Least, I Think I Am – and That Gives Me Rights.”
And my personal fave, the one that shows a senior citizen with hat and cane crossing the street: “Good Hunting.”
Also worthy of mention: Whenever you see someone driving an expensive car, you automatically wonder what he or she did to get it. Don’t you? Or do you already know? Or at least suspect? But of greater interest here is the choosing of vehicular names.
They’re all in English, those little plates on the backs of the cars: A Skoda This, a Toyota That, a Mercedes Whatever. The names range from inane to idiotic, and are certainly not reflective of Israeli culture or Jewish values.
Why not, for instance a Ford Chutzpah or a Chevy Meshugga? For the more observant, perhaps a Skoda Halacha or a Toyota Glatt? And for The People Upstairs, a Mercedes Ein Ba’aya.
Speaking of cars...
I was on a Haifa bus, headed up a narrow street, when we encountered a delay. A car had stalled. Its hood was up and a very large haredi man with long, well-curled peyot (sidelocks) stood beside it, irately waving his jumper cables, as though the blame fell upon everyone who didn’t stop.
As the bus went by, a mental tsunami swept the passengers. We looked at each other and started laughing. We were all thinking the same thing: hook ’em to your peyot, haver. I wonder how he fared.
The writer, an American oleh, occasionally chronicles the bizarre in the mundane, and vice versa.