Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Water Saga

Water and electricity are two things you take for granted in your house. Well I don't. Not since moving to my apartment in Talpiyot. I suppose it would be unimaginable for my utilities to be working for two months straight. The horror of an uninteresting domestic life!
Last month was our water saga. We didn't have water for a week, but our downstairs neighbors did. From their ceiling. They knocked on our door one day to tell us that water was dripping down their walls. My roommate was home then and shut off the water. I came home after an 8 am calculus class (that lasted 4 painful hours), another class, and then work until 10:30 to an apartment with no running water. This did not make me happy. Pouring water from a bucket down the toilet in order to flush it is not a fun nightly activity. My roommate was having a little party with 2 Polish friends, my other roommate and her date, and lots of alcohol. I'm not much of a drinker but when they offered me something, I took it. After finishing my glass of wine with a shot of vodka I was done for the night.
The next day the insurance company sent over a plumber. To many people the plumber is almost a minor godlike figure. You don't know what the heck he's talking about but you believe that he will make everything all better. So when he went to check out our neighbors' apartment and told us he didn't see any water we believed him. We said “thank G-d!” and turned our water back on. The next day the neighbors came back up to complain that there was still water flowing from places where there is not supposed to be water. Maybe the plumber had just gotten back from a 40 year vacation in the Sinai because it seemed he was unable to identify water. A plumber who doesn't know what water looks like is a useless plumber. But this is who the insurance company sent. He came back the next day and my other roommate had to take him downstairs and point out the water. After a few minutes my roommate was able to explain to him what exactly water is supposed to look like and he understood that the little droplets of wetness were in fact a leak from our bathroom.
Mr. Brilliant and his crew came back on Thursday afternoon (a few hours late) to get to work. I had to go to work so the last I saw of them they had ripped up parts of the bathroom and were smoking in it. That night I went back to Ma'ale Adumim to my parents so I wouldn't have to deal with the wreckage where our bathroom used to be.
Sunday morning I came back to the wreckage that was supposed to be our finished bathroom. There were now unmatching tiles on parts of the walls, the faucets in the tub and in the sink were not attached to the wall but were being held up by globs of grout, there were more globs of grout all over the walls, in the bathtub and in the sink, and they had switched the hot and cold water in the bathtub. They even broke our broom which I didn't realize when I tried to clean up the mess. I've now added broom as number ten on my list of strange objects I've cut my hand on.

Friday, April 8, 2011

My Jobs Aren't Supposed To Be Interesting

When I signed up to clean houses, I expected to clean houses. You know, some dusting, bathroom cleaning, floor washing. The premise of the cleaning company I work for is that they mostly clean rental apartments for different companies. People come to Israel for a week or so and don't want to stay in a hotel so they rent a nice, furnished apartment with a kitchen for less than it would cost to stay in a hotel their entire stay. So what we do is we wait for the call, roll in, clean up after the guests who have gone back to wherever it is they came from, and go home. It seems however that I am not fated to be doing much of this. So far I have moved furniture, cleaned a woman's private apartment, and cleaned and put dishes away for a family who were in the middle of renovations.

The cherry on the cake (or the umbrella in my margarita after one of these jobs) was what was supposed to be a quick cleanup job for a guy who was staying in one of these rental apartments. He called in a cleaner and my boss sent me to do some basic cleaning for this guy. I get to the apartment, where a woman from the rental agency is waiting for me. “He's a little bit neurotic,” she says to me. Well that's ok, I can deal with neurotic. I'm neurotic. “He left a list of some things he wanted cleaned.” I look at the list. It is quite a long list. I will now include the list for your viewing pleasure (without the spelling and grammatical errors. We're obviously not the same kind of neurotic.):
      1. clean all windows
      2. all floors including under all furniture washed
      3. special attention to stainless steel appliances
      4. wipe down all walls, remove marks
      5. clean all baths with special attention to removing any stains from grout
      6. wipe down a/c vents
      7. vacuum all furniture thoroughly
      8. clean all glass doors
      9. wipe down tops of all cabinets, refrigerator, dressers, etc. and inside all cabinets
      10. sweep and wash patio
      11. clean refrigerator and oven
      12. thoroughly dust all areas

This isn't neurosis, this is bordering on the edge of insanity. A list written by a neurotic guy would be something like this:
      1. Dust all surfaces
      2. Lock the door
      3. Thoroughly clean bathrooms, returning all toiletries to their proper place
      4. Don't forget to lock the door
      5. Clean kitchen. Line up spices in order of height then color.
      6. Check to make sure door is locked
      7. Clean floor
      8. etc.
Not only is his list ridiculous but there are no cleaning supplies in the apartment. There is a bucket, a broken broom, a squeegee mop and a little bit of floor cleaner. The woman from the agency tells me she'll run out to get some rags but I should do what I can in the meantime. I tell her that I can't really do anything with these supplies, short of using the guy's towel to wash the bathroom. She reiterates that I should just do what I can and leaves. I rummage around some more and come up with a sponge. Well now I can get to work. I'll skip the details, they're not interesting. The ending of this story is that the woman comes back, tells me that she has to leave soon to go to a wedding and that I should forget about the list. I clean the apartment normally within about two hours and go home. I highly doubt that the guy was satisfied by the job when he realized that the walls were still dirty and that the electrical appliances still had some smudges on them. But that is not my problem. If I'd had to follow the list I probably would have called up my boss and quit on the spot.

Luckily, working at the restaurant is not usually as frustrating. In fact it's kind of dull. That's probably because we have no customers. I don't know how the restaurant survives with so few customers. There was a night where there was only one table. Of one. That was an exciting night for all of us. I think the manager fell asleep in a chair at some point. The customers always ask why it's so empty and I have to quickly think up a good answer. Uh, all the other customers left a few minutes ago. At the same time. Or the weather's bad, they're preparing for Purim, it's an off season, daylight savings time, etc.

Thankfully we've actually had some customers lately. It's always a surprise for us when someone walks in and stays. We're used to people coming in and asking us if this is the bar next door or the restaurant down the street. Which is pretty amazing considering that the people who are looking for us can't even find us (due to the fact that we're located in a parking lot).

Thank G-d for customers. When we do have customers, we get some very unusual types. It's what makes my job interesting and what keeps me from shoving a steak knife into my eye just for variety's sake. There's a couple who comes in every Thursday. Order the same thing every time. They always go to a nice quiet table in the next other room by themselves and then spend most of the meal sitting across from each other, talking to other people on their cell phones.

There was a woman and her 15 year old son who came in and both ordered a glass of wine. I was like, “um, how old are you? I don't think I'm allowed to serve you alcohol.” I bring them their food and they eat a bit. Suddenly, the woman pulls out a book and starts reading her son a story. Right in the middle of dinner. At a restaurant. I'm like, come on,this isn't the time or place for story time. She wouldn't even let me clear her plate because she wasn't finished eating. Well clearly, reading is more important than eating your steak and finishing before we have to lock you in for the night.

A blind man and a regular guy walk in to a restaurant. Every time I start this story people think I'm about to tell a joke. This is not a joke. This is a true story. So a blind man and a regular guy walk into the restaurant. First of all I'm wondering to myself, is it politically incorrect not to give the blind guy a menu? Then I think to myself, that's just ridiculous. He clearly isn't going to be reading it. So I seat them and they order and everything's going fine. I come upstairs from the kitchen and all of the sudden I see the manager stamping on the floor next to their table. I'm like, what in G-d's name is going on here? He comes over to me and says, “that dumb-ass almost burnt down the restaurant!” I look at him in shock and say, “it's not nice to call a blind guy a dumb-ass.” He goes, “not not him, the other guy!” At this point I have no idea what he's talking about. So he tells me. Apparently the regular guy was sitting there with his napkin resting on top of the decorative candle without noticing that there was a fire under his napkin. When he finally realized that his napkin had gone up in flames, he panicked and threw it at the blind guy who asked, “what's this?” while sitting there oblivious of the ball of flame threatening to burn a large hole in his lap. The manager sees this, runs over and throws the napkin on the floor. He tries to stamp it out for a few minutes because it won't go out and that's when I come upstairs. I had to listen to him complain for the rest of the night about how he burnt his shoe. As if putting an open flame on a small table where people are eating is a good idea. Excuse me dear, you're tie has caught fire and is roasting my hamburger bun. It's also about to burn your face off.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Midterm, Marathon, & Madness!

          The craziness started with the mother of all anxiety dreams the night before my math midterm. I dreamed I had fallen asleep in class and missed the test. Most people have one anxiety per dream. My brain got carried away. I was then walking around my elementary school in a towel, got caught outside in a hurricane, and was pregnant. It's funny how anxiety dreams don't necessarily reflect your fears. To be fair, falling asleep during calculus is a skill of mine but I can honestly say I've never fallen asleep during a test. In fact, the next day I stayed conscious throughout the whole midterm then promptly fell asleep afterward when Boris started to go over the answers.

I ran around the rest of the day, first to the gym (where I did actually run) then to the doctor in Ma'ale Adumim and then to work. In the restaurant, not cleaning. On the way, my other boss (the cleaning guy, not the restaurant guy) sent me a text that they had an emergency situation and they would need everyone working that night (Thursday night), Friday, after Shabbat, and then on Sunday. I had to call him and tell for about the third time that I can't work Thursdays. We do this little song and dance often. There are only two days I can't work but he can't seem to remember either of them. So he sends me a text and then I have to call and then he calls me a little bit later and asks me if I can work then I have to remind him that I have class, then he sends me an email, and I send him a reply that I still can't work that day. It's like a little game that we play, except that I don't find it fun and he can't remember we're playing.

I got a text from him that night that he wanted to meet me on Jabotinsky at 7:00 Friday morning. 7:00? Seriously? I'm not really functional until 8:00 and not fully awake until 9:00. Fine, I'll do it. Usually it's about a 10 minute bus ride on a well traveled bus route. But nothing is ever “usual” in Jerusalem. Heaven forbid things like public transportation and traffic in general should run the way they're supposed to for a whole week. Last week Jerusalem residents had to deal with Purim parades shutting down major traffic arteries. I got on a bus in Jerusalem on the way back to my apartment from Ma'ale Adumim expecting the bus to continue on the route that it does every other time I get on that bus. It's usually a mistake in this city to assume that you're going to end up where you expected to. I sat down and the bus driver announced that he was skipping most of the route and he had no idea where he was going to end up. The passengers looked puzzled and asked him how he could not know where he was going. He answered that he was just going to go the way the police directed him to and that he didn't really have a set route because no one really knew what was going on. At this point most of the passengers got off the bus and the people waiting at bus stops along the impromptu route took their turns looking puzzled and were left scratching their heads after asking the bus driver if he went to this or that place and being told he didn't know.

My boss had to pick the only day of the year when Jerusalem was hosting the marathon and had decided to close off all streets in which the marathoners would be running. Unsurprisingly the route of the first ever full marathon in Jerusalem led back and forth, and around in circles all throughout the city. This led to much confusion (the first few runners across the line were astonished to find that it was the wrong finish line) and perturbation on the side of the citizens who were forced to walk everywhere all day. This included myself. I do not enjoy long walks at 6 in the morning. A 10 minute bus ride became a 45 minute walk. The guy who was supposed to meet me at the job got there half an hour later while I went on an unsuccessful search for coffee.

I had called my boss to ask what the job entailed and what exactly he meant by an “emergency situation.” He told me he'd gotten a contract with a company to set up maybe 15 or so apartments before noon on Sunday. Ok, well what does that mean “set up an apartment?” It meant that there might be some boxes to unpack and put away, linens and things like that, and just some basic cleaning, nothing too meticulous. Ok, boss, I guess I can handle that.

We walked into the apartment and I almost walked out again. Some boxes? Wait, is there a refrigerator in that huge box? And are those sofas, wrapped up in plastic wrap? I'm not even going to ask about the washing machine sized box in the middle of the kitchen floor, the oven or the tables in heavy cardboard stacked on top of each other. These aren't linens. Either someone just rewrote my job description or somebody was purposely misled (very likely me).

We finished that apartment and moved on to the next in Rechavia, my cleaning buddy biking up and me hiking (with a short coffee detour), grumbling and shooting dirty looks at the runners. By the end of that apartment there was no way I was walking back to my apartment. Luckily, by then they had started opening up some of the roads so when I realized that I'd probably collapse before I made it home I broke a self legislated rule not to take taxis. I was relieved to be quickly approaching my destination. I should have known that it wouldn't be as easy as it should have been either. The driver had no change so he made me get out to change money. I ran into the bakery next to my building and impatiently waited for the guy in front of me to stop yapping, pay, and leave. The guy behind the counter wouldn't change my 50 unless I bought something so I grabbed for the closest thing which happened to be a 10 shekel lump of bread. There's a reason I don't take taxis. Ever. I would rather be stuck in traffic on an old, non-air conditioned Jerusalem bus standing pressed between a large, old Russian woman, loudly arguing with someone on her cellphone, and a dirty old man who makes you wonder how he had enough money to take the bus, let alone buy the beef jerky he's now gnawing on. So no, no more taxis for me.