The Calm before the Storm that Petered Out – Part 2

Part 2 – I Can’t Deal with This

I’m asking you to envision the following situation; you’ll see why as we go along. It was a Tues. (Aug. 31 to be precise) at about 1:15 or so in the afternoon, and I was sitting on the couch in our living room. Once I finished my glass of cold brew coffee, I would have shifted to a horizontal position on that self-same piece of furniture, going into couch potato, pre-nap mode, preparing to tackle the NYTimes crossword puzzle.

Based upon what I have just described, do you think I would have been interested in getting off the couch, finishing my coffee in one gulp, going upstairs to put on my shoes, and leaving our apartment lickety-split? If you are the cautious type, you might want to say, I don’t think so, or Probably not; whereas a more decisive individual might declare, Not a chance in Hell or No way, Jose. So what transpired that caused this unlikely scenario to come to pass? Let’s take a deep breath and go back a week in time.

You, of course, remember where we left off in our previous article, preparing to leave Har Halutz, where the boars and the hyraxes play. It was Monday morning, Aug. 23; we were all packed and ready to go, waiting for Richard, who was hunched over his computer. Uh oh; according to what he was reading, we might be having a problem getting back. Just what we need.

There are many groups in The Land who feel their needs are not being met, one such being the disabled population. I won’t go into what their demands are, but their tactics are very simple: get a bunch of people in wheelchairs to park themselves in the middle of a highway. That’ll get everyone’s attention! The morning in question, these same activists had blocked some of the railroad tracks along the route we would be taking. Richard started looking up alternatives for us, as in there’s a bus leaving Karmiel at 1PM. You know what: let’s just go to the train station and find out what’s going on. If there’s a problem, there will be someone there to tell us what our options are.

Which is what we did, and, mercifully, whatever had transpired was either elsewhere or over. Smooth sailing (or more accurately, smooth riding) all the way to Jerusalem, allowing me to enjoy the ever-changing scenery and continue re-reading Pride and Prejudice for the fifth or sixth time.

Richard had reminded us that our accommodations would be available for another night, if need be, so what was our hurry? Why didn’t we just hang out until Tues. morning, just to be safe? For one thing, we had to see a man about a washing machine, or, better said, the man had to see us.  Our trusty Zanussi, after fourteen years of loyal service, had given up the ghost. The day before we left for the north, two guys, with great difficulty, had dragged and carried our new Constructa model up the stairs to our apartment, then up the winding staircase to the second floor, dumping the thing in the middle of our laundry room. The day after we got back, a different guy would be coming to unpack the machine and hook it up. Yes, we wanted to be back for that; we certainly had enough dirty laundry that needed our attention. Would our new washing machine last as long as our old one? A better question: who would be the last one standing: me, our new appliance, or Shekhi the cat – now about sixteen months old? If it’s me, I’ll let you know – assuming you’re still in the running.

Next on the agenda was supposed to be my pre-op appointment at Hadassah Ein-Kerem Wed. morning Aug. 25, bright and early. But, while the disabled community was not on strike, the hospitals – some of them, at least – were. To be precise, they were only going to handle emergencies starting that Wed. morning, meaning that my appointment was on hold. (I’m not going to attempt to explain in detail what the strike was all about; suffice to say, it was about moneys owed to the hospitals by the government and not handed over, leaving said facilities flat broke.) And if my pre-op appointment was cancelled, we had every reason to assume that the procedure itself, scheduled for the following Thurs., Sep. 2, was also called off.

Now I’m sure somebody out there is thinking: why on earth would any sensible person, of his own free will, schedule a medical procedure for four days before Rosh Hashana? I have to admit that by this time the very same thought was crossing my mind. But that wasn’t what I had been thinking a month before when we set the date. I just wanted to get the procedure – which I had decided to do all the way back in Feb. – over and done with. If I could squeeze it in before the fall holiday season started, so much the better. But now in the cold light of day, it began to dawn on me that delaying it, giving myself more time to prepare for the holidays, might not be such a bad idea.

Then I got a message on my phone; the pre-op appointment was rescheduled for the following Wed., Sep. 1, the day before the scheduled procedure. Then I got another message; the procedure was set for Wed. as well. What?

Fortunately, we had someone to talk to, Keren, the woman who had done all the scheduling up to this point. Barbara called her; she did some checking and discovered that both the pre-op and the procedure were scheduled on the same day. BUT, I was to show up at the hospital on Tues.

But the strike is still going on! We kept checking. Maybe it’s over; apparently not. And if it’s not over, then how can they schedule me to come in? Either way, it would be helpful, more than helpful, if we knew what was going on, so I could organize my cooking schedule for the holiday. No surprise, the strike was still in effect, I got a message Mon. afternoon, cancelling the appointments for Wed.

And that’s where we started, some 850 words ago, with me on the couch, Tues, at 1:15, about to tackle the crossword puzzle, when Barbara’s cell phone rang. I could hear snatches of the conversation, at least Barbara’s response to, Where are you? He’s supposed to be here. The doctor is waiting for him. It was the very same Keren, calling to find out where I was. The fact that I had received a message from the same hospital not to come didn’t matter. I was supposed to be there.

I CAN’T DEAL WITH THIS! If it had been up to me, I wouldn’t have budged off the couch until Hell froze over or the strike ended – whichever came first. But not my other half. She bounded upstairs and started collecting whatever I would need for a hospital stay. She essentially bullied me to get ready. Finish your coffee, get your shoes on, and get ready to go. Don’t forget your mask. My repeating what I couldn’t deal with in no lessened her resolution. Wisdom is knowing when you have no choice in the matter. We left and waited for the bus.

Did I have any confidence that anything would come of our excursion? Not exactly. I had to call Iris, who was supposed to be coming over at 3:30 for a demonstration on how to use a French press, that I was on my way to Ein Kerem. But should I notify Nachum? I had first told him that I wouldn’t be available Wed. for his shiur, then I said I would be available. Why don’t I just wait? If and when I am actually lying in a hospital bed, then and only then would I let him know.

Going into the hospital at Ein Kerem is, shall we say, somewhat out of the ordinary, as in you have to go through a mall (not a huge mall, but a mall, nonetheless) to get to the hospital. Then you find yourself in an enormous lobby, perhaps the size of a football field, which serves to connect the original building with the new one. The admissions office in that lobby – where we were told to go – was closed; we had arrived after 3PM. That’s it; we’re too late; let’s go home. Barbara, being made of sterner stuff, headed over to the information desk, where all lost and confused souls eventually wind up. We were sent to another office in the old building. At least we knew our way, where we had been for all of our many out-patient appointments over the years. Up the ramp to the right, all the way to the end of a long corridor to a bank of slower-than-molasses elevators, up to the second floor, where, by a process of elimination, we found where we were supposed to be. Needless to say, the young ladies working there, at the end of their shift, were surprised to see us. One of them called up the Urology department and confirmed that, yes, we were supposed to be there; a doctor was waiting for us. They processed our paperwork, and one of the women kindly showed us the way to the new building, where we had never been, and which was a lot more soothing to the eye than the claustrophobic corridors where we had just been. Plus, the elevators zipped up and down in real time.

We found our way to the nurses station in the Urology department. Were we expected? Not by the looks on their faces. We’re on strike; why are you here?  Yes, we had heard vague rumors to that effect. Nonetheless, we had been summoned at 1:15 to show up. Plus, the office we had just been to had processed our paperwork and sent us up. One of the nurses, a kindly Russian soul, took our stuff and went off to inquire. Five minutes later, she returned. Guess what! They were still on strike.  Nothing would be happening that day. Go back to the office where you had been and collect your hit-hayvut (a document in which our health care provider, Maccabi, commits to paying for any treatment required).

We re-traced our steps, down the elevator, around the corridor into the lobby, up the ramp to the old building, through the corridor, wait for the slow-as-molasses elevators, back to the office where we had started, where we waited to retrieve the appropriate document. While we were there, Barbara had an idea. Fred, check your messages; see if there’s anything from the hospital. What do you know; seventeen minutes before – probably while we were standing in the Urology department awaiting our fate – the hospital had sent me a message canceling my appointments.

What do you do? There are choices, you know. One option is to throw a hissy-fit, pointing out the obvious, that someone(s) in the hospital had totally screwed up,all the while raising my blood pressure to the danger level and accomplishing not much else. Or we can take it in stride. I’m not fighting for a seat on the last flight out of Afghanistan; I’m not sitting in a House in New Orleans, literally power-less for the next month with the city under water; I’m not on a ventilator in a COVID ward because I listened to the wrong people. We lost an afternoon’s worth of time, but there are worse things than that.

However, on the brighter side of things, I am able to give an up-to-the-minute report on the progress of the light rail construction from the current last stop at Mount Herzl to the projected destination, the very same hospital at Ein Kerem. I think I’m as qualified as the next guy, having been to the hospital for out-patient exams and treatment a number of times during the last several years since they started this endeavor. What do you know! They have actually laid fifty meters or so of track – enough for the current mayor of Jerusalem to have a photo op, as if he were actually being involved in the work. At the rate they’re going…. (For comparison’s sake, the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad going from Iowa to California, a distance of over 1,000 miles, took about six years. To be fair, work on the light rail is always slowed down by the on-going search for antiquities and by the complications of electrifying the entire route; but, on the other hand, they’re not going through the Rocky Mountains.) Maybe my appointments will be rescheduled before they finish the light rail, although I wouldn’t mind being able to go the entire way by train.

I should mention that a week or so later, Barbara realized that the hit-hayvut we got back from the obliging young lady in the hospital office was for somebody else, some dude in Meuhedet, one of the other health plans. Barbara was able to go the Maccabi website and print out another copy of what I need. Let’s hope the other guy was too. I’d hate to think of him as hit-hayvut-less.

Coda – The Snooty Neighbor Who Did Tshuva

When my original pre-op appointment was canceled, I felt free to resume my normal near-the-end-of-the-week routine, heading to the shuk and making my obligatory stop at Power Coffeeworks. Indeed, I was on a mission, having an important message to convey to Brandon. Careful readers of my last article will remember that among the treasures we were bringing up to The Levines was a pound bag of Starbucks Sumatran coffee, which Barbara L. mixes judiciously with Brandon’s house blend. There’s no question that the Sumatran bean adds a distinctive flavor, a certain je ne sais pas that Barbara enjoys. The problem is that, like other Starbucks coffee, they kill the beans with kindness. In a latte or some such, it’s not so noticeable, but imbibed in its unadorned state, its over-roastedness becomes obvious. Why can’t Brandon get some Sumatran beans and give them his special treatment?  We would all be in coffee nirvana. Which is what I asked Brandon. The trouble, he said, is that the Sumatran beans he could obtain would not live up to his standards; indeed, he had similar questions about the product Starbucks was offering.

Then Brandon told me the following story. When he and Stephanie first moved to Efrat and were in the process of opening their store, one of their new neighbors told him the following: I will certainly be your friend, but I will never be your customer. This coffee connoisseur was getting his beans sent to him from The States. (Brandon didn’t remember whether it was from Starbucks, Trader Joe, or some such.) The neighbor just knew that what he was getting was better than what Brandon would be selling. But there came a time when this persnickety individual was in between shipments, and, out of desperation, got some coffee from Power Coffeeworks, just to tide him over. Several weeks later, Stephanie got a video from their neighbor. There he was, taking his coffee imported from The States and using it as fertilizer for his lawn. Needless to say, he has been ordering his coffee beans from Brandon ever since. The point being that, hard as it might be to admit our mistakes, once in a while we ought to do it and go about our lives wiser and happier. Which, right after Yom Kippur, might be something to consider for the year to come.

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