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Brownsteins in the Land of Israel
The Washing Machine That Refused To Be Replaced!
August 18, 2003
Below is the installment that, over time, has been compared in anticipation to "Who shot JR?" Believe me, JR had nothing on this. (We all knew it was Sue Ellen.). Yes, below is the much anticipated Chapter 5: "The Washing Machine That Refused To Be Replaced!", with a name so long that even the story refused to fit entirely on the e-mail subject line.
First, though, last week I mentioned that we were blessed with a visit from our niece Carole from Paris. Here she is again, showing off her boyfriend who is learning at yeshiva.
Also I mentioned that my sister's (Israeli) husband and her two kids from Portland (Oregon) would be coming for a visit. Here we all are at my new favorite restaurant, "Burger's Bar". Attention anyone who come to visit us: Burger's Bar is on me.
Here I am at the Western Wall with my nephew Noam.
Next is a picture that I also took at the Western Wall.
Finally, before we get started though, (I feel like Bob Edwards or Nina Totenberg), a few of your letters.
Avraham from Hancock Park (Los Angeles) writes: "Luv ya, baby. luv ya! Keep those cards and letters coming. One correction: "The only thing left of the Holy Temple now is the Western Wall of it, mentioned above." The Western Wall is a retaining wall, not a part of the Beis HaMikdash. The mountain upon which it was built (Mount Moriah (Mo-ree-uh)) did not have a large buildable area, so they (Herod, I think) built a big box (4 walls) around it and then filled-in the empty space between the mountain and the walls -- thus creating a large, flat, table-top-like area on which to build the new, larger Beis HaMikdash."
Bill From Pico-Robertson (Los Angeles) writes: "okay, I'll bite, but only because you invited corrections: 1. spell it Yahrtzeit; it's german (y'mach sh'mam) 2. Kotel isn't the holiest place; Temple Mt. is. 3. Kotel isn't wall of Temple, but of entire complex. Temple was inside, and all walls are gone. 4. On T.B. 1492, the Jews were expelled from Spain; I don't believe it was the beginning of the Inquis.; I don't think the Inq. began that year. 5. T.B. was also beginning of WWI, which is considered beginning of Holocaust because WWI caused and was naturally followed by WWII. Aren't you glad you asked?"
Murrel from Jerusalem (Israel) -- a two time contributor -- writes: "I was amazed about all the events connected to the 9th of AV and discussed them with a friend of mine, Chaim Feder, who works in Jewish education. This was his response. Understand that dates in ancient history are really difficult, but the traditions in this case hold very well. Tradition has it that the edict for the expulsion of the Jews of Spain (NOT the inquisition which began some 200 years before and was directed to ALL infidels, not only Jews!) was issued on 9 Av. Finally, see this for the Warsaw Ghetto uprising: http://www.ushmm.org/outreach/wgupris.htm According to this site the uprising started in April. What do I know, just a lost soul from Kentucky."
"The Washing Machine That Refused To Be Replaced!"
Upon arrival in Israel, Sara, the kids and I went to visit our newly rented home in Jerusalem, the Holy City. (We were about to become holy renters.) Also, we were looking forward to meeting our lovely New York bound Jerusalem landlords, Dani and Michelle, with whom we had spend many months corresponding. They are exactly what we expected: very nice and just a little bit frantic. Towards the end of the handoff session, Dani mentions that the washing machine had broken and that it can't be fixed. Bummer, huh? I mean, here we are, fresh off the boat, the certain glow emanating from us of "nothing's-going-to-bring-us-down", (especially four-year-old Yehuda).
So do we care about a silly washing machine? I certainly could not have cared less, until Sara, my wife, showed me the suitcase full of dirty laundry from two days of travel plus three days in a hotel. Even then, it was like, "you call this a hardship? Fifty years ago our predecessors, with their few measly belongings precariously strapped to their breaking backs, climbed over snowy, perilous Asian mountaintops to forge a new life in the Promised Land." I was not going to break a sweat over this appliance.
So Dani said, "I bought a new one a few days ago and arranged for it to be replaced. The new one is paid for. They just need to deliver it." Cool. Hey Dani, when should we expect it? "I've been expecting it for a few weeks now. They are a little disorganized." Cool. Hey Dani, when should we expect it? "I've called several times. They have missed a few delivery dates. Should be anytime, soon." Cool. Hey Dani, when should we expect it? "I don't really know. Here's the number of the company I bought it from. Here's my number in America. I'm leaving in the morning. Call if you have any problems." Cool. Again, what did I care?
I was settling into a 2000 year dream. This was nothing. We have sinks. We have water. We have soap. We have … dry cleaners! I wasn't complaining. "Bon voyage, Dani." (That's French. I learned that after being married to a French woman for 10 years -- or was it the "Love Boat?") I almost followed that by, "When you're in America, don't take any wooden nickels," which has really lost any of, well, its humor, as if it were ever funny. At least it's better than, "break a leg". Hey Dani, break a leg? I'm sure a retired Israeli Army Captain would find that amusing. Anyway, "Don't worry about the washer, Dani. Just have an easy absorption." That's what it is officially called in Hebrew here in Israel: "Klitah" or absorption, when you move to Israel. And this make a lot of sense, considering the four million Jews who have been absorbed into Israeli society since 1948. Somehow, however, I get the feeling that Dani's klitah in Westchester is going to be about as different from mine in Jerusalem as Mork was different from Mindy. "Bye Dani. Bye Michelle. Thanks!"
So the next day, with great emotion, we arrived with our
bags in hand to our first home in the Holy Land.
I carried Sara over the threshold. Batya
tried that with Yehuda, but the gesture isn't quite the same, especially after
she dropped him of the shiny new floors. "See
Honey, they really are hard wood!" Anyhow, since our lift hadn't arrived
(which will be a chapter its own), we put our measly 14 bags and boxes just
anywhere and called it home. The
next few days are a blur or official madness, all in a language you don't speak. We went to this office (misrad) for that form for this child
for that insurance for this certificate for that misrad for this for that for
this for that for this … blah, blah, blah.
Sara and I took turns saying, "smiles everyone!" During this
flurry of taxis and taxes, I didn't once think about the washing machine.
Then there is "Mrs. Klitah" (Marlene) next door,
whose husband was featured in the last installment for having taken me around
the Old City on Tisha B'av. "The
Klitahs" have been our little miracles in melodrama called "Jerusalem
91081". In terms of laundry,
specifically, Mrs. Klitah repeatedly and convincingly insisted that we use her
big, American-style washer. This
was a no-brainer for me, because, of course, she offered, and also, of course,
because her washer is in the same room as her computer with a nifty broadband
connection. As you know from
Chapter 2, I was still trying to work through the regular phone thing at the
time, and I wasn't even close to good "connectivity", as is today's
lexicon. So over to the "Mrs.
Klitah's" washer with 10 days of laundry (two American loads; six Israeli;
two important hours online). Laundry
pressure eased considerably.
A few days later I got a call from Captain Dani, the landlord,
making sure that we were happy and that everything was smooth.
Dani also lets me know that he has been in touch with the washing machine
guys a few more times over the last few days and that, even though they had
apparently again missed several appointments, the machine episode would be
ending very soon. Cool.
Hey Dani, when should we expect it?
"Soon. Here's the
number. You call them. Bye."
Okay, I'll call the Israeli store and speak to someone who probably doesn't
speak English, about a washing machine sold to someone else, with no
documentation, and I'll do better than Dani?
No, I decided to let it ride. Something
would happen and, obviously, I had a lot of other fish to fry.
a few days later, while at some redundant, nonsensical bureaucratic re-meeting
about this form or that, Sara called to tell me that the washing machine
arrived! Terrific, honey, no more Internet at the "Klitah's".
Not so fast, Rich, dear: "he dropped it off. I had to beg him to bring it upstairs."
"And?" "And then he turned to leave." "And?" "And nothing. He said he did his job. He gave me the number of the next people, the installers, who will mess with us for a few weeks, and he left."
Cool. More Internet next door. Someone told me recently that Prell shampoo (or one of the other golden oldies), made its fortune by adding the words "rinse and repeat" to the directions, as if anyone really needs shampoo directions. I mean, it's not like I want to do all this observational humor here, or anything, but how tough is it to shampoo without directions. Kids today can effortlessly go online, find a pre-written term paper, and submit it as their own for an "A", but we need shampoo instructions. Next will be toothpaste instructions. Anyway, the point here is, "rinse and repeat". Dani and the new installers call each other, play Isareli Phone Tag, set appointments, break commitments, and disappoint each other for a while; I get kind updates from Dani, who also has plenty of other fish to fry, himself, in Scarsdale or White Whale or whatev.
Then, a few days later, while at some redundant, nonsensical bureaucratic re-meeting about this form or that, Sara called to tell me that the washing machine installer dude arrived! Cool. However, it was not Sara's trademark sweet, submissive little French voice.
No, this is her, "I've-had-enough-of-this-crap" voice. "What's wrong, honey?"
"What's wrong? What's wrong! The guy came, he said that we would have to take the door off the room where the washer was to go and we would have to remove the old one."
"Okay, so did you tell him that we are new here?
Did you? Did you tell him
that we are helpless little Americans and that you would be really, really,
really grateful if he would help you out, just this once?"
"Yes, and I offered him money, too."
"And he gave me his number and told me to call him when the door was off and the other was removed."
"Good job, honey. You really kicked Israeli butt."
So the cool new (German, yuck!) washing unit sat at the top of the stairs for several days and the next "rinse and repeat" cycle proceeded.
I started wondering: what does it mean to install a washing machine? How tough could it be to remove a door and move a flimsy European washer out of the way? I built a Sukkah. I built computers. I built a company! I can do this. After all, it's not metric, or anything.
So I decided to start with removing the door.
I've taken bolts out of hinges before, so that was, for sure, the
starting place. Yeah, this was
harder than before, especially since all of my manly tools were on the lift.
About an hour later, with Yehuda taking turns pounding my leg with the
hammer, during my rests, the door was off.
Next was moving the machine. The
dryer was on top. This seemed
daunting until I realized that it was only about 40 lbs.
No sweat. Then came
unhooking and removing the old one. Let's
see: take the plug out of the socket on the wall, unscrew water hoses, pull out
drain hose, lift the whole unit, slide it, grunt a little, and beam with
I was Sara's hero. But
das German vasher vas still not installed.
We called for installation. None
was forthcoming. I waited a few
days more for installer dude to make good on his commitment.
Then I decided (when the hampers were full and all my e-mail
had been answered) to unwrap the new unit and see exactly what it was all about.
"Honey, I think I'm going to circumcise the new baby, like Shraga (Rabbi Simmons) did." "Great", was Sara's surprising answer almost five years earlier.
"Honey, I think I'm going to install the washer." "Really? Do you think you can? Are you qualified? What is something goes wrong?" Yehuda seems fine. "Okay." (See, in her mind, the issue here with installing a washer was not a commandment, it is elective.)
So Sara and I unwrapped the patient, followed the explicit drawings concerning removing the bracing that kept it still during shipment. German instructions are very thorough. After unwrapping, Sara and I slid the washer to the doorless door. Push. Push. But it would not fit, still. This could not be so complicated, though. So I looked it over and decided that the only solution was be to remove the washer's door which was sticking out in the front. I undid the two screws, removed the window/door and we gently slid the washer in the intended room. Back on with the window/door, push washer into place, put 40 pound dryer on top, and, again, I was Sara's hero. Then I attached the water hose, stuck the drainage hose into the drainage pipe, and plugged it in. We then did a test load and that was that.
Almost finished, except for the pesky old washer. I would have had no idea what to do with it in L.A., but in Israel? What does one do with an old washer in Israel? The answer came a few days later, with the old washer still standing guard at the top of the stairs, when Marla Feather (Shraga's sister) and her husband, Avraham, tp came over for a visit. Avraham is an Israeli appliance repairman. So, during the visit I graciously asked Avraham check the newly installed patient, just to be sure there was no bleeding. He confirmed that I did a very professional job. But what should I do with the old unit? Is it repairable? No. It's dead. No, you want it? No. It's dead. What should I do? "Put it outside, on your sidewalk, and it will be gone within two hours." But it's dead. "Trust me." No. "Yes." I could have left the Hope Diamond on my sidewalk in L.A. and people would have ignored it for months. But Avraham was wrong; it took three hours.
Anyway, thanks again for reading this far.
I appreciate and look forward to your comments and greetings.
The part of the appliance dude was played brilliantly by Yisrael Heller.
As you know, we are in the middle of a membership drive, so
please get me the e-mail addresses of people who you want to add.
(Let them know ahead of time, so I don't get in trouble with the
Please stay tuned for Chapter 6: The Big Yellow Taxi --
All the best,
PO Box 8130
CURRENT DISTRIBUTION: 240 worldwide
NOTE: No mechanical Animals were harmed in the photography of this reenactment. All characters are purely fictional. If you want to add someone to this list, or remove yourself, just e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and let him know. Please freely distribute to those with too much time on their hands.
Copyright (c) - Rich Brownstein 2003
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