January 2, 2013

Fat Phone Bills

When we first moved here, the episode described below would cause us untold grief. Now that ‘we’ve been there, done that,’ these occurrences produce a strange type of  comfort for, other than the weather, they are the few things one can predict in this most unpredictable country. 

Who ever said Israelis were bad at sales? Ever tried to return something at a store? Well, I will have to leave that for another entry.

Yesterday, we went to our cell phone provider with a phone bill so thick, it looked more like an airport novel than a bill.  Just as fine Israeli dust cakes up over time, we too seem to have collected some extra phone numbers and expenses over the years.

We explained our problem to the woman behind the counter. It was a small issue, really. We had added a phone number of a foreign student to our bill and we simply wanted to remove it. He went back to Canada for good so we had to cancel his number. Easy, yes?


We told the woman our story.

“I cannot do this for you,” she answered. “You have to call a special number.”

“Fine,” my husband said, brandishing his sparkling iphone. “But I am doing this in front of you in case I have trouble with the language.”

She nodded and sat there staring at her varnished nails.

After listening to a complex menu of multi-leveled choices in Hebrew, Arabic and Russian and after pressing five sequences of menu options, he was on hold. We waited. She studied her nails.

Finally someone live came on. The representative asked for his phone number and identity number, which he had already programmed into the phone via the complex menu.

As soon as the woman heard my husband’s accent, she decided she could not understand what he way saying. Was it his accent or the problem that she refused to comprehend?

This is when the nail admirer came into the picture. She verified that yes, we wanted to cancel the number by basically repeating the same words my husband had used.

After he got back on the phone, she still refused to listen to us. She talked about letting us keep the number in case the student came back…at which point my frantically infuriated husband stomped his feet and screamed, “Let’s just say the guy is, ummm,  like, dead.  Do you understand? Dead? Dead people can’t call.”

She thought about this and then said she could not cancel the account.

“Someone will have to call you back.”

“Call me back? When?” my husband asked in disbelief. 

“In ten minutes.“

“’Rea-lly,” he said cynically.

“Bevadai, of course,” she assured him.

We left the counter and the nail-buffing lady and walked out into the sunshine.

We both made a harrumph sound. ‘Someone will call us back?” We had heard this one before. We knew this line.

We looked at our watches. Ten minutes passed. No call. Half an hour passed. No call. One day went by. No call.

After two days, my husband picked up the phone and waded through the entire automated menu again, clicking one, then two, inputting his id number, his phone number and the ill-fated phone number. Again.

And when someone live and breathing finally came to the phone, she asked the same questions all over again.

He explained the problem. Again, of course, as there was no record of this conversation on her computer.

You want to cancel this number le gamre? (A Hebrew phrase that means ‘for good.’)

Yes, le gamre.

And then she asked, Mea ahuz? (100 percent?)

‘Le gamre. Mea ahuz, ‘ my husband screamed into the phone, adding, “I do not have time for this.”

“But if you pay just eight shekels a month, we can keep the number for you, in case…"

“In case? In case, what?” he shouted and stomped. “Let’s just say the guy who had this number is dead…and is not coming back until the Moshiach comes!”

She finally understood. Israel is probably the only country where you can casually converse about the messiah without being suspected of schizophrenia.

She did not use the line about having someone else call back. She said the number would be disconnected. Will it be done? Guess we have to wait and see how fat the next phone bill is. 

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