Sunday, March 29, 2009

Artists, Architects and Plumbers - Part 3

22 March 2009
Tel Aviv

As I sit here writing my way through the week just passed, Danny the Technician is trying to put the washing machine back together. He's replaced the motor and solenoid for far more money than I would spend on a 10 year old machine but that was the owner's call. This is Danny's third and, hopefully, last trip to the apartment this week as, before we get anything fixed here, we need to work our way through a system compartmentalized into narrow, carefully protected jurisdictions on a level of hairsplitting that seems to be the G-d given talent of my tribe. Someone once said that a sign of Zionism's success would be when thieves and hookers are Jews speaking Hebrew. Perhaps of equal importance are the plumbers, technicians, electricians, building maintenance crews and the like who are Jews speaking Hebrew.

This week both our washing machine and our second toilet (for the second time) decided to break down. Getting something fixed in Israel needs to be approached with patience and good humor. Just consider it part of your Israel adventure and your blood pressure will do just fine. Part of the fun is the jurisdictional disputes. Say, for example, that you rent your apartment, the owner is out of the country and you have to go through the agent. The agent's first response will be to insist that you call building maintenance or the Va'ad (building board, everything here is a form of co-op) to see if they will handle it. Now some things really do belong to the building, like the mold that grew through the walls in our former abode. It’s not clear who owns the connection between the toilet and the main plumbing system. However, the inside flushing mechanism of the toilet is definitely the apartment owner's problem, unless the head of building maintenance is in a good mood.

The plumber was here last Friday to fix the leak around the base of the second toilet. Building maintenance had actually given this one a try earlier in the week. But merely laying down a new line of caulk was not enough. So the agent had to bring in an outside plumber at some substantial expense to the owner to reconnect the toilet and the main waste pipe. After he had completed the repairs, he informed us that we could not use the toilet until Sunday. He then unstopped the drain on the sink in the main bathroom. For this repair we paid 80 shekels. Liz thought it was high. Doing quick math in my head I realized that I was being asked to pay $20 for a plumber to make a house call. Have you called a plumber lately? If you have, then you know why I smiled, handed over the cash and said nothing.

But what seems to be outside the jurisdiction of all these experts is cleaning up after themselves. I got to dump out whatever awful mess came out of our drain and put away all the folding chairs, cleaning implements and buckets that had to come out of the utility closet so our washing machine could be put back into service. I can hardly wait to get back to New Jersey where, I'm told, I have one broken toilet and sliding patio doors damaged by a squirrel trying to dig his way out of the house.

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