I am sitting, as usual, in a cafe lying to myself about being productive and getting work done. The truth is, I haven’t looked at work in the past 45 minutes since my arrival. Today, I have an excuse. Although I went to sleep (at 4AM) with the very best intentions of waking up and greeting the world with a happy proactive face, I, in fact, woke up this morning with a terribly sore throat. I had it coming. I lied about being sick last week so that I didn’t have to go tutor in North Tel Aviv, and now the karma police has caught up to me and I am actually on the verge of illness.
This is what comes of burning one’s candle at both ends. Staying up with Ben until 4am then going to work at 9am – not healthy. Sleeping until 3pm, going to bed at 6am after drinking – not smart. Oh well. As my former roommate from college used to say, “you play, you pay.”
Moaning and groaning about my physical state is not what brings me to the blog-o-sphere this fine day, though. What I would like to do, is bring these people sitting at the table in front of me into the foreground. Let me paint you a picture:
Four people, older but not elderly sit at a table surrounded by shopping bags. They are two men and two women, obviously two sets of married couples. For the last 45 minutes, I watched them get situated, sit down, read the menu, order coffee, then sit together in silence as the two men read the newspaper and the two women played on their phones. I kept waiting for the ice to break and the heated, passionate conversation to begin that I’m so used to witnessing in public forums such as this.
Nothing. The coffee arrived, and still nothing. Stir, stir, stir, sip. More silence.
What is going on here? Everything I thought I knew to be true about Israelis was being shaken! One of the things I love about this culture is the absolute need to express exactly what’s on your mind at the very moment it pops into your head! I frequently would watch older couples, like these, sitting and having heated political conversations or heavy discussions about the latest fashion trend, or passionately sharing a juicy bit of gossip about their mutual friends (nothing they wouldn’t say directly to their face, of course). But, here, sitting in front of me is the anomaly of Israeli couples, spending time “together” but each in their own world – so similar to Americans. I didn’t like it. I felt extremely uncomfortable in this scenario.
Then, something magical happened: one of them began to speak – German! Then, they all began to have a conversation – in German! They’re not Israeli after all! They are tourists!
With a tremendous sense of relief and understanding, order was instantly restored to my universe.
And for those of you who are curious, the new conversation lasted approximately 19 seconds before it was dropped and everyone returned to their own little world. This time, with the men on their cell phones and the women examining the contents of their shopping bags.