Now that I’ve been living in Holy Land Central (HLC or “Israel”) for a few years, the differences between my former U.S. life versus the adopted Middle East Alternate Plan are becoming more acutely pronounced each time I travel to my parents’ for vacation.
One of the most obvious differences lies in the concept of customer service.
The U.S. model seems to be moving away from “the customer is always right” and thank goodness for that, after all, because it’s a lie. But even in Lebanon, Ohio versus Tel Aviv, Israel, behind-the-counter types are more compliant when compared with their Middle Eastern counterparts.
On July 4th, North America’s Independence Day, I headed to the local outdoor pool to swim laps. It was a chilly gray, drizzly day – 66 degrees Fahrenheit (19 Celsius).
When I entered the half-Olympic sized pool area that on sunny days hosts dozens of exuberant kids diving from the boards, scaling the climbing wall and swooshing down the slide, I was the lone patron.
The place was deserted save 3 front desk attendants and 8 on-duty lifeguards – three of them sitting aloft in rain diverting, umbrella-protected chairs dutifully eyeballing. . . an empty pool. Two other lifeguards stood poolside with life-saving rescue tubes strapped across their torsos also staring at. . . water with nothing in it.
Coming from where I come from, i.e. HLC with its lacking sentry-like sense of obligation, I was a bit taken aback. WTF? Where is the common sense in this? I internally dialogued, dutifully pulling my 750 meters through the nippy water.
Once finished, I threw a towel over my shoulders, slipped into my clogs and headed for the parking lot. I was still solo at the club.
“I’m really sorry for not having the concession open while you were here,” a congenial fellow carrying a tray of plastic-sealed hamburger buns remarked in passing as I headed to my car.
Um, it’s okay. Really. I replied, too stunned to come up with anything more intelligent. It seems kind of unnecessary.
“Well thanks for understanding anyway,” he countered.
I chuckled as I got behind the driver’s wheel and switched on the heat. Had this been where I LIVE in Tel Aviv . . Well heck, it could’ve been a jam-packed-maximum-capacity day at the club with a line stretching to Oman and the concessions guy on a half-hour coffee break but there’d have been neither regret nor apology.
And the lifeguards standing guard over an empty pool? Well that WAS a trifle excessive by any standard.
On a different note for my Israel-dwelling friends: Go see Wall-E when it opens there on the 10th. Yeah I know it looks like a kid flick but it’s multi-level with a somewhat formidable message.
My wee self-schvitz: Years ago I had the good fortune of interviewing John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton for a Reuters story I was working on; in continued deference to their brilliance as a creative team, I’m semi-plugging Wall-E as the latest notch in the duo’s collectively expanding belt of film gems.