Just as I’m getting comfortable living here, I had a “Not in America” experience at a car wash recently. I thought the toughest part would be finding a full service car wash near our apartment in Tel Aviv. I know space is severely limited in the city, so I was unsure if there would be anything a short drive away. I lucked out and found one that was about 20 minutes away by car (maybe 10 by bike as everything faster on a bike than by car in this city.) Mega Wash was finally going to get our car looking presentable after a month looking like Jim and the kids had a road trip to Eilat and it had not been cleaned since.
I was greeted at Mega Wash by a man who said something to me in Hebrew. I asked if he spoke English and he just laughed. Most people speak English in Tel Aviv, but a lot of people don’t…he was one of them. After trying to understand each other for 5 minutes, and several honking horns behind me later, I finally realized he wanted me to put my car in neutral and get out.
Once out of the car, I went to the counter. There was a woman sitting behind it, but she didn’t look up as I approached. I asked if this was where I pay. She looked at me strangely before asking the customer behind me if he spoke English. Luckily, he did!
I told him I was there to pay. She asked him what type of wash I wanted. “What Type?” He said. “Outside? Inside? Inside AND Outside?” I said, “Oh yes, inside and outside.” Then she asked hm to ask me if I had a Jeep. I said no, it was a white Mercedes. He laughed and explained “Jeep” is slang word in Hebrew for SUV. But since I didn’t have a “Jeep” a small car is called “Private”. So I paid for my “Private” car and waited.
I was still close to the counter when the same man paid and uttered the word VIP. I thought VIP might be like a frequent car wash membership, but I noticed he paid more. I asked what the VIP got you and he said they just wipe down everything inside like the seats, dashboard, etc. “Oh!” I said, “I want that too!” So, I paid an extra 50 shekels and got my VIP wash.
The man told me not to forget to give them my ticket when my car came. When my car came, I walked out with ticket in hand, but a woman jumped into my car first. She was speaking to them in Hebrew so I didn’t understand, I just saw her holding up a ticket to show the man. I told him that was my car and he said something to the woman in Hebrew. She responded holding up a ticket. I started to panic! This woman was trying to steal my car and told the man in Hebrew it was hers! I told him again, loudly and several times, THIS IS MY CAR! THIS IS MY CAR! I started to panic. The nice translating man approached and said, “It’s ok…she WORKS here and is just going to park your car.” I could not have been more embarrassed! Everywhere I looked there were men working around me. The woman was dressed in a skirt and nothing about her said she also worked there. Again, MORTIFIED!
Looking back, I think if I spoke the language I would have been able to hear certain cues that indicated the woman was part of the staff. Without those cues…it was one of the most embarrassing situations I have experienced here!