Car Wash or Carjacking?

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!

Does this ring a bell? Have something to share?