Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Big 3-0

Turning 30 is a huge milestone. When I was a kid, most of my friends’ parents were all in their 30’s, leading me to believe that 30+ is old. My own parents were in their 40’s and 50’s when I was younger, so they were obviously ancient. Not to mention my grandmothers, one of whom was in her 80’s and the other in her 90’s. They were one step away from being living mummies.
Obviously as I’ve gotten older I’ve had to readjust my thinking a bit, especially as I have many single friends in their 30’s who still go out and have fun. In fact, there are some advantages to being 30. For one, I’m old enough to not have to take anyone’s crap anymore. If you’re talking nonsense, I now feel that it is acceptable for me to let you know that you’re talking nonsense. Also people tend to take you more seriously when you tell them you’re 30, as opposed to being in your 20’s. But basically, those are the only advantages.
I guess having some actual life experience is nice too. My sister asked me on my birthday what I had learned in my 30 years on this planet. My response was to not walk down the stairs while holding something in the dark. In hindsight, there were probably many other answers I could have given her. So after some serious pontificating, I have come up with a list of things that I have learned over the years.

1) Never make anyone tell you a secret if they don’t want to tell you, and if they want to tell you the secret, don’t let them. There’s a good reason why it was a secret in the first place. No one wants to get whacked because Tony couldn’t keep his big mouth shut in Sal’s Deli and blabbed to everyone where the money was hidden.

2) People are resistant to being dissuaded from their own opinion, even by a thoughtful, well stated, logical argument. This is why I mostly don’t argue with people about stuff like politics, religion, and social issues. And when I do, I generally regret it because neither of us has changed our opinions and we both now think the other is a complete idiot.

3) Your mother is always right. Even when she’s wrong, she’s still right. Case in point is this story:
I was walking with my mother... We argued about which direction to take. She took the long way and I took the short way. She got there a few seconds after me, but I got pooped on by a bird on the way. So she won that round.

4) Most modern art was probably made by accident. Like when someone dropped something into or onto something else and instead of chucking it, they made contemporary art out of lemons. For example, this sculpture was actually a lab accident. Apparently many types of plastic melt when you run them through an autoclave.

5) Never wear flip flops outside. They will invariably rip at the most inopportune time. Like, 2 hours away from home by foot in the middle of nowhere. Flip flops are the shitty roommates of shoes- totally unreliable.

6) There’s no manual on being an adult and no one really knows what they’re doing. However, paying your bills and having clean underwear are a good sign that you’re doing a passable job at the whole “adult” thing.

7) Life is too short not to be weird. Surround yourself with people that entertain you. Otherwise you’ll have to take up drinking out of boredom, like me.

8) Fashion is a social construct promoted by a bunch of old French guys who I’m pretty sure are just sipping champagne on the Riviera and laughing at the rest of us that we actually fell for it. Like seriously, what the hell even is this?! 

9) If you are unhappy about something in your life, you have 3 options- a) do nothing and continue suffering b) change your attitude about it and learn to accept it c) change whatever it is that you’re unhappy about. Either way, don’t keep complaining to me about it. Unless you want to pay me 200 shekels per hour.

10) Animals are way better than humans. With animals, you pretty much know what you’re going to get. Unconditional love (on the condition that you feed them of course) and companionship. I’ve never had a cat ditch me to hang out with his other friends or break up with me because “it just isn’t working.”

So these are the things I’ve learned. Thank you all for letting me share my wisdom with you. If you have anything to add, I’d love to hear it.

Friday, September 1, 2017


 Well I’ve been officially accepted to a masters program at HU. After 6.25 years of higher education. I’d like to thank everyone who made this possible, mainly G-d, because I’m pretty sure there was some divine intervention involved here. Also my parents for being so supportive, and keeping me fed and laundered for way more years than any adult should expect. Also for allowing me to loot, pillage, and plunder the kitchen every time I come home, even now that I’m out of the house and pretending to be a real adult.
Being an adult is hard. Do you ever feel like you’ve hit your limit on being responsible for the day? Like, you’ve gone to work, cleaned the apartment, done the laundry, and then... you get the electric bill in the mail, and it just sends you over the edge. It’s the metaphorical straw that broke the camel’s back. This happens to me sometimes. I get really dramatic about it too. I’m like, no, I refuse!!! F*** you electric company, I’ve adulted enough today! I’m going to eat a bowl of ice cream for dinner and watch cat videos all evening in my pajamas.
So now, being a real adult and all, I will be in school full time and working 3 jobs. Just like all successful adults. In case you’re wondering about all those jobs, I shall elaborate. 1) still working at the lab. This is my main job and part of my degree, which is a research based degree. 2) Still working with the older woman, helping her with “technological” things- like answering emails, buying books online, and printing documents from her printer. 3) The newest of my jobs is with an organization that hosts shabbat meals, mostly Friday nights, for groups from out of the country. Jews, non-Jews- anyone who wants to experience an authentic shabbat meal. I basically do the waitressing part of the meals, the setting up beforehand, the serving of the food (catered by the industrial area outside of Ma’ale Adumim), and the clearing up afterwards. As surprising as this might sound, I’m enjoying this job quite a lot more than I thought I would. It certainly has a few perks- flexibility (I sign up on the weeks I want to work), leftovers (cooking for one is quite a pain. It’s either an omelet for dinner, or an actual meal which will end up being eaten every day for the next week), and not having to find Friday night meal plans (which were usually just me posting my pleas for food and company on Facebook Thursday night in the hopes that someone would take pity on me). The most surprising thing about the job (considering I’m not exactly what one would call a “people person”) is the sociological aspect of the job. I get to observe from the background all these groups of people from all over the world, and the families hosting them. I have so far worked with a group of respected authors and artists from the US (non-Jewish), a group of women from the Jewish Federation (incidentally they were from the NJ chapter) with a few lone soldiers in attendance (the women LOVED that), a group of international students from the Moody Bible Institute (they had LOTS of questions for the hosts- about everything from shabbat observance, to Jews’ view on the Holy Trinity, to Judaism’s take on women and feminism), an extended Jewish family from Atlanta in Israel for a bar mitzvah (they gave me their card after the meal saying that they run an organization that gives grants and funding to groups researching brain cancer), and groups of mixed families from the US, Italy, China, France, and Belgium who got matched up for a shabbat meal (Jewish and non-Jewish, with different levels of religious observance in all religions). I have no idea where they find these groups of people, or where these groups of people find us, but there are many of these meals going on all over Jerusalem on any given Friday night.
I actually have my former roommate to thank for the job. He called me up one day and asked if I was interested in making some extra money. The offer sounded a bit suspicious, so I asked him if it involved the global drug trade or organ trafficking. He responded, “no, of course not! Don’t be ridiculous. It’s actually prostitution.”
In other news, I’m taking 2 years worth of vacation intermittently over the course of 3 weeks. In fact it may be more like 5 years worth of vacation. My parents and I just got back from a two and a half day stint in Akko. Next week I’ll be in Eilat for 3 days for a work conference (ok, so that’s not EXACTLY a vacation considering our schedule is lectures and poster sessions from 9am to 8pm every day), and perhaps a few days in Tel Aviv with my sister and her family who will be arriving in Israel when I’m in Eilat. Tina and David decided that flying with a 3 year old and a 2 month old would be a bucket of laughs, but I guess you take what you can get. In any case, it saves me from having to take an actual vacation and flying to the States.

The bottom line is that Johnny’s going to be sad and probably destroy the furniture while I’m gone. But that’s life with Johnny.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Movin’ On Up

 I lasted about half a year in my apartment in Mekor Chaim before I would admit to myself that I had to move. It took another 2 months before I could find another place (that was clean and would be ok with a large, temperamental feline, preferably not too far from where I was living, though that was more flexible). I was trying to be a bit more discerning this time around, since I had the luxury of not needing to move immediately.
I went to see an apartment that fitted my not very many requirements (in my opinion anyway) and after a half hour conversation and seeing out another, fairly irritating candidate who had come to see the apartment, the woman offered me the place. It was about 10 minutes away from where I was already living, but closer to work, my gym, and my preferred supermarket, while still being in walking distance of the Aroma at the Hadar mall. I had basically mapped out all potential locations based on their proximity to providers of that revered bean of mystical powers.
All I had to do was inform my roommates that I was moving in a month and find a subletter. Telling them was the easy part. I plied them with alcohol, and then made my announcement. They were both very surprised. Apparently they had been under the impression that I enjoy coming home to the loud thumping of techno music, of doing all the cleaning or giving up and living in filth, of being prevented from going to sleep at night by a) loud phone conversations b) noise coming from their computers c) the previously mentioned techno music, and being woken up in the morning by a) loud phone conversations b) loud music, though not necessarily techno c) alarms that don’t get turned off because I’m the only one who hears them. It would seem that these things only bothered me.
Finding a subletter for 3 months seemed like a mighty tall order. Finding someone who could put up with the mess, and didn’t mind that the living room shades were broken, or that there was no working oven or microwave and that the only way to heat anything up would be to put it in a frying pan or wait for a really hot day. Or that the roommates were 40 year old guys with peculiar sleeping habits and a penchant for spur of the moment parties. Other than that, the apartment was a steal. (And by that I mean I stole all the cleaning supplies when I left so they couldn’t clean even if they wanted to. I figured the chances that anyone would notice before next Pesach were about as slim as Johnny is fat. Considering they had to ask me where all the cleaning supplies in their apartment were during this year’s Pesach “cleaning”.)
Surprisingly, I actually did have a few responses. In fact, no one was more surprised than me, although I didn’t exactly elaborate too much on the particulars of the apartment. The first guy who was interested had just gotten back from India. Then half of Mike’s Place wanted to move in. I also got a response from a few younger girls in their early 20’s, a few people who wanted to sublet at different time periods than I had specified, and a nut job that I happen to know. We had 3 people come see the apartment and the recent divorcé that showed up with his daughter won out.
So I moved to the beautiful neighborhood of Katamonim. Just kidding, if Jerusalem had a “hood,” Katamonim would be it. It’s not exactly the wealthiest neighborhood, but on the plus side, property taxes are way lower. There has recently been an attempt at gentrifying the neighborhood, and a few luxury apartment buildings have gone up or are in the process of going up. I don’t live in one those buildings (that probably didn’t even need to be pointed out). I live in an apartment complex that got notices from the municipality that the amount of litter and garbage strewn about is in breach of city ordinances. To be fair we live right next to the Gonenim city park and much of the garbage is probably from park visitors. Probably. Either way, I have no plan to do anything about the situation.
When I moved in there was an old couch sitting outside the building. A few days later a wheelchair joined it. Then a shopping cart. Then a mattress and a plastic chair. I started giving people directions to my apartment by telling them it was just past the homeless guy’s pad. Then one day it was all gone, so I guess he moved on. This is also the kind of neighborhood where you hear all the neighbors’ arguments in the summer when the windows are open. And the neighbors are loud and prone to argument. Also, the neighborhood celebrations (comprising Mizrachi music blasting from speakers, children shrieking, the smell of burning meat, firecrackers, etc.) will let you know if you’ve forgotten that it’s a holiday. Or semi-holiday. Or almost a semi-holiday. Or just Tuesday.
The apartment itself is pretty nice and has obviously been renovated some time in the past 30 years. I was informed that a mouse had been spotted a few days before I moved in, but I figure Johnny’s got to work for his keep anyway. My options were an old apartment in a nicer neighborhood, or a nicer apartment in a less nice neighborhood. I guess it’s a bit of a toss up really- buckets in the living room when it rains or dead bodies in the yard (and yes, that happened. The poor kid that found it will probably be in therapy for the next few years).
Johnny seems to like it here too. He’s mellowed out quite a bit and almost never hisses or scratches anyone anymore. In fact it took him an entire 3 days to trash the place. This is how he shows his approval. It wasn’t really his fault though. It all started when he found a vase full of very tasty flowers on the living room table. He ate them all. Every single one. And then went back for more the next day, knocking everything off the table, breaking a wooden coaster in the process. I went though all of my stuff, most of which was still packed, looking for some kind of glue before my roommate got home. I finally found some superglue, but not being a frequent user of super glue (this will probably change living with Johnny), I didn’t realize how runny it is. I ended up supergluing myself to the bottle of glue, the coaster, and some newspaper. The only thing left to do was to text a friend with the one finger not attached to anything but my hand (incidentally I now have superglue on my phone as well) for help. The answer is no, acetone does not get superglue off of skin. Nor does vaseline. We tried both. In any case, my roommate doesn’t need to know about any of this. Hopefully she won’t notice the newspaper stuck to the bottom of her coaster.

I am also including a picture which explains why my parents have forbidden anyone from bringing them flowers. They had a similar incident with their two cats leading to a broken clock and a shattered vase. As they say, you can have plants or you can have cats. You can’t have both.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

The Holiday of Clowns and Cocktails

 Considering I’m afraid of clowns, mimes, dolls, and anyone in costume, Purim is a rough holiday for me. Only with alcoholic fortification am I brazen enough to venture forth among the monsters, villains, animal people, adult sized Disney characters, etc. I’m not afraid of children in costumes. Even a pint sized clown is not quite enough to scare me. It’s the full-grown ones that terrify me. I got a text message Purim day from a friend warning me not to go outside since the streets were swamped with clowns.
Purim is a fun holiday. It’s like Halloween except that it’s fun for adults too (those that drink anyway). The kids dress up (and many of the adults as well), everyone partakes of the Purim feast, the adults drink, the younger adults drink even more and spend 2 days (Purim and Shushan Purim) partying. Plus people knock on your door all day and hand you food. What’s not to like? Aside from the clowns.
This being my first year living in Jerusalem, I HAD to spend 2 days celebrating. The traditional Purim seudah at my parents is epic. I couldn’t miss it. Mostly because I was planning on making off with most of the leftovers. Which I did. My dad always comes up with a theme (this year was Chinese food with a Thailandi soup) and we end up with absurd amounts of food that everyone has contributed. So instead of feeding a small nation for a few days, the leftovers feed me for a few weeks. I don’t feel guilty about this. Not even a little. The other reason I never miss it, is because it’s one of the few times during the year I get to see my parents tipsy, if not 3 sheets to the wind. My mother always whispers to me at some point, “I think I’m drunk,” as if it she hadn’t been giggling for the past 20 minutes. And if I play my cards right, I can get my dad to do his world famous “hand trick.” This basically involves him balancing his hand in the air for 30 seconds. Yes, it’s as impressive as it sounds. The only other time he performs this trick is after the third cup at the Pesach seder.
After the seudah, I went back to Jerusalem to get ready for the next part- more parties. As many as you can fit into one night and part of the next morning. I’m honestly not much of a partier but I figured that partying once a year wouldn’t kill me. Probably. Also, there would probably be free alcohol and I never say no to free alcohol. Unless it’s arak. I borrowed a mask from a friend, and after scaring myself half to death when I looked in the mirror, I borrowed a much less frightening one from a different friend. I ended up at 2 house parties and then the shuk, which was definitely a mistake as it was packed with teenagers dancing to bad techno music. Which is frankly a public health risk as you’re liable to get a limb in the eye, stomach, or other sensitive areas of the body. Techno in and of itself should be labeled a public health risk.
I started the next day with the megillah reading (ok, it was a 15:00 megillah reading. Don’t judge me) in front of the Gerard Behar Center. The construction a few buildings away started a few minutes later, and add that to the buses whizzing by, the car horns, and the drunk Israelis who decided to crash the reading, and I can’t say I actually heard much of the megillah. I was then invited by a random passerby to a vegan Purim meal. I told the guy I was right behind him and quickly ran off. Then there were more parties and I finally got home at around 1:00 or so in the morning.
The next day at work was a difficult one. I was only partially functional, and at one point got right and left confused with each other. This confusion lasted an entire 3 minutes. I am not proud of myself, but on the other hand I once subtracted 2 from 4 and got 1. On the SATs. These things happen.
Even worse was the news that my roommate was celebrating his birthday with ANOTHER party that night. My roommates usually go to a shiur every week, hosted by a different person each time. That night, they were holding it at our place and then having a party afterwards. This was a bit too much for me so I took a friend to the quietest bar I know to escape the madness at home. All I wanted to do was sleep. I have never wanted to sleep so badly in my life. I kept looking at my watch wondering if it was safe to go home yet. At 11:15 I decided I was going home no matter what. After scrubbing the bathtub (which had gotten filthy when my roommate washed the floor and spilled the dirty water into the bathtub, clogging the drain so that all the dirt dried onto the bottom of the tub), I took a quick shower and then waited for the last few people to go home. At 12:20 this finally occurred and Johnny and I climbed into bed and slept like logs.

Friday, February 3, 2017

The American Election Disaster

 The most telling aspect of the recent elections was that I was more often asked if I’d voted, than whom I’d voted for. And almost exclusively by Israelis and other non-Americans (like my Russian co-worker who hasn’t stopped talking about the elections for the past 8 months, leading me to further develop my ability to look like I’m paying attention to the discussion, while actually taking a mental vacation). It was as if the subject was too painful for Americans to bring up. I know I certainly grimaced every time an Israeli asked me about the elections. Any time an American did bring up the elections, it was because they were one of the rare people who actually had a strong preference for one candidate over the other and wanted to bring you around to their point of view, as if it were possible for them to convince you that a) Trump is a respectable citizen with good judgment, or b) that Hillary Clinton wasn’t really responsible for all those little SNAFUs during her time as Secretary of State. Unfortunately those are just opinions, and you can’t convince people with your opinions (as opposed to actual facts) unless you’re a charismatic politician or a cult leader (often times the same thing). So the following argument would ensue:
Argument A:
“But Trump is strong, opinionated, and says what he thinks. Plus he really cares about Israel. Not like that liar Hilary Clinton.”
“It’s true that Trump says exactly what he thinks. Which is why most of the world is angry with him at the moment, myself included.”
“But he’s such a great guy! And his daughter is Jewish! Etc...”

Argument B:
“So a few emails got lost, big deal. At least she’s not Donald Trump.”
“So you’d vote for a candidate solely based on the fact that he’s not Donald Trump? Lot’s of people aren’t Donald Trump.”
“ANYONE would be better than Donald Trump.”
“Snoop Dogg’s not Donald Trump. Would Snoop Dogg be a better president than Donald Trump? What about that homeless guy that lives in Grand Central Station? Would HE be a better president? Etc...”

It was especially irritating when people got upset when I told them I wasn’t voting.
“But it’s your responsibility as an American citizen to vote!”
“Really? Because it seems more irresponsible than it does responsible to put one of these buffoons in charge of the most powerful country on Earth (until China catches up). Frankly, in my most uninformed, layperson opinion, being in the middle of a federal investigation and being a former reality t.v. star are automatic grounds for disqualification. In fact, I propose that we add those two questions to the presidential candidacy form. A yes to either of those questions bars you from continuing on to the next round.
The problem for the Republicans started when the entire coterie threw their hat in the ring, confusing the general public and splitting the vote between a few passable candidates, while not calculating the consequences that that would have on the tycoon and former reality t.v. star (who knows how to be the last contestant standing).
The problem with the Democrats began when they failed to find any decent candidates. All they could scare up was a commie (excuse me, a socialist, which is totally different), and Hillary Clinton (from wherever burrow she’d been hibernating in since her last unsuccessful bid for president).

I have no particular preference for any political party. I vote like I go to the hairdresser- don’t expect loyalty from me because I flip flop more than a former KGB agent currently selling his services to the highest bidder in Nigeria. I tend to vote for the person I feel is most likely to leave the country standing and the least likely to bring on Armageddon by the end of his term, and don’t quibble much over the other points. While the Israelis were having their “cottage cheese revolution,” I was focused more on progress with Iran on the nuclear front. Can you imagine how much more cottage cheese would cost for the remaining few humans after a nuclear fallout?

Friday, January 27, 2017

Johnny’s Visit to the Vet

 Johnny needed his teeth cleaned. ASAP. Too much human flesh in his teeth, I presume. So I made him an appointment at the JSPCA animal clinic, which is an 8 minute walk from my apartment without Johnny, and a 20 minute walk carrying Johnny. The plan was to bring him in in the morning and pick him up after work.
I warned my roommates the day before that they might hear hair raising shrieking in the morning, but not to worry, since it was just Johnny carrying on. I took the carrier out the night before so I could surprise him the next morning without having to fish him out from under the bed (sustaining multiple injuries in the process). The method for getting large, obstreperous cats into their carrier when you’re only one person is to stand it up with the opening facing up, and then drop the cat in head first. It may not be the most pleasant method for the cat, but it works.
The walk to the clinic was unpleasant as well. One of the downstairs neighbors came out to make sure no one was torturing babies in the hallway. I informed him I was just taking my cat to the vet and he seemed satisfied by that explanation and went back inside. Carrying a 23 lb. cat anywhere is a trial, and not for the weak of arms. By the time I got there, I was afraid I had lost the use of my arms forever. Ditto with my hearing.
The secretary asked me all kinds of questions while Johnny scared off a few small dogs, one of them being, “has he fasted for 12 hours?”
“No...... was he supposed to?”
“No one told me that.”
“When was the last time he ate?”
“Twenty minutes ago, before we left the house.”
In the end, the vet decided he would just do the procedure later in the day and let me know when I could pick him up (figuratively speaking, since I wasn’t sure my arms would have recovered by then). I couldn’t even lift him onto the table. The vet had to help me, prompting the question, “whoa, is that all your cat, or is that carrier?” I assured him that it was the cat which weighed that much, not the carrier. He also asked me if Johnny was friendly, and I told him he’d better wait until the cat was under anesthesia before examining him if he had any kind of attachment to his skin.
I knew that there was no way I was going to be able to carry him back to the apartment, so I sent my roommate (the one with a car) a message asking him if he would be around in the evening and if he wanted to do me a favor. He said sure, no problem, he’d bring us back by car. So I sent him the address and a screenshot of a map with a “we are here” arrow.
I got the call from the vet on the way home from work, and called my roommate to let him know I was on my way there. When I got there, I told them I was there to pick up my cat. The first thing they asked me was, “what is that creature you brought us?” Everyone had questions about what kind of cat he is. It was as if the vet had pulled him out of the carrier, and then called everyone over to look at the humongous mutant cat. I explained that he’s a Norwegian Forest cat and that yes, they’re all that big. Meanwhile, Johnny was scaring away a large American bulldog puppy, while high on anesthesia.
I called my roommate to come get us. Thirty minutes later (it’s a 3 minute drive) I sent him a message to make sure he hadn’t been attacked by rabid wombats or something, and he called me to ask me where exactly the place was. I explained it to him and it turns out he’d been wondering around the neighborhood for half an hour with no real idea of where he was going. From this I learned that he requires instructions in writing, and that I need to make him repeat them to me afterwards to confirm that he knows where he’s going.
The vet had told me to give Johnny a small amount of food when I got home, wait an hour or so, and then give him a little bit more to make sure it wouldn’t upset his stomach. I put a handful or so of food in his bowl when we got home, and after he finished it, he just looked at me like where’s the rest? I went into the kitchen to eat something, and heard a loud thud coming from my room. I ran back in there to make sure he was ok, only to find that he had knocked over a 14 kilo bag of food and was gorging himself on what had spilled out. I tried to scoop up the food while he was still munching around my hands.

Watching Johnny stoned on ketamine, was quite an experience. My roommates asked if he could be like that all the time. They were able to walk by him without getting hissed or swiped at. He just meandered around the apartment with no real destination. He kept wandering over to his food or water dish, taking a bite or a swallow, forgetting why he was there, and then staring at the wall for the next 10 minutes. He repeated this procedure for maybe an hour before wandering off. I knew he was feeling more alert when I found him in the bathtub. And he slept on my bed at night as he usually does. By the next morning, my roommates were lamenting his return to normal, after his usual morning hissy fit.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Natania’s Guide On How Not To Sound Like An Idiot When You Speak

 This blog post is going to be more of an instructional guide than an accounting of my recent, and all too constant, bureaucratic hurdles. It has come to my attention over the last few years that the Americans I come across, either tourists or recent immigrants, sound exceptionally idiotic when they speak. This seems to apply mostly to high schoolers, college kids, and people in their young 20s. I don’t know the origin of this pandemic of inarticulate youth, since as far as I can tell, TV characters and media personalities don’t speak this way (though admittedly our soon to be president is hardly the most eloquent of celebrities). It’s unfortunate because many of these people are very intelligent people, but you’d never know it when overhearing their incomprehensible babble on the street.
Case in point: I was unfortunate enough to overhear a conversation between two girls on the bus. One was explaining to her friend that if she wanted to go into research, she’d have to get a PhD, etc. I was having a very hard time taking her aspirations seriously as the conversation went something like this:
“So, like, I think I might want to do, like, research or something. But like, I’d have to get a PhD. And like, my GPA is like, only a 3.3, not like, a 3.5 or whatever. So like, I hope they don’t look at only my grades, cuz like, grades aren’t everything. You know?”
I was just hoping that they aren’t going to base her acceptance on an interview, because if so, she’s pretty much screwed.

So here are my guidelines for all those of you who would like to be taken seriously as an intelligent human being, but face the obstacle of speaking like a teenage girl. Remember, I’m not judging you. I just really want to help. Because listening to you speak hurts my brain and makes me want to stick forks in my ears to both drown you out, and confuse the pain centers in my central nervous system. So here goes:

1) Gather your thoughts: If you don’t know what you want to say, then just don’t. Think about what you want to say and how to say it before you actually do say it. Don’t start talking if you have no idea how to end the sentence. No one has time to listen to you tell a rambling 10 minute story about how the supermarket ran out of milk. If you can’t tell your story in a minimum of words, then don’t bother. It probably wasn’t that interesting a story anyway. Especially if it was about milk.

2) Don’t use fillers: Don’t pepper your speech with words that have no meaning other than to occupy empty space. For example- like, whatever, and my personal favorite- so like, whatever. These fillers are speech habits that can be broken if we are made conscious of them. My sister had a friend who said the word “like” so often that my dad started counting out loud. It took her a while to figure out what he was counting, though my sister was much quicker on the uptake. Have a friend do this to you. Preferably a friend you already didn’t like much since this gets annoying very quickly and may end up with said friend in the emergency room with a broken nose.

3) Don’t end sentences like questions: You know what I’m talking about. That lifting of tone at the end of a sentence signifying either a question or insecurity with the statement just made. The one that makes irritating pedants ask, “is that a statement or a question?” I will freely admit to being annoyingly pedantic. My father knows this well (as he carries the brunt of my snotty observations). And amazingly still loves me. My father is an inspiring man. In any case, at least pretend to be convinced of the accuracy of your statement.

So please, for the sake of America’s reputation, try not to sound like a moron when you speak. You’re only adding fuel to the fire. The Europeans are already laughing at us. And the Japanese have begun referring to us as “the bipedal primate clan.”

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Exceptional Exceptions Committee

 I had mentioned to my Professor that I was interested in doing a Master’s degree at some point. I had also asked him if it was possible to get a raise once I finished my Bachelor’s degree. He thought that there was an automatic raise from the university once you finish your bachelor’s degree but that I should check with the secretaries about it. I did, and unsurprisingly no such thing happens for hourly workers, only for workers with a set monthly paycheck (who are these mystical people and do they actually exist?). So as a college graduate with a B.Sc. who regularly does DNA testing and engineers bacteria, I essentially earn the same amount as the guy who spreads chumus on your pita at Shlomi’s Falafel. Luckily for humanity, my main motivator is not money, which is why I still work there. I happen to love my job and feel somewhat appreciated by my coworkers and boss (less so by the mice). That doesn’t mean that this job is sustainable for the long term. I have bills to pay and mouths to feed (and Johnny’s is a large mouth to feed).
He asked me about it one day, if I had checked with the secretaries about a pay increase and I informed him that unfortunately hourly workers do not receive a raise upon receiving a degree. He thought about it for a few seconds and asked me if I’d be interested in applying for a Master’s degree starting next semester. So I though about it for a few seconds and answered that I just might be. The only problem? My grades. I was 2.2 points short of the acceptance requirements. On the other hand, I have two things going for me- 1) I’ve been working in a research lab for over a year 2) I’m an immigrant who finished university in a foreign country with a foreign language. So it’s entirely possible that they could make an exception for me, as I’ve heard has been made for other olim.
So “we” started the process- first stop, set up a meeting with the professor in charge of advanced degrees to discuss my chances of being accepted. Easier said then done. She was out of the country for a week, then couldn’t fit me in for another two weeks after she got back. When she did finally get around to speaking with me, I was informed that they had decided this year that they would not accept anyone with an average below an 80, no exceptions. Buuuuuuut, if the exceptions committee (yes, HU has a committee for exceptions though there are no exceptions. Unless they make an exception.) decided, they could accept me “on condition” which would require a year of make up classes, and then if I had an average of above an 80, I would be accepted to a Master’s degree. Well that sounds super fun. Another year of school for no reason! All I had to do was write a request letter, send in my grades and a recommendation letter from my professor, and they’d decide what to do.
Well, I didn’t really have much of a choice. This is life for Natania. Jumping through hoops of fire has become something of a habit for me. I suppose if this whole science thing doesn’t work out, there’s always the circus. Maybe I could even bring Johnny. He’s certainly something of an attraction. I would call him “the Mighty Vegetable Hunter” or “the Majestic Biting Viking Cat.” If not, maybe Shlomi’s hiring.
The good news is that in the end, they only gave me two make up classes next semester so I can start the Master’s next year (assuming I don’t completely drop the ball on this one. And then trip over it, falling on my face). I think the university just enjoys torturing me.
Speaking of which, they seem to have “forgotten” to pay me this month. This is what happens in an overly bureaucratic system where every step requires a special form and 3 different signatures of very specific people who are either on vacation/sick/have a sick kid/are out of the office at the moment/etc. I checked my bank account on the first of the month, when I get paid. No money had been deposited but since it was New Year’s day, I figured maybe the banks were on vacation/sick/have a sick kid/out of the office and I cut them some slack. When I still had not received my paycheck the next day, I went to the secretaries to ask what was going on. They looked quite harried and were running around like ADD kids given too many tasks at once. It turns out that when the head secretary had left her post at Ein Kerem to work at Har Hatzofim, she had not quite finished everything that she had needed to do. In addition, her son had been sick so she had been out of the office even when she was technically still working there. I was informed that the head secretary has to fill out a form every 2 months for all the hourly workers to renew their work approval so that they can get their paychecks. This sounds like more unnecessary paperwork to me, but HU has an entire department dedicated to creating more paperwork and other obstacles standing in the way of a generally uncomplicated life. At least in my imagination they do. With a row of elves tapping away at typewriters, and Soviet bureaucrats hovering over them devising more and more ways of making everyone’s lives hell.
In short, the secretary had not taken care of such trivial matters as people’s ability to pay rent and buy food before she had left and no one else had access to her systems. Nor could they decipher the notes and tables she had left on her desk which allegedly documented her activities (though they could also have been bets taken on the races for all I know). Her replacement is only arriving in a few weeks (probably with absolutely no idea of what’s going on) and the other secretaries were swamped (a line of unhappy looking people had begun to form behind me). They tried calling various people (none of whom answered) and looking stuff up on the computer (which froze), so I left them to it and went back to work (which I would hopefully be paid for eventually).
The next day I planned to go back and check on their progress with the matter. But with all the work they had to do, and backlog of urgent matters, they had decided to take a day off. The next day I again intended to check progress but couldn’t get to work due to the drivers of my favorite bus company going on strike and shutting down an entire city. I finally made contact on Thursday and was informed that they were trying to get me an advance so at least I’d get something. I thought that was very generous of them since I hadn’t gotten paid in 5 days due to their bureaucratic incompetence, and general ineffectiveness, but you take what you can get.
In a normal company, this story would have gone like this: “Hey, I didn’t get my paycheck this month.” “Oh, the secretary who deals with finances left and I guess she never got around to it. I’ll call the accountant and have him write you a check by the end of the day. And as an apology, please take this plate of cookies.”