Back in September, our Lift arrived. I know this is ancient history at this point, but the whole ordeal was a pain and I couldn't deal with that, and the start of school, and the house sale and the apartment purchase and the upcoming holidays so I just never got around to writing about it.
Prior to the arrival of the Lift, I had trekked up to Haifa to pay the port fees, fill out customs paperwork, and talk to the Guy-In-Charge. Efficient, business-like but warm, he assured me that this was the final cost, although it is an "estimate" -- there might be some small amount of money owing based on the actual mileage to our apartment in Jerusalem. Yossi accompanied me to Haifa (actually, Yossi drove me to Haifa because I would never have found this place on my own) and he and the GIC hit it off immediately....Yossi has that uncanny knack of getting along with most people.
On the way back to Jerusalem, Yossi cautioned me that when the Lift arrived, I was to call him IMMEDIATELY and he would come right over. The neighbors, Tilda and Avi, had told us exactly the same thing.
"These people are ganavim, Sarah," they all warned me. "You understand 'ganavim'? They will take your things and while you're supervising the machson (storage room), they will steal from your house; while you're in your house, they will steal from your lift. You MUST have people standing RIGHT THERE watching them every minute!"
So Yossi goes off to work on Lift Arrival Day but stays in touch by phone; Tilda and Avi stay home in anticipation of the Lift coming momentarily.
The driver calls and tells us he's in Jerusalem and will be at the apartment shortly. This call is at 10:30 a.m. which is about 2-3 hours ahead of what we were told would be the arrival time.
Okay, I call the troops. Tilda posts herself at the front lobby; Avi stands out on the large garden-enclosed plaza leading to the lobby.
Yossi comes a bit later--he was in Geula picking up a passenger when I called. He pulled over to the side and told the bewildered chassid, "Get out."
"What?!" the man sputtered.
"I'm sorry, adoni, get out--I have a family emergency!" And with that, Yossi sped across town to Baka, arriving in the middle of controversy.
The driver had pulled his truck into our lot and got out to talk to The Husband. We had paid the shipping company for "door-to-door" service. This means it goes out of our front door in the States and into our front door in Israel. Sometimes there is an additional charge if the movers have to carry a china cabinet up 8 flights of stairs in a building with no elevator, but since we were on the ground floor, and it is a flat walk from the parking lot to the apartment, we didn't anticipate further expenses.
"It's too far from the parking lot to your apartment," the driver announces. "It'll cost you an extra $200."
The Husband doesn't say a thing, but simply walks back to the apartment where he informs me that our delivery driver is a rip-off artist. This is confirmed by another mover who is moving an upstairs neighbor in simultaneously. "He's trying to rip you off," the mover hisses to The Husband, with a head gesture towards our driver.
Tilda walks over to us and upon hearing of this extortion, wants to go confront the driver. "Wait for Yossi," we both told her.
Moments later, Yossi pulls up and is briefed on the situation. "Sarah, you still have the telephone number of the Guy in Haifa?" he asks.
Sure do. Dialed it on my cell phone and handed the phone to Yossi. Rapid-fire Hebrew ensued, and Yossi walked out to the driver with the cell phone.
"I'm talking to your boss," Yossi told him. "He wants to talk to you." And handed the driver the cellphone.
We can hear only one half of the conversation, but it was enough. "No, no, he's an American, he doesn't understand Hebrew. It's just a misunderstanding. I never said anything about money," the driver sputters. He gets off the phone, glares at Yossi, hands back the cell phone and strides back to his truck.
"He says you didn't understand him," Yossi said with a knowing smirk. "You don't speak Hebrew good."
"Right," the Husband said dryly. He speaks Hebrew just fine. And Yossi knows it. "That would be a little more credible except that he demanded the $200 in English--which I understand perfectly."
Yossi wandered over to the container truck in order to keep an eye on the movers while I watched the house and supervised placement, and Tilda kept an eye on the machson and the lobby, and Avi made sure nothing got "lost" in the flowerbeds out front.
While taking up his station near the parking lot, Yossi overheard one of the movers still in the lot call out to the driver, "Hey, did you get those Anglos to fork over the extra $200?"
"Naw, some ben zonah (not a nice word, the Hebrew equivalent of SOB) showed up and called the Boss and almost got me fired. Forget it!" the driver complained.
I had read on Tachlis that it is customary to "tip" the drivers and workers of the moving company who brings you the Lift. The customary tip, I read, was around 200 NIS apiece. We never got a chance to tip them. Had they not tried to extort money from us to start with, they would have gotten nice tips, since The Husband and I both recall our minimum-wage days quite well--and believe tipping for good service is a necessity. As it was, they got nothing.
We, on the other hand, are grateful for good Israeli friends who watch our backs.