How Do You Misplace A Kitchen?
Thursday I am fortuitously hitching a ride with Yossi to the library when my attorney calls him. (No one calls me or The Husband anymore...our factor is Yossi, and everyone has his number, which is understandable as most Israelis would prefer to speak fluent Hebrew to another Israeli and not listen to a couple of olim limp through their language in our grating accents and poor syntax....)
Attorney says to him, "Bring me the keys." She means the keys to the Modi'in house. She and Buyer's attorney have worked out a satisfactory solution: we will deposit the keys with her and she will release them to the Buyer's attorney only upon the presentation of TWO cashier's checks and a written statement that Buyer is taking the home without reservations.
This is good. We get our check Sunday (b'ezrat H"S) , Buyers get their keys Sunday, we don't have to drive to Modi'in and they don't have to drive to Jerusalem.
I'm waiting to see if this goes as planned.......once burned, twice shy. I'll believe it when I have the cashier's checks in hand and not until then.
In the meantime, Yossi and his wife are in the midst of a modest re-do of their own kitchen. Last week, he got a call from "a guy" who called to tell Yossi that his kitchen cabinets are arriving next week, maybe Monday or Tuesday.
"Allo, this is Yossi?" a male voice asks.
"Yes, this is Yossi. Who's this?" Yossi answers.
"Your cabinets are done and will be delivered next week, maybe Monday or Tuesday. I'm just calling to let you know, per the work order." And he HANGS UP.
The caller never identified himself, but clearly he had Yossi's full name and the work order requesting a couple of days notice of the delivery, so Yossi assumed it was one of the salesmen at the kitchen cabinet store. He couldn't call the caller back, because the number was 'withheld.'
Getting workmen to your house to do tear-down and installations is itself an art more than a business, whether in California or in Israel. Yossi got bids months ago and settled on a guy with bathroom/kitchen experience and more work than he can shake a stick at.....so pinning him down to a definite date to install cabinets was going to be tricky. Once Yossi got the word that the cabinets were coming, he called the worker.
"Yeah, yeah, okay, Monday or Tuesday," the workman agrees. "I can fit that in."
Yossi then decided he'd better confirm as far as possible exactly which day and at what time. He telephones the kitchen cabinet store.
"Next Monday or Tuesday?" a harried saleswoman says. "I have no idea. I didn't call you. No, your sales rep isn't here--he's off until next week. You need to call the factory and confirm the date and time of delivery."
Ain bayah. Yossi gets the number from the saleswoman and calls the factory that is making the cabinets.
Kitchen cabinets? What kitchen cabinets? We don't got no stinking kitchen cabinets, the factory supervisor tells him. Yossi asks her to double-check under a number of combinations of names and spellings, thinking its just a mistake.
It's a mistake, all right. There are no kitchen cabinets even made for his kitchen, must less scheduled for delivery next week. Yossi is dumbfounded.
"How can this be, Sarah? Somebody called me! Somebody who has my telephone number! No one would call me and talk to me about taking delivery of my kitchen cabinets unless they had them?" he asked me, baffled. I could see that he was getting stuck on trying to work out who was misleading him and the motive for doing so.
Yossi is a fabulous advocate for his "family" --both the DNA-related and those of us he has adopted over the years. He takes no prisoners. He is ruthless. He won't let anyone he cares about get screwed if he has something to say about it.
But like a lot of folks, when his own stuff falls apart, he is a mess.
"Let's go to the show room," I suggested. "Talk to the owner. There must be some paperwork or a paper trail of some kind showing when the order for the cabinets was placed." I'm trying to be calm because I'm afraid he's going to have a heart attack -- and he's driving.
He tries calling the show room owner first. She's ducking him. We know this because when he calls several times, she's "away from the office" or "gone for the day."
When I call and ask for the owner from my cell phone, I'm told she's there.
Yossi calls the show room again and this time asks for his sales rep, since we now know they're lying to him. The first time he called, he was told the sales rep was "away." This time, he's told the sales rep "doesn't work there any more."
Yossi calls his wife and she finds the sales rep's home phone number in the phone book. Yossi next calls the sales rep at home. Like I said, ruthless.
No, the sales rep tells him, he didn't call Yossi last week to schedule the delivery, but he tells Yossi that he processed the order six weeks ago and the cabinets should be ready soon. WHAT?! No, he's on vacation, he didn't quit or get fired and he's coming back and next week, and what's this garbage the sales staff is telling Yossi?
"Listen, there's a problem there, and I don't know what it is," the sales rep tells Yossi, "but you've GOT to talk to the owner because she's the only one who can fix this."
We stop for coffee. I desperately need a caffeine infusion, and Yossi is so angry he is ready to spit nails.
"Listen, achi (brother)," I said in my most lawyerly lets-reason-together-voice, "You know you're being lied to, but you don't know why--"
"I want to know WHY, Sarah!" he told me. "What happened? And why did it happen? I've had the electrician out to the house already and he's moving the electric outlets; I have a work crew coming Sunday to tear out the old kitchen---what if I hadn't called the factory? What if I hadn't double-checked to be sure of the date?" He is truly anguished at the thought--that because of his potential error, his wife and children could have been without a kitchen and a way to prepare food for weeks.
They wouldn't have gone hungry. All this extended family, both DNA and adopted, can cook. Not one of us would let them go hungry.
"The why doesn't matter," I said, and quickly put up a hand to forestall his protest, "Yes, yes, I know you want to know WHY, but really, it doesn't matter--what matters is fixing it. Listen, Yossi, I can't fix it--but you can."
He looked at me sourly. "If I go there to talk to her in person, I'll shout at her and then it will be really bad. That's why I'm trying to reach her on the telephone. I can talk on the telephone, but I'm afraid I'll lose my temper if I talk to her in person."
"I'll go with you, " I offered. "Maybe if I'm there to kick you in the ankle, you won't lose your temper."
He shook his head. "No, no, Sarah, it doesn't matter who is with me. My mother, my wife, my children -- I'm Moroccan. If I lose my temper, I don't care who is there--I am angry and that's that. It doesn't matter who else is there," he said with an odd tinge of both pride and regret.
Time to get real here. "Listen, Yossi, I've watched you during the past six months navigate our lives in Israel for us with fabulous results. You use your temper when people try to cross us -- but we've also seen you use your charm when you want someone to help us. I've watched you charm incredibly unpleasant and ill-tempered clerks at Bituach Leumi and Misrad Hapnim to get my son's paperwork moved up so we're not waiting until the next Ice Age for a reply; I've watched you charm the showroom planner into giving us a little extra in our kitchen. You can be charming when you want to get something done for us, for our son, for your mother......this kitchen cabinet shop owner is a woman. USE that ability to be charming for yourself! Get her to listen to you, to understand that she's the only person who has the 'pull' to make your cabinets a priority at this factory."
He looked uncertain. Advocating for everyone else was a given. Advocating for himself? He pulls out all the stops for "family" but, like many advocates, isn't quite sure of his footing when it comes to advocating his own cause.
We go to the showroom. I'm all Anglo-olah arrogant expectation. Big smile. "Hi, how are you? I'm Sarah and I'm here to see Aviva (not the owner's real name). I called earlier" (which might imply that I had an appointment, which I didn't). And promptly sat down at the desk with an air of one used to quick and efficient customer service.
It worked. I could get us in the front door, past the sales reps and into Aviva's office. After that, it was up to Yossi.
Aviva was at the end of a very stressful day. She was not happy -- not with the matter she was reviewing with another sales rep and certainly not with our sudden appearance in her office. After a tense start, with some defensiveness on her part and growing anger and impatience on Yossi's part, Yossi rose to the occasion.
"Do you have children?" he asked her, managing to look both a bit shy and sheepish.
She warmed immediately. "Of course."
He explained that his concern was not the phone call last week, regardless of who made it, or when the order was placed, or what the delay was -- those things weren't important; but he had already started to pull apart his kitchen. An electrician was there working at his home at that very moment -- and he was worried that if the kitchen cabinets didn't come, and he had to wait possibly two or even three months for them, his children would suffer. Winter is starting. He needs a completed kitchen so his children can come home from school to a hot meal. He's a taxi driver. No way can he afford to take his family out to restaurants to eat every day.
"You understand my concern, mami?" Yossi asked plaintively, one struggling parent to another.
I watched her heart thaw.
Aviva leaned across the table to grasp his hand, squeeze it, and assure him that she would do everything in her power to make sure those cabinets were finished and delivered to him by the end of next week. She called the factory while we sat there and told the factory supervisor to put Yossi's order at the head of the line. There were smiles, and warmth and good wishes all around.
But Aviva is also an Israeli and a business-woman. She told Yossi she wouldn't put it in writing because she 'couldn't guarantee' that the cabinets would absolutely be delivered next week, although she'd do her best -- and then insisted Yossi sign the delivery contract (an extra expense). Sentiment and charm only go so far in Israel.
But yihiye beseder! At the start of the day, there were NO kitchen cabinets. Now, kitchen cabinets are likely to be in Yossi's kitchen next week. He's happy.
I'm happy for him.