Quick bball update and then on to my clash with the old guy who lives in my building. We have had 3 practice games so far. Scrimmages out here are serious business. They all have 3 refs and the coaches treat them like real games. Foreigners throughout the league are already getting cut for under-performing. Thankfully my team has been cruising. I don’t want to be overconfident, but right now we are looking pretty damn good. The teams we have played are supposed to be decent and we have been blowing them out. The first game we were up 28-3 after 6 minutes. We have 3 solid guards, a 4 who can bomb from the perimeter, and a big who finishes everything. Offensively we will be a tough match up. I have been playing pretty well. Nothing special, just solid. Over the 3 games I have averaged 12 points, about 4 assists and 4 rebounds, with some steals sprinkled in. I can for sure score more, but as long as we’re winning and I’m playing I’ll be happy.
Enough of that. Here is the story of my new apartment and the old guy who lives below me:
I moved to my new apartment after being in the temporary place for about a week. The place takes up the top floor of a house/apartment thingy. I don’t really know what it is to be honest. It looks like a house but I guess it acts as an apartment. Who cares. Point is, I have to walk up like a million stairs to get to my door, as has been the case with every apartment I have had in Israel. Always seems to work out that way. The place is a small one bedroom with slanted ceilings on each side that make it feel even smaller. I was upset with it at first but I have grown to like it. It is clean and new-ish and has everything I need so it’s all good I suppose. It does suck that it is a 15 minute walk from the gym, but teammates have been good about giving me rides.
The second day I was here I was coming back from practice and there was an old dude milling about in the yard. He was wearing a dirty pair of shorts, sandals and an old wife beater. When he saw me he came up to me and immediately began talking in Hebrew. I told him I only speak english, but he carried on in Hebrew. I had no idea what was happening until I heard him say the name Shimi, which I recognized as the name of the landlord of the apartment. I also remembered that I had told Shimi that people could come fix stuff in my apartment at 7 AM the next morning, so I thought that maybe these things were connected somehow. I am such a sleuth.
Anyway, I then assumed that he was Shimi’s father or something. I am still not really sure what their relation is, if any. Not being able to understand what was happening, and why this old dude was speaking to me incessantly and gesturing excitedly, I decided to walk up the stairs to my place. I thought maybe he would just leave me alone. But that was not the case. He followed behind me all the way up the stairs, and then when I opened my door he walked right into my apartment like he was an old friend. I was even more confused at this point. The guy started walking around the apartment speaking in Hebrew and pointing at things. I figured my only hope to resolve this situation was to call Shimi. I said “Uhh, I think your dad is in my house.” After admonishing me for leaving the air conditioning on when I left the house ( how did he even know I did that?) he asked to talk to the guy. I gave the phone to the old man and he immediately started yelling. Furiously yelling. It was so anger filled that I went to grab my iPod so that I could record the level of vitriol that was on display. I am used to Israelis screaming at each other, especially on the phone, but even I was taken aback by the volume level of this conversation. I really wish I could have understood what was said. This old guy seemed so mild mannered, but when handed that phone he went off on Shimi’s ass. This anger masked by a meek looking old man exterior would come into play later.
Sadly, he stopped his telephonic rampage before I could get my ipod ready to record. After the phone conversation we had one of my now patented conversations where neither side knows the other sides language. He got his point across pretty well though. And looking back I don’t know why Shimi didn’t ask to talk to me again to explain things in English. ODWB must have had him all shook up. (I will refer to the old dude with the wife beater as ODWB from here on out. This is because he is old and I have yet to see him not wearing his signature dirty wife beater. He might only own one of them. He must have looked at himself in the mirror one day after putting on his clothes and been like “Yep, this is me. This wife beater is DOPE. I am never taking it off. Plus, I have the privilege of being old enough to not care what I wear and people won’t care enough to talk to me about it.”) So, I gathered that people were coming tomorrow to fix stuff in the apartment. He also told me how to turn off the air conditioning. As he was leaving a dirty, tired looking cat came sauntering in like it owned the place. First ODWB, now this mangy street cat, what kind of place did they put me in? Thank god ODWB scooped her up before it could go spread it’s nasty fur everywhere, or have babies, or possibly die. It looked pretty destitute.
The next morning I awoke to let in people to fix and install things, and it was not a crew of workers, but ODWB himself. I have to give him props. I went back to bed and by the time I woke up he had installed a new stove and done a lot of constructiony clean up type things to the walls and bathroom. I though this would be the end of my dealings with ODWB, but this was not to be.
I need to mention that you have to go through a large gate to get to my house. Whoever built this thing needs to reevaluate what he/she does for a living. The gate is made out of some cheap, metal-ish material which has the same sonic qualities as a drum cymbal. Any slight touch is like you hammered down on said symbol with full force. Besides that, you must enter a code to unlock the gate, and upon a successful press of the buttons it emits an obnoxiously loud buzzing noise. This persists a full 3 seconds or so longer than it should. I wouldn’t be surprised if this sound alone was waking my neighbors up at night. But the fatal flaw of this gate has to be the utter lack of care that was put into creating a smooth and reasonably quiet way to shut of the door. I am no carpenter or whatever, but I feel like there has to be some sort of guidelines to follow so that the closing of the door does not cause an ear splitting rattle. This noise is not due to slamming or using excessive force. This is from simply opening the gate and letting it swing shut as you enter. You know, how any normal person would enter their gated apartment building. The first time I went inside I obviously noticed how loud and annoying the gate was, but I decided then and there that I was not going to take the time to ever so gently close the thing every time I used it. Too much hassle. So I let it slam with impunity. Even when I am coming home around 3 or 4 AM (which is not very often, I should note) I let it slam away. I know I should shut it quietly at those time, but I forget. And it’s like, “Why should I have to shut this gate quietly. It should shut quietly on its own.” But this attitude has not paid off, as I recently got confronted by ODWB about it.
One night I came home at like 3, and I let the door slam crazy hard. I immediately heard a yell and what I can only assume was cursing in Hebrew. He wasn’t using words I recognized, but he was clearly upset. So the following night ODWB tracked me down. He stopped me as I was headed into the apartment after grocery shopping. He realized the teammate I was with spoke Hebrew and launched into a tirade about how I slammed the door too hard the night before. He claims he wasn’t able to get back to sleep the rest of the night. He was apparently drunk as well, and this was like 9 PM on a Monday. I say apparently because my teammate was like damn did you smell the alcohol on him, and I had to admit that I did not. I never, ever use my nose. And when I do the right side is generally still clogged. Thanks a lot expensive, invasive nose surgery I planned my summer around! So ODWB demonstrated proper closing technique of the door a few times until he was satisfied that he had made his point, and then he went back inside. I thought nothing of this incident until it came back to haunt me. Or it is my theory that it did.
The next day I came home from practice at like 6 PM. I let the gate slam not out of spite, but simply because I still had not made it a habit to close the door very, very slowly. And by the way, even when you exhibit ultimate caution during the closing process this gate still somehow rattles. It is unbelievable. So I think nothing of the slam, but as I am going up the stairs ODWB pops out of his door and breaks out some of the only English I have ever heard him use. He goes “Again!?” and spreads his arms. His face is totally incredulous. I can sense his calm exterior beginning to recede while the angry, phone yelling maniac I got a glimpse of the other day comes to the fore. I tell him I’m sorry, in hebrew and english, because I really am. I just don’t take that horrible fence and its absurdly loud noises into consideration when I am entering. He says, “beer-a, beer-a” while pointing at me. So I assume that he is saying I owe him a beer. I guess that is reasonable, so I nod emphatically and laugh and tell him, yeah, yeah sure. He smiles and I think all is well. At this point I am focused on getting a good rest because we had our second practice game the following morning.
Frustratingly, but I guess not surprisingly, I could not fall asleep. All the late nights staying up doing nothing were coming back to bite me. I could not get myself to fall asleep at a reasonable hour, but that did not stop me from trying. I seriously lied in bed from like 1-6 before I drifted off. It was awful. Just as I was entering a nice, blissful dream state I am woken up by what I first thought was my air conditioning unit exploding. I really thought that. I had a problem with the air conditioner before, so it wasn’t that far fetched an idea, especially out here. Factor in that I had just been jolted out of my REM cycle after trying to fall asleep all night, and I simply thought “Oh, would you look at that? My air conditioner is blowing up.”
That actually might have been preferable. The noise was not stopping, it was extremely loud and my floor was literally shaking. After a few seconds I realized that it was not some sort of Israeli appliance disaster, but construction noises. ‘Construction noises’ is such an understatement. It was as if I was standing in the middle of a Jamba Juice when they had all their blenders going, and someone was jackhammering the floor I was standing on while at the same time someone was slamming the door to the gate of my apartment building. In this scenario the door would have been to the Jamba Juice, but you get the point. The noise coupled with my sleep deprivation was driving me crazy. There would be intermittent 5 second lulls in the work and I took to crazily screaming out “STOP!” and “Fuck you!” at the top of my lungs. I got no response other than the incessant, pounding noises.
I was so, so mad at what was happening. I am anal about getting a lot of sleep before I play a game. It was already bothering me that I was having a hard time getting a good nights rest. Being woken up by the construction noises from hell magnified my frustration by a million. Making matters worse was that I felt in no condition to walk to the gym to try and wait this thing out. I was tired and disoriented and I didn’t feel like walking 15 minutes to a gym that I was not even sure was going to be available. I called the two people associated with the team who I deal with when I have to complain about something. I knew there was nothing that they could do, but I wanted them to experience a little bit of the misery with me. The first person did not pick up so I left him a voice mail of just the noise. I felt that got some sort of weird message across. The next guy, Gabbi, picked up but could barely hear me.
“Gabbi! Listen to this!”
“Listen! This is what my house sounds like right now!”
“MY HOUSE SOUNDS LIKE IT IS BEING SHELLED WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING?!”
And then he hung up. Nothing good came from this brief conversation, but at least Gabbi got a little feel for what I was going through. I stumbled out into the street at some point because I initially thought that the noise was coming from the roof. Maybe I could yell at these people face to face. (Although yelling was probably unwarranted. 8 AM is not an unreasonable time to begin construction work. But the way I see it, any time was unreasonable for the noises I was having to endure. I cannot stress enough how loud this was.) While outside I noticed another woman from my building snooping around looking confused and upset, so at least I was not alone. The video I’m posting kind of does justice to what I was going through. I ended up shoving my noise cancelling headphones in my ears and that helped a little bit to dull the agony. After what some would say was the hardest 2 hours ever endured by a person in a non-war scenario, the noise finally let up. I was elated. It was hard to get back to sleep at first because I kept shaking awake, thinking that the evil, mentally devastating noise was about to return.
What I have now realized is that this was all a way for ODWB to get back at me. All the signs point to him. He lives below me. He knows how to do construction. He might be bitter for having to install a stove for some schmuck who doesn’t even speak his language. He was definitely upset that I would not stop slamming the gate. He probably took the most recent incident, after he had just asked me nicely to be quiet, as a direct slap in the face. He then decided that the only course of action would be to blast me, the morning of a game, with the noise of a million fireworks shows. He knows I am prone to late nights. He knows I play basketball. He could have looked up our schedule and planned the perfect revenge. I think this is exactly what happened. ODWB is one conniving SOB. It taught me a lesson in messing with feeble looking, possibly alcoholic old Israelis. They will give you the benefit of the doubt at first, but if you cross them they will strike back, and it will be more sinister, more soul crushing, than you ever could have predicted.
I eye ODWB warily when I see him now. I close the gate each time with utmost care. And I keep a beer handy in case I need to pacify him before he decides to put me through another situation even half as terrible as the one I just suffered through.
PS To get the full experience of this video, go buy the loudest speakers you can find, put your ear up to them and turn the volume all the way up.