August 8, 2008: Clean Wheels


1) The following story is not true. It is a complete work of fiction.

2) Even if it was true, which it isn’t, it didn’t happen to me, it happened to my friend.

3) But it really didn’t.

Last week, I had to take my car for the annual inspection/failure process, something about as much fun as a root canal, but more expensive. This particularly unpleasant process begins with a notice in the mail that says you have to go to the Post Office and pay a fee equal to half your life savings for the honor of having your car inspected/failed. (Does anyone else think it’s a bit odd that most of the Israeli finance system flows through the post office at some point? When you think dependable model of efficiency, the words “post office” rarely comes to mind).

Once you have paid your fee and given a pound of flesh, you drive to an official inspection station. There are always lines at these inspection stations which many people try to avoid by driving around, in front of, or in rare cases over the fryers who are actually waiting patiently for their vehicles to be inspected/failed.

Next the inspection guy inspects and fails your car. You might think that only automobiles with something wrong with them would be failed, but no – apparently the Israeli inspection system involves the inspector pointing to some nice piece of your car that is in fine working order and scribbling a big X on his report.

The inspector – impressively while keeping a straight face – now tells you that a nearby garage will take care of the problem for you (he doesn’t mention that it happens to be owned by his brother.) The only problem is when you inquire about the price of say, a new tire, you are given an amount that would be much more appropriate for a new airplane rather than a round bit of rubber.

It’s not like you have to go to the garage that is owned by the brother of the inspector, however. In the example below–which DID NOT HAPPEN–I went to a local garage where I knew the owner. He of course told me that the tire which had failed the inspection was perfectly fine. Under no account should I give in to the corruption of the inspection process by purchasing a new one.

That’s great, I thought, but I still needed to get the car inspected.

He came up with a much better solution than emptying my bank account for a tire. He cleaned the failed tire. I have to admit, it looked really nice and shiny. Yet I was quite nervous. Would the inspector figure out my scheme? Would I be sent to prison for showing up with a clean, rather than new tire?

There are some times (very, very few times) when knowing less Hebrew than a parrot comes in handy. This was one of them. As I returned to the inspection station with my shiny clean tire, Mr. Inspector walked over. He fired off a few sentences in Hebrew while pointing at the wheel. Here was the conversation:

Mr. Inspector: “…Galgal Chadash? (new tire?)”

Me: “eh, eh…musach (garage), hu omer tov (he said good), galgal tov (good wheel)”

Mr. Inspector: (bends down and looks very closely at shiny new tire) “Eze musach? (which garage?)”

Me: “eh, eh…musach gadol (big garage), musach tov (good garage), ani ohev galgalim (I like wheels)”

Mr. Inspector: “eh, ba ba ba ba ba…. (eh, mutter, mutter, mutter)”

Me: “Mevin Anglit? (Do you understand English?)”

Mr. Inspector: “Katsat (not a single world, not one syllable, not even a letter)”

Me: “Well, I have a really nice clean wheel as you can see. I don’t know Hebrew but I have obviously spent a great deal of money. Please stamp my form.”

Mr. Inspector: “eh? (eh)”

He tried a few more Hebrew sentences and then realized he was not getting anywhere with me and just shrugged his shoulders and took my form and stamped it.

Now, since I do not know much Hebrew, he might have told me when I failed that he was failing me because I had a really dirty tire. What he might have been asking me to do was to go clean my tire and come back. Perhaps, he was trying to tell me that his brother does really great work with soap and a hose.

Hey, I gotta try and give him the benefit of the doubt. It is the Nine Days after all.

And anyway, the above story never really happened.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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