Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Simon Says!

So I went to Israel for Lag B’omer.

Wow what an experience!

It all started at the airport.

We were a group of friends and since some of us were flying business class we all checked in at the VIP counter together, about 11 minutes after getting to Newark Int’l Airport we were standing with boarding passes in hand, rolling-carry-on-bags, and about 2 hours ‘till boarding.

I stepped outside for a smoke, and was amazed at the scene that was unfolding; seems that while we were being VIP’ed the rest of the crowed had started to show up.

There were Jews from every walk of life running about in a complete frenzy! Cars were honking, multi-hued suitcases and shopping bags all over the place, babies crying, cops yelling, and of course that infamous war-cry that follows me every time I travel on ElAl, “MINCHA!”

We finally get to the gate after browsing through the duty free shop, and being subjugated to a body search compliments of a very grouchy homeland-security guard, who was quite exasperated, I guess she didn’t have much experience dealing with a large amount of people that treat US customs control as if it were a clothing store in Boro Park. I mean the “handling” that was going on there,, “whatya mean I can’t take this water with me on the plane?!? I neeeeed it!! ,,, “OK, I’ll leave the water, but I really need this bottle of Snapple, ok?!?

I finally get through customs cringing at the way some people were behaving, and sit down with a book and wait for them to start boarding the passengers, ahhhhh my vacation has started! Pure bliss! I take a deep appreciative breath, and suddenly notice a peculiar, yet familiar scent. Tuna!

Yep, the mathematics are simple, three hundred heimishe folks on a plane, equals at least 650 tuna sandwiches, and since there was still time ‘till boarding, and there was nothing else to do, it was chow time!

I get on the plane, pop a sleeping pill, buckle up, and hope to wake up just in time for landing, BUT that’s not the case. It seems that my fellow passengers had other plans for me.

The stewardesses were begging the people to sit down, but the people had other more important things to take care of: seating arrangements!

Now, I knew that I was flying with a bunch of friends, so when I booked my tickets I told the travel agent to seat us together, it’s quite simple, seems the rest of the plane forgot to mention that to their agents, and a lively game of musical chairs was going on to the tune of the cabin crews pleas for them to sit down.

One rather obnoxious refused to sit in the middle seat, and after being threatened with a seat of his own in a jail cell someplace he finally sat down….. Right behind me!

The grumbling was louder than the engines that had just fired up,,,, “chutzpah!, what a chutzpah!” “I paid good money for this ticket; I should have the seat of my choice!” “A bunch of anti-Semites!” I was amazed at how self-centered some people can be.

After a few minor incidents we finally take off, and dinner is served.

The aisles of an airplane are not really wide, and those little carts with the food that they push through them, are made to fit exactly, I guess the Boeing engineers never took into account what pre-flight tuna sandwiches can do to a heimish crowd, so as the crew was attempting to serve dinner, throngs of people were trying to get up and down those aisles, and were amazed when the steward told them to go back to their seat. The dude in back of me was no different, he jumps out into the aisle, oblivious to the fact that he had just slammed his elbow into my shoulder and started pushing his way towards the front of the aircraft, “but I need to visit my friend over there” he shouted when the steward politely asked him to sit back down.

Again I cringed.

The glatt meal they served was not really to my liking, so I asked the steward for some of the regular ElAl pita with some regular chumos,, I mean I am going to Israel after all, might as well get my G.I. system used to the culture!

Yum! Warm pita, spicy chumos, I am about to a big bite, when… poke…poke…poke…. It’s Mr. Dude from the seat in back of me. “Errr, yungerman,, you know it’s none of my business, but that stuff your eating is not kosher!” I try to enjoy my meal and ignore him but he is persistent, “really, you shouldn’t eat it”. I continue to ignore him and try to continue eating, when he reaches out over my head, grabs my tray, and says, “are you listening to me?!?”

My friend sitting next to me had enough, he grabbed Dude’s hand almost crushing his fingers and with a very polite “mind you own !@#$ing business” sent him crashing back into his seat. Well there went my relaxing dinner, and the sleeping pill was starting to kick in, so I figured, OK I’ll just sleep ‘till landing.

The lights in the cabin go off, a peaceful quite fills the air and the guys in their hat and jackets enjoy the in-house movies,, I finally drift off to sleep.

Somewhere over Europe the stirring starts. First it’s just one or two, but soon people are milling about, there is a new program on the agenda. “Shachris!”

In my drug induced coma, I notice the action, but am sufficiently sluggish to ignore it, that is until Mr. Dude makes it his duty to make sure he has a minyan.

At that point I just gave up.

The rest of the flight was a nightmare with me still being dazed from the sleeping pill, the crew trying to serve breakfast, and the minyonim finishing up with a very excited oilim bursting into a spontaneous and very “hartzig” Bar-Yochooey.

I just wanted to get into my hotel and have some peace and quite!

The plane finally lands, and after much pushing and shoving we finally get off.

By now I am hot, sweaty, probably smelly, and grouchy; you get the picture, and guess who meets us as we step off the plane? The other half of our group that was flying on the upper deck.

They looked cool, relaxed, rubbing their sleepy eyes; I just stood there staring at them, “what?” asked my friend Yanki, “is there a problem?” I assume a very sweet and overly friendly voice and ask him, “so how was your flight?” “Oh! Great!” “It was quite, the martinis were great, the food delicious, and I just woke up from a 6 hour nap.”

He ducked as I threw my carry-on-wheely at him.

Suffice to say, three minutes later I was on the phone, Amex card in hand, and yes, I flew back business, it was great!