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Peppino’s Big Adventure

16 Aug

The inscrutable gas pump at Paz gas station in Herzliya

Ever since the gas station at the entrance to Herzliya installed a new machine for self serve pumps—with instructions in Hebrew only—I’ve been obsessed with figuring out how to use them. And not only that. I want to be able to create an info sheet for work that will aid non-Hebrew speaking people in using the machines.

This evening after dinner, I recruited Brad to come with me to the gas station so he could aid me in my mission to take photos of the machine display and figure out how to use the machine. I hadn’t taken into account that it was a Thursday evening and traffic was guaranteed to be heavy. (Thursday is Israel’s Friday.) Plus, I’d let the tank go to nearly empty before setting out on this mission.

My little Fiat Panda, Peppino, didn’t like running on fumes and was not handling stop-and-go traffic very well. He was bucking like a disgruntled bronco. Then, I heard the dreaded beep beep beep signal alerting me to a warning message. “Limited Range” flashed onto my dashboard display. Yikes! Almost out of gas! We crept along in the bumper to bumper traffic as my heart leapt into my mouth. Fortunately we didn’t have far to go and Peppino limped up towards the gas pump.

Just as I’d suspected, even though I’d had two previous goes at it with help from kind strangers, I was having trouble navigating the menu on the touch screen. And, just as I’d suspected, Brad was able to figure it out. So, mission accomplished, we headed home, Peppino now happy with a bellyful of fuel.

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First Adventure With Peppino

7 Jun

Today I took Peppino out for our first drive outside Herzliya. My destination was the Italian Ambassador’s residence in Ramat Gan. The members of my Italian class, had been invited to a mid-morning coffee hosted by Stefania Mattiolo, the Italian Ambassador’s wife. I didn’t drive all the way to Ramat Gan but just as far as Ramat HaSharon. I parked Peppino in front of Liliane’s house who drove us to la Residenza. Liliane is a very nice woman I’ve met through the IWC. I learned today that her husband is a former ambassador to Israel from a South American country. They have been living in the Tel Aviv district since the 1960s.

Italian Ambassador's Residence in Israel

La Residenza

We had a lovely time at the Italian residence. Stefania served up some great strong coffee and tasty appetizers, both sweet and savory. I believe everyone of our group of eleven had a chance to chat directly with Stefania. She is friendly and personable — we are all on a first-name basis with her. I took the opportunity to inquire about interesting places to visit on my upcoming visit to Italy in November.

Italian Ambassador's Residence in Israel

La Residenza

Later, we all gathered for a group photo and then Stefania invited us all to a Gala Evening she will be hosting later this month in support of the Italian synagogue in Jerusalem, said to be one of the most exquisite in Israel.

My Italian Class

My Italian Class at La Residenza


Our gathering came to a close around noon. I rode back to Ramat HaSharon with Liliane and then Peppino and I headed back to Herzliya. I missed a turn going home and ended up on some back roads near the beach in Herzliya. It took me a while to figure my way back but I had fun getting to know how to handle Peppino.

Meet Peppino, My New Best Buddy

6 Jun

Fiat Panda front

Fiat Panda rear

We bought a second car! It’s a 2005 Fiat Panda. I call him Peppino. Ain’t he cute? He’s very small, perfect for driving around in on the streets of Tel Aviv and zipping into parking spaces the Toyota can only dream of. I just got him today and am still getting used to driving him. Such a different feel from the Camry.

Peppino and I will head into Tel Aviv tomorrow. The Italian Ambassador’s wife has invited the members of my Italian class to a coffee at the Italian Ambassador’s Residence. I’m excited but nervous. It’s in a part of town I’m not very familiar with. Wish me “buona fortuna!”

Fiat Panda Car of the Year 2004

I don't mean to brag, but Peppino comes with excellent credentials!

A Long Tale Of Woe And Frustration, The Telling of Which Makes Me Feel Better

7 Apr

It all started yesterday afternoon when my MacBook Pro suddenly became unresponsive. It wasn’t frozen…I could move the cursor but my clicks weren’t working. I could not open any folders, files or windows. Could not close any windows that were open. Could not launch any programs. Could not quit any programs. My mouse and trackpad were totally nonfunctional.

I shut down and restarted twice. Still unresponsive. I searched the internet for solutions. Plenty of folks had reported similar problems but no solutions were forthcoming.

Panic began to set in. Why do these things happen when I’m in the middle of a freelance project? I posted a message of desperation on facebook. My brother posted a link to an Apple Store in Tel Aviv and wondered if they have a genius bar. A bit of research revealed that there are no true Apple Stores in Israel. They have what are called iDigital outlets that are authorized resellers. The iDigital store in Tel Aviv does not do repairs but there is a “lab” in Petah Tikva that can repair Macs.

Then Brad reminded me that I have Apple Care support on my laptop. I wanted to get on the phone right away to Apple but had to wait a couple of hours till it was 6 a.m. Pacific time. After talking to two techs (I got disconnected from the first guy), doing a safe reboot, running disk utility, repairing the hard disk and repairing disk permissions I was still having the same problem.

I decided to make the trip out to Petah Tikva after all. I would need to ride in with Brad the next morning so I could have the car. While I was in Tel Aviv, I could run over to the camera shop and get the sensor on my Nikon cleaned, then drive over to the iDigital lab.

It was one of my more ill-fated decisions ever.

The morning started off rather nicely with no hint of the horrors to come. The weather was sunny and pleasant. I dropped my camera off just after the shop opened at 8 a.m. and was told it would be ready at 10 a.m. In the meantime I walked over to Neve Tzedek, my new favorite neighborhood, and had a lovely cappuccino at Lulu’s Cafe. I practiced my newly-learned Hebrew phrase when I ordered, asking for “Cappuccino gadol im halav dal.” (large cappuccino with skim milk) The waiter responded in English “Is that for here or to go?” “Arrrrgh,” I thought, but laughed and said, “How did you know?” He smiled and said, “Just a guess.”

Picked up my spiffy cleaned camera at 10 a.m. as promised and then I was on my way to Petah Tikva.

I’ve been to P-T before but the iDigital lab is located in a totally different area than I’d been to before. And it didn’t help that I turned the wrong way onto Route 4, the main road to my destination. I got myself turned around easily enough and made the correct turn onto Jabotinksy Road. I was looking to make the third turn onto Shenkar Road.

Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? But Jabotinsky Road has a very odd layout: There were two lanes going east and two lanes going west but in between those lanes was another set of lanes separated by a cast iron fence, one lane going east and the other going west. Was I allowed in the center section? It appeared to be for buses and HOVs, so I stayed on the far side of the center lanes. The trouble with this is that it was nearly impossible to see the street names of the cross streets. There were no street signs overhead, one had to peer way across four lanes of traffic to see the street signs, which are difficult enough to read normally.

Naturally, I missed my turn. After going several blocks with out a chance of a left hand turn I was finally able to make a Uie (great crossword puzzle word) and head back towards Shenkar Road.

Turned onto Shenkar successfully. I thought I was supposed to take the first right, so I did. I had been warned I’d be in an industrial area and indeed I was. I began scanning the myriad signs for iDigital. The road was narrow, all parking spaces were occupied and there were cars parked illegally on the sides of the road.

Then it happened. I felt more than heard a scrape. My right rear panel had bumped up against another car’s front panel. I heard a blood-curdling screech. My blood ran cold. Dear God, had I hit someone?

I came to a halt and jumped out to see what had happened. The woman whose car I had bumped into came over to me in near hysterics. When, finally, I could understand what she was saying, I discovered that I had only made a “little bump” but it was a new car and she was trying to sell it.

By this time I’m extremely flustered. The woman continued to screech and howl. My fingers felt like jelly as I tried to find my cell phone, a pen, a piece of paper to write on. Then people began yelling at me to move my car because I was blocking the road. But there was no where to move to! I moved a bit further along the road but I was still in the way.

Then a parking space freed up. It was a narrow and awkward space that I would have to back into. I’m terrible at backing up under normal circumstances but I was doubly nervous about this maneuver. All I needed right now was to bump into another car as I was backing into the space. Somehow, I managed to take it slowly. An impatient driver went past after I’d pulled into the space yelling what must have been obscenities at me.

The woman and I exchanged information. She kept saying she didn’t want to go through insurance companies. She said she wanted me to pay for the damage on the spot. I wasn’t so sure about that and did what I’d been instructed to do by the Embassy in case I’m involved in an accident.

Eventually that nerve-wracking scene came to a close and I could continue on my mission. I had turned one street too soon. iDigital was one block further on the right, though they didn’t make it easy to approach their building. As I drove down the road near the building I saw that my only course of action was to go down a road with a Do Not Enter sign. I found out later that the Hebrew wording underneath the sign said something to the effect “Unless You Are Conducting Business with a Company”. Even so, the entrance to the parking lot was blocked by a gate. There was a sign there with the iDigital phone number on it, so I called them and had to ask them to open the gate.

Whew, I was finally there! Went inside and up to the third floor. Presented my laptop to the tech at the counter.

Have you guessed it yet? It was working fine. No hint of the problem that was still there in the morning before I left the house. The tech said I could leave my laptop there for them to run a diagnostic on it but I declined. I stepped off to the side to test out the computer before leaving to make sure the problem would not reoccur. A man entered the room and asked politely if I was waiting to speak to a tech. His kindness began to restore my faith in humanity.

Upon leaving the parking lot I had to call iDigital and ask them raise the gate. I got on Route 4 to go home and then had the horrible feeling I was going in the wrong direction. I pulled into a gas station to inquire about the way home (We still don’t have a road atlas of Israel and I just had a useless google map I’d printed out in haste this morning.) The young lad behind the counter started to help me in his broken English, then a customer behind me jumped in and offered good directions to get me back on track. Ah, score another plus for humanity! His directions were good and I made it home without further incident.

And my laptop is still working fine.