Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Tel Aviv Bank Dance

  Another day in Tel Aviv.
Because of my change of address, I needed to make a trip to the bank. I had all these shekels to deposit and then I needed to pay my rent for the new place. But, because I didn't have an account at the bank, I was only allowed to take out small increments at a time. I had to make four daily trips to accomplish my task.
So let me give you a taste of banking in Israel.
Lesson #1 - no one stands in line. And when they do, it's optional.
My first experience with this adventure occured when I was on my Israel tour. All the nice, polite, American tourist women stood in line for the bathroom. (Why is it that men never have lines!? That was retorical mind you.) And then... an Israeli woman sauntered by us all, to the front of the line and accepts her four squares of purple toilet paper from the attendent.
 Yup, you read that right - and heads on in for her business. The attendant gave her a grin as we all go ballistic that someone had the nerve to take cutsies!
Well folks, that's life in the Middle East. We're not in Kansas anymore.
I walk into the bank - after having the security guard pass his "magic wand" over my body and peek into my purse.
There is a row of chairs, maybe 5 or 6 of them. I'm not sure how this works. People are all bunched up around the chairs, sitting and standing, and I notice in front is a teller line with (and this is universal I think) two tellers available. Everyone stares at me as I walk in. So I stand there with everyone else and wait. I have no idea who the last person in "line" is until someone comes in after me. He directs a question at us and the guy I'm standing near answers. Oh! now I get it. He is asking who the last person in "line" is. They all look at me and I guess my expression gives me away. They figure I haven't a clue that I was asked a question and Mr. Nextinline points to me and says, "he", which means she in Hebrew. After awhile I catch on and find that the proper response is, "ani", or me. That will come in handy for the next three days I do the bank dance.
Okay, so once that is established, we wait, and wait. No one is there for one step banking and each transaction takes a long time. I found that if I wait long enough, I too will get to sit in a coveted chair.
Every once in awhile, I got a free show, too. Sometimes, someone would be in a hurry, wait for an opening and pounce. When a person would leave the teller, they'd dash up to take their turn, to the disgruntlement of the person who should have been next. An argument breaks out - lots of yelling. This reminds everyone that they need to be more cautious and then afterwards, Mr or Ms Nextinline hovers - oh, around breathing down the neck distance from the person with the teller. Although I gave people their space, I found standing behind the transactor gave me a fair advantage in getting my banking done within an hour.
Lession #2 - never feed an ATM when your card has been flagged as stolen.
I'll explain that one next time!
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