Wednesday, May 16, 2012

How I Forged my EL AL Ticket

We are bumping along in the airport shuttle bus, my hand luggage clutched on my knee.

 “I’m so glad we are flying EL AL” I say happily. “The way to the states was such a nightmare with Iberia” (who knew it takes 30 hours to fly from Tel Aviv to Madrid?)

TCO just nods. Men are like that.

“Next time we are flying ELAL both ways. I can’t handle a connecting flight again. Besides, their service is so much better.”

Famous last words. If life was a movie, dramatic music would have been playing in the background at this point                              

“Flying has really changed” I say to TCO, pulling out a folded pieced of paper from my purse. “Remember when you had to go to the travel agent and he’d give you a little plastic pouch with tickets that were blue ink booklets?”

Little did I know that I would soon be longing for those days. Oh, sweet 90s.

We hand over our e-tickets to the EL – AL clerk behind the check in counter. She inspects them both, asks for our passports. She types away busily, calls over an older clerk. They both look at the screen, yak away in Spanish, type away some more.

“I’m sorry. She’s new at this. She is learning.” Says the older woman.

“It’s fine.” We nod, we smile.

“T?” They look at him, look at the passport.

“I reserved a window seat” he says. We reserved our seats ahead, the airline confirmed it.

“Yes, we see. One minute”

A few more keys pressed, and they print out a boarding pass for him.

Then they move on to me. More Spanish, more typing.  

Then they call over a third person. A man this time. His nametag says G.

He talks with them, looks at the screen, looks at me.

I look back. What’s wrong? Did they forget to order my Special Kosher meal?

“Your husband has a reservation. You, however, are not in the system.” He says to me.

“I’m not what?!”

“You do not appear in the system. You don’t have a place on the flight.”

“That can’t be. I confirmed my place, I confirmed my seat even. Look at the tickets – 27 A and 27 B. “

“You’re husband has seat 27 A, yes. But you don’t have a reservation. I will put you on Stand By.”

“But here’s my ticket.” I wave it at him.

“A ticket and a reservation are two different things. You have a ticket, yes. But you do not have a reservation. You are not in the system.”

“Your ticket was bought through Iberia. You’ll have to speak to them.”

“I have an EL-AL e-ticket number. How can I not be in the system?”

“Ah.” Now he is riled. “All you have is a piece of paper. That e-ticket, what is it? A piece of paper. Anyone can forge a piece of paper. You could have forged that.”

How can I answer to that? How can any passenger answer to that?

EL AL lesson #1: EL AL e-tickets are worthless, since they can be forged. How can you know you’re on a flight? Easy, hack into EL AL’s computer system. Don’t do a silly thing like trust EL AL to honor their e-ticket.

“But I need to be on this flight.”

“It’s none of my business. You should speak to Iberia. I’ll put you on Standby. That’s all I can do. But the flight is overbooked, there are no empty seats. There’s nothing I can do.”

“Ahah. “ TCO pipes up. “So you are admitting we have a reservation, if you are giving her a standby ticket! Why would you give her a standyby ticket if you think she forged the e ticket?”

EL-AL Lesson #2: Don’t use logic.

 “I don’t care what you are saying.“ says G. “I don’t care. I’m not listening. I told you, you don’t have a place on the flight. That’s it.”

“How about in Business class?” TCO asks. “Since you lost my wife’s reservation, you should upgrade her to Business class.”

This is the part where I start fantasizing about being upgraded to Business class. I mean, EL AL messed up, now they’ll have to find a solution. Silly me.

“We only upgrade EL AL passengers. You are an Iberia passenger. She will have to be standby”

“OK. So how about you upgrade one of your EL AL passengers to business class, and then give me her economy seat?”

Om second thought, I don’t care about flying Business class at this point. I just want to get home and out of this dark comedy. I’d go in the cattle cart if there was one.

EL AL Lesson #3: Don’t try and find a creative solution. Do not even consider trying to find a solution. 

“There are no empty seats in Business class. The whole plane is full. Full! There is no room for you.” G doesn’t even check the computer. He prefers shouting at us.

“Listen, you made a mistake, we accept that. But now how are you going to solve it?”

“I told you. The plane is full. Speak to Iberia. It is not my problem. I have to go now, the plane is boarding. Bye Bye”

G. is yelling. The other clerks, stand around, embarrassed. Then he strides off. We don’t know what to do, if we try going to Iberia, it will be too late, the plane is boarding soon.

Then our guadian angel comes along. The older clerk from before.

She steps up, whispers to us. “I will help you. I will find you a place. Don’t worry.”

Her face is kind. She isn’t shouting at us. She isn't claiming I forged my ticket.

She calls Iberia (something G. wouldn't deign to do) . “They have your reservations.”

She calls EL AL reservations “Your reservation is missing from the EL AL system. There must have been a failure in saving your Iberia reservation in the EL AL reservation system.”

A bug in communications between the two systems. It happens. It could be Iberia’s fault, and could be EL AL’s. Who knows.  I just know I'm caught in the middle.

EL AL Lesson #4: Don’t fly with a codeshare 

“There are empty business class seats, but I can’t give you one without my manager’s permission” G. is the manager, so no high hopes on that one.

She checks in the computer. “Some passengers have not shown up, I’ll give you their seats.”

“Here is a standby ticket. Meet me at the boarding gate and I’ll make sure you are on the flight.”

We trust her. We rush through passport control, and duty free. Find our angel at the boarding gate.

G., the manager, sees us and glares. We ignore him.

Boarding. The moment of truth. We go to the desk, she hands me a ticket. “I’m sorry you’re not next to each other. “ She apologizes. “But I tried to make sure you are close.”

We thank her again and again. I want to hug her.We board the plane.

And that kids, is how you “forge” an EL AL ticket.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Taking Time

My friend is getting married next week. She's the last of the "chevra" to cross over to the dark side. It's her shower.We are sitting around a table piled high with wrapped up pots and pans and peelers.

"I want you all to give me advice now", she says ."One tip for a good marriage from each of you"

I suppose being the last to marry has its advantages. Not only do we know to give her already toiveled dishes, but apparantly we also can share advice. Well they can. I'm still a rookie.

One by one they mention giving to your husband and caring about him and encouraging him and all those other good traits

"It's important to still leave time for yourself" I say when it's my turn "Just because you enjoy being together doesn't mean you won't sometimes need your own space, your own time for the things you like to do"

The others look at me like they pity TCO, like I'm a selfish wife. I blush. Who knows, maybe I am.

I just learned that there are things I have to do, that are oxygen to me. Once I was married I forgot about them, I thought I didn't need them anymore. But I was wrong. The tranquility of diving into a swimming pool, churning through the water and letting thoughts bubble up. The high I get from writing, that nothing else gives me.

My newlywed friend has different outlets and needs. I hope she doesn't forget them.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

In Real Life

I found this post in my Ipod. It was written "735 days ago". That's back when I was single, skeptical of ever finding the right guy through a Shidduch date, and meeting quite a few of my online readers.

You read my blog. You like it, that's why you carry on reading it. You want to meet me.

You have this picture of me in your head.

You expect me to be vibrant and energetic. You expect me to be bubbly and charismatic. You expect me to be like my writing. I'm not. I'm quiet,  I speak softly. Often I don't speak at all, because I'm still thinking.

You either expect me to be rebellious and critical of society (based on some of my posts), or you think I'm flipped out, like my name( which was chosen by mistake, but that's another story).

I'm neither. I'm just another frum girl. The type you wouldn't look at twice if you passed in the street. I do have some criticism of society, but so do most people, they just don't bother to voice theirs.

And I think most bloggers are the same. We are good writers. But writing and speaking are two different skills.

We aren't pretending. We are like our blogs, but only inside. And only in one facet of ourselves.

Carry on drawing pictures of us in your heads. But know they are probably wrong.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Fading Newlywed Bliss

Will this last forever?

I'm estatic, elated. I straighten my shaitel, half skip, half run.  I'm on the way home to my husband. I'm married, really married! And I have the most wonderful husband in the whole wide world.

Life feels like a dream. It's too good to be true. When did this happen, when did everything change, drastically and amazingly?  I'm scared I'll wake up.

Newlywed bliss; an enchanted fairytale that the two of you are living in. Everything’s wonderful, everything’s perfect. You're married! 

I wondered how it would end, when the happiness would dissipate. Sheer amazingness couldn't last, they told me.

"How are you?" My long married friends asked
"I'm so happy!" I said
"Yeah, newlyweds…"
"Don't you feel the same?"  I asked them

I didn't understand. Why should the happiness end, if you're supposed to be loving each other more and more, not less and less. Shouldn't you be becoming even more happy, as your marriage grows older?

Now I understand. It's not that your marriage wanes, it's just that life begins to infringe.

There are small things. You feel sorry for yourself because of tooth aches and the flu. You have worries and decisions- buying a house, taking out a mortgage, changing jobs.

You have to deal with finances, budgets, things that didn’t exist beforehand.

I’m still happy. Baruch Hashem! I want to thank God every day. But it’s not the same as in the beginning. I have to work a bit now, to forget the small worries, and appreciate my miracle.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

I'm Free

I’m free. I can do whatever I want. I don’t have to listen to anyone, I don’t have to care what anyone thinks of me. (Except for TCO, but then we agree on most things, so that works.)

I savor it. My short period of freedom.

I’m not in school, ducking into a store when I see a teacher or a classmate in the distance, anyone who will report my long jeans skirt, strictly forbidden by my Israeli Bais Yaacov.

I’m not in Seminary, I can’t get kicked out for speaking a boy. (Not that I ever did.)

Best of all – I’m not in Shidduchim.  I can go to a wedding with no makeup, I can be unfriendly to annoying yentas, I can even make shocking and controversial statements comparing the Shidduch scene to an auction.

We live in a mixed, non Charedi, neighborhood.  I could do cartwheels in the street and nobody would care. I wear a baggy old skirt and glasses to the supermarket. I never go to anywhere just to “meet people”.  When I try to decide if my outfit is tznius, I only have one criteria – God. Not the shadchans, not the rabbis, not society.
I should enjoy it while it lasts.

The cycle will start again. Maybe we'll move to a religious neighborohood, and start caring about the neighbors.We’ll need our kids to be accepted, first to Cheiders and Bais Yaacovs, where they’ll check the length of my Sheitel and if I wear black tights, and do we have internet at home. The next stage is Seminaries and Yeshivas, an especially tough scene in competitive Jerusalem. Some mothers stop driving, some fathers change Shuls, anything to pass the test. Then our kids will be in Shidduchim, by which point we’ll need to pray we are millionaire saints, living the holy kollel lifestyle in style, with enough money set aside to buy eligible son in laws.

It’s easy to tell me I should always do what’s right, never listening, never caring. But there’s the right way, and the smart way. I’d rather be smart.

But meanwhile –I don’t have to be anything I don’t want to be. I’m free.