basketball, car test, frustration, Hebrew

A Screaming, Smiling Kind of Day

What a day! There are days when I just want to scream out in frustration and tell the day to be over already; and then there are days when I smile ear-to-ear and love how things are going.

Today was both.

Let me explain. There is a test that your car has to pass once a year to get your license renewed. And like everywhere else, everyone jokes about the hassle of it.

We’ve been extremely lucky for seven years and have always passed the test on the first try. This year, I was guaranteed to pass. I have a two year old car and I went to have the car serviced last week in anticipation of the test. I asked them to look the entire car over, and I spent 1500 shekel (about $450) on the brakes.

I was set.

So, today was a day off for the kids since it’s the day after Shavuot (don’t ask – they need a day off to recover from their one day holiday). So I worked crazy hours and then took the kids to drop Josh off at his office. Then we went for the test. Now, as an immigrant without car language in Hebrew, the test is either going to make you laugh or cry.

They have you pull into a spot and they start yelling at you in unintelligible Hebrew (even for Hebrew speakers). What they are saying is anyone’s guess, and when you don’t know what the heck they want, they just gesture louder and more ferociously. Everything includes fast movements.

“Slam on the brakes! Now!”

“Turn the wheel. Faster. Faster. Faster.”

“Right blinker. No, not that one. Right. Now left. Fast.”

It feels like a try-out for the car Olympics and I was seriously in a state of anxiety by the time they finished. Then, they waved a paper at me and barked, “To the office.”

So, I pulled over the car, gathered all the kids together, and marched into the office to pay my bill. “Whew!” I thought. “I’ve finished for another year.”

As the woman was signing the papers, she started circling things and stamping things. “Um, wait,” I said. “Did I pass?”

She looked up, and smirked at the guy standing next to me who was already smirking in their shared knowledge. “No. You need to fix the lkjlkjlkjlkjlkjlkjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjj”

And there it was again. I had no idea what she was saying. None. Zero.

It’s amazing how quickly a smart, educated person can be made to feel like an absolute idiot when they don’t know the language. I tried to tell her that I really do know Hebrew. That I get by. That I read my kids’ homework assignments and I pay the bills. That I function each day. And that I just don’t know car language.

But suddenly, all of her speech became very slllllloooooooooow and drawn out. The wheel. Something about the wheel.

They were all gesticulating now and pretending to turn a wheel. Then, they started speaking even more slowly, and translating words like 40 shekel.

Oh good grief.

So, I paid my fee, realized I would have to go back to the shop to get the car fixed and then back to Jerusalem for another test, and marched the kids out of the office.

I decided that I was either going to cry or figure out how to brush off this experience, so I had the kids start to chant with me, “Test – You Suck! Test – You Suck!” Then I had to explain why they can’t use the phrase “you suck” at any other time. Oopps…bad mom.


Hours later, I got to enjoy an experience that left me smiling ear-to-ear. My older children have been talking for weeks about some street ball tournament that they wanted to be part of. The only part of it that concerned me, leading up to the day, was that my babysitters wouldn’t be home to watch their siblings when I had to work. Darn.

So, today, when they took off for the tournament, I was curious to see what this really was. They said that it was going to last from 10 to 10, and I couldn’t imagine what they were talking about! At about 4:30 when I showed up in Alon Shvut with my younger four, the place was hopping! There was music blaring and a festive atmosphere all around. There were hundreds of kids, all wearing t-shirts for their teams, playing basketball in every inch of available space. And it was completely organized from top to bottom.

And the kids…well, the kids were having a blast!

For 25 shekel (about $7), my kids had an activity that kept them busy for close to 10 hours today. They played 6 or 7 games of basketball each, enjoyed watching others play, hung out with people from ages 10 to 30 and had a wonderful day. I was in awe of how well such an activity was executed and about the message that it sent to my kids.

Fun doesn’t have to be spelled out with gobs of money or with entertainment that is fancy or elaborate. Tell the kids to form teams of four, ask them for 25 shekel, offer them a shirt and a place to play, and you’ve got yourself a wholesome, healthy, all-day activity.


Maybe the people who organized the street ball tournament could teach the car test people a thing or two. Hmmmm…..

0 thoughts on “A Screaming, Smiling Kind of Day

  1. Car language – in any language – can be crazy. I remember in 1971, riding my motorcycle from NYC to Quebec City, where my sister and brother-in-law were then living. Had trouble with the shifter fork on the way up, so my brother-in-law and I went to the motorcycle dealer. Now my b-i-l is a native French speaker, but he had no idea what they were talking about. Of course, he said the French Canadians only *think* they are speaking French….

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