It’s been a while since I wrote an Israel post, and with the recent back-and-forth between me and Vanessa, here’s another story from Israel which I am surprised I had not yet posted.
Fast food restaurants in Israel are quite the experience. There’s basically two categories: the locals and the imports. Locals are places like Burger Ranch and Cafe Hillel; places that basically don’t exist outside the country. They’re sort of a mix of fast food and restaurant, and usually the fare is cheaper, more exciting, and better-tasting than the food from the second category, which would be the American imports, like McDonalds, Burger King, and Pizza Hut. It’s not a hard and fast rule – for example, I think Cafe Hillel’s coffee kinda sucks – but generally, employees at the latter restaurants are at the mercy of the internationally-focused franchisers rather than the local, so they have different standards for their employees. And, as we know here in America, the latter restaurants tend to pop up in the not-so-greatest parts of town, further weakening their reputations.
But anyway, the story.
One night I went to visit Ele in Rehovot. I got off the train and he and Janet were there to fetch me, with the task of going to the store to bring back dinner for all their housemates. After buying soda at a makolet, we stopped by the local Pizza Hut in crummy downtown Rehovot to get cheap and quick eats for the gang. We place our order, and I hand over my credit card to pay. She runs it and it doesn’t work. After trying it a few times, she says it’s not good. I say that it is, and she asks if she can see my teudat zehut (Israeli ID card) to punch in my ID number, and maybe that will push the transaction through. I tell her that I’m not an Israeli citizen, and neither are Ele and Janet, so we don’t have teudat zehut.
Then, the most redoinkulous and awkward situation commences (as if it could get weirder):
PIZZA HUT LADY: Do you have your American teudat zehut?
ME: Um, we don’t have those in America.
PIZZA HUT LADY: You don’t?
ME: Nope. It’s just an Israeli thing.
PIZZA HUT LADY: So what do you have?
ME: Well, I have my driver’s license on me ::innocently takes it out of my wallet::
PIZZA HUT LADY: Can I see it?
ME: Um, okay. ::hands it over:
PIZZA HUT LADY punches numbers into the machine. Nothing. She keeps trying.
ME: Um, ma’am…what are you doing?
PIZZA HUT LADY: I’m trying this number.
Yep, that’s right. The lady at the Pizza Hut kiosk on the main street in downtown Rehovot thought that my Soundex number would magically pay for a pizza. I guess worse assumptions have been made, but despite my insisting that it was just a license, and not connected to any sort of bank account (and it barely has a magnetic strip) she kept on trying, in vain, and even called over a manager to help her out, while we all looked on in wonderment.
Eventually, while looking around and noticing something across the street, I said “you know what, just wait a sec.” I gave Ele my license and wallet, took out my credit card, ran to the ATM across the way hoping it was functional (it was), withdrew money, and paid in cash.
And that’s what it’s like to get Pizza Hut in Israel.