0

Masterpiece Youtube: “I Got You Babe,” Betty White, Estelle Getty, and Bea Arthur

It’s been about a month since I’ve posted one of these, so here goes.

That’s So Jacob presents:

Masterpiece YouTube

Episode 7: “I Got You Babe,” Betty White, Estelle Getty, and Bea Arthur (1990)

It’s a sign of the times.

There is something to be said about a performance that captivates you from start to finish, with not a second where you’re not tuned in to the action. This moment is among the best of many that made the 1980s/1990s sitcom The Golden Girls, well…golden. I say “golden” because it was a television series that had about 25 minutes on your screen and made the most of every second. Even though I did not watch this show growing up – I assumed that it was a show for old people, not just about old people – reruns of this show pop up on Nick at Nite or TV Land every now and then, and when they do, I tune in. If you’re reading this, you probably know what the show is about, so I’m not going to waste time explaining that, but I do want to acknowledge what made the show work: the four actresses, each with perfect comedic timing and the exceptionally-written script that soaked up every second of airtime and used it to its fullest potential. Despite the fact that the main characters were all older ladies, the episodes seem young and fresh even today.

A sign of a truly exceptional sitcom is one that is able to draw you in with absolutely no context. If I was flipping through channels and knew nothing of this show, I’d be drawn in by the music, the dialogue, and the oddly-dressed characters. You really don’t need any context to enjoy this scene; it works independently, on its own platform-heeled feet. Which is a good thing, because I’ve completely forgotten the context of what actually happens in this episode. How often does that happen?

Here’s the way I see it.

We open on Betty White (as Rose) sitting at the piano. A tiny woman walks into the room, even if you don’t know that she is Estelle Getty (as Sophia) you know exactly who she’s supposed to be. After a little banter, out comes the resident giraffe, the stately Dorothy, as portrayed by Bea Arthur. The stick-straight black hair looks so out of place on her and as they line up behind the piano, you can’t wait to see what they’ll do. Of course, they launch into Sonny and Cher’s iconic “I Got You Babe,” from the 1960s and the movie Groundhog Day. What solidifies the amazingness of this scene is encapsulated in one word; when Bea Arthur deadpans the word “Babe,” and flips her hair, that’s it for me. If there was ever a “Queen of the Deadpan” competition, Bea Arthur would have it all sewn up. But the scene must go on, and since hearing them finish the song is not that important now that we’ve milked the humor of situation, Rose gets flustered and starts off on a tangent, ending it with – you guessed it – a classic St. Olaf story. Sophia’s comment comparing Rose to Ernest Hemingway wraps it up nicely, and we’re onto the next scene.

I believe that today’s TV shows underestimate the viewer. This scene shows the right amount of “haha” funny and “serious” funny without stuffing it down our throats. These days, TV shows run the jokes into the ground, as if to tell the viewers “Hey! This is funny! Laugh you people!” rather than letting the situation illustrate itself. In interviews, Bea Arthur often said that this was one of her favorite scenes from any of the episodes, ever, and I’m totally down with that. It doesn’t take a lot to process it; just let the magic wash over you and bask in its shiny, fringy glow.

Here’s how Cher felt about The Golden Girls‘ interpretation of her torch song:

Groovy.

2

Just Plane Silly

Today, I went to a play. No, really, this theater major for the past eight years actually went to a play today. So I rounded up four friends to go to Fells Point Corner Theatre to see Boeing Boeing by Marc Camoletti, trans. Beverly Cross & Francis Evans. It was directed by Josh Shoemaker and featured Adam Bloedorn, Cassandra Dutt, Wesley Niemann, Rachel Roth, David Shoemaker, and Kate Shoemaker in the cast.

The play takes place in a Paris apartment in the swinging 1960s. The plot centers around Bernard, an American expat who juggles three fiances – all of them air hostesses. Using the timetables of their respective flight schedules and airline routes, he makes sure that no fiance is in Paris at the same time. His copilot, for lack of a better term, is his maid Berthe, who alters everything from the layout of the furniture to the dinner menu according to which countrywoman is dining with Bernard. When Bernard’s friend Robert comes to town from Wisconsin, Bernard insists he stay. Also staying the night are Gabriela (Bernard’s Italian fiance, whose Alitalia flight schedule causes her to spend the night); Gretchen (Bernard’s German fiance who works for Lufthansa, who ends up with three nights in Paris); and Gloria (Bernard’s American fiance, a TWA air hostess whose trans-Atlantic flight turns back to Paris due to bad weather). General havoc ensues, but it all ends neatly with two engagements and one girl taking flight to make her own destiny.

A zany show like this spawns over-the-top characters; some of the actors met the challenge, some didn’t, and some went a little overboard. Though balding and not conventionally attractive, Adam Bloedorn held his own as Bernard. This was my second time seeing him onstage after last year’s The Mousetrap at Vagabonds. Similarly, Kate Shoemaker (Berthe) was spot on with the one-liners and brought a lot of laughs. As Robert, David Shoemaker impressed everyone in my group, but I thought that he could’ve been funnier and for a guy from Wisconsin, he sure talked like a Marylander. Of the three air hostesses (who we all agreed were gorgeous), my friends preferred Italian Gabriela (Rachel Roth) and Gloria, the American (Wesley Niemann) over the German stewardess Gretchen (Cassandra Dutt). For me, Rachel Roth captured the essence of the role the best, with remarkable control over her face, body, and voice to keep it all together. As Gloria, Wesley Niemann was cute as a button but didn’t carry as much attitude to match the other two. Granted, her character was a bit more easy-going, but she was a bit too nonchalant at times. Despite the character professing to being from New York, Niemann’s voice was, again, undeniably Baltimore. Cassandra Dutt as Gretchen impressed me (and my friends) the least. Someone in the group said that she was trying too hard to be funny, and I agreed. She was also incredibly loud, but maybe sitting in the second row lent itself to that; we were aware of the fact that Gretchen is way more intense, domineering, and passionate than the other two, but loud does not always equal funny. I also noticed Gretchen slipping out of her accent at times; she should’ve taken lessons from Berthe. One of the girls said that the fact that she was the tallest girl with the shortest skirt made her stand out, and that she was funnier when she wasn’t talking; again, cementing further the fact that “loud” and “funny” are two totally differing concepts. The other girl had a strong opinion about the ending; she thought that it was “too perfect,” but it’s a pretty classic well-made structure, so it’s inevitably going to end well.

My favorite technical aspect of the show were the costumes. We all loved the classic airline stewardess uniforms. Costumer Helenmary Ball is a regular in the Baltimore theater scene and she always does a good job. My two female friends pointed out how psychedelic and 60s everything was, and compared it to Catch Me if You Can. The set, on the other hand, for me, was a major fail. The walls of the apartment were painted a la Piet Mondrian with the color palette of an Austin Powers movie. One of the girls pointed out how the couch and chairs matched the walls and that she really felt like she was in a “groovy bachelor pad” from the 60s. It was cute, but it lost points with me for using shiny duct tape on the walls rather than just plain black lines separating the squares; when the lights hit the tape, it was really distracting and looked shoddy.

Overall, it was a sexy, light, and fun comedy with something for each one of us to enjoy. I give it 7 out of 10 airplane tickets.

0

Post Offices in Israel

Going to the post office in Israel can be quite the adventure.

The hardest part?

Finding one.

The Israeli postal service isn’t the greatest, and that’s partially because nobody knows where the heck the post offices are. For the longest time I would go to either the one on Emek Refaim or the one in Kenyon Hadar. Little did I know that there was a tiny post office on Beit Lechem…that I walked past nearly every day. Honestly, it’s like they don’t want you to find them; this one was marked by two random red poles on the side of the street, which obviously say “hey, walk back here behind the building and then come in the side door!”

Right.

After you go through the metal detector, you enter the room and take a number. From a machine. Like the ones at the deli. And they may not call yours for quite a while. One time, at the Ministry of Communications Post Office, I actually got a pleasant 45-minute nap on one of their hard wooden benches. It’s like the DMV or something. Smaller post offices may not have the number system as there is usually less traffic.

Mailing things also can be tough. That year, I was participating in BookCrossing holiday gift giving and had a bunch of postcards to send out. One happened to be going to a member in Lahore, Pakistan. It got handed right back to me, with the postal worker apologetically saying that they can’t accept it, because Israel does not send mail to Pakistan, because they are at war. So now I have a stamped postcard to Pakistan that has absolutely no value.

“What would happen if I sent it?” I asked.

“They would probably send it right back.”

Hmm. Quite a pickle, that. I went home and quickly logged onto the forums and apologized to said person in Pakistan, saying that it would be impossible to send anything to her for political reasons, to which she said ok. Funnily enough, someone in Texas posted that she’d be willing to forward the mail to Pakistan if I sent it to her. I thought about it for a quarter of a second before realizing that not only would it have to cross the Atlantic twice, but get postage paid on it TWICE. All for a 2-shekel postcard.

My experiences with postal people ran the gamut, but two instances were annoying when they happened but funny to laugh about, it retrospect.

The first one happened at the post office on Emek Refaim. I got to the counter and started speaking in English to an older woman at the counter, who just gave me a blank stare in return. It was still early on in my stay there, so I was not as confident with my Hebrew, but I did try to string together a sentence explaining what I wanted. Another blank stare, no remark. All of a sudden, a postal worker two stalls over starts yelling in Hebrew at the lady who’s failing at helping me. My postal worker turned her head to the side to hear the sound…

And that’s when I saw her hearing aid.

Oh…wait…huh?

Her blonde co-worker came over to me and apologetically said, “I sorry, she don’t speak English, only Hebrew,” and started saying some commands in Hebrew as she took my packages and stamped them. As she did this, her hands came up. Then she started using sign language to communicate with the older woman.

Sign. Language.

Really, Israel?

Even though I went back to that branch regularly, I never saw the deaf woman again. Maybe she decided it was time for a change of career. But for her sake, I sure hope it wasn’t as a phone sex operator.

The second incident happened on one of my final days in Israel. I was in downtown Jerusalem mailing out one last batch of postcards to friends around the world. That day, one of my postcards happened to be going to Jessica, a friend of mine from college who now lived in Honolulu. As the girl at the counter went through the postcards, typing in the countries’ names and printing the postage, she came to the one addressed to Honolulu, Hawaii. Without missing a beat, she tapped her long fingernails to the screen and punched the Hebrew letter hey, then vav, then another vav, then aleph, then yud.

To her surprise, nothing came up. She handed it back to me, mumbling in Hebrew, “Hawaii is not in the system. I guess we can’t mail there.”

Are you serious?

Then, I make things worse by suggesting to her she type in USA, because Hawaii is part of the USA. In fact, it’s been the fiftieth state since 1959, and still is, if nothing changed while I was in Israel.

“No, it’s not part of the USA. Hawaii is a country, no?”

Facepalm.

And they say Americans are bad when it comes to knowing about the world around them.

After a few minutes of arguing pointlessly, she called over her supervisor, and punched “Hawaii” back into the computer system, which again, unsurprisingly, came up with an error message. Her supervisor took my side, telling her to “just type it in as USA, because Hawaii is in the USA.”

“Then why doesn’t it say that on the card?”

Whoops. My bad. I had completely forgotten to write “USA” on the line under the city, state, and zip code.

And we all learned a very valuable geography lesson that day.

3

Awkward Miss Estonia, American Girls Losing the Fight Against Gravity, and Friends

First, bienvenue and merhaba to my first visitors from France and Turkey, respectively.

Second, I promise this will be my last post about beauty pageants for awhile. I swear.

With that said…

One of the things that I enjoy about watching a beauty pageant is its spontaneity, and with Miss Universe, it’s even funnier, since it’s on a global stage. Horrid talents amuse me, and some of the most defining pop culture moments of the year happen in beauty pageants, from wretched talents, awful final question answers (Miss Teen South Carolina and Miss Utah being special moments of complete WTF), and of course, everyone’s favorite, falling over.

Walking is probably the easiest thing in the world for most people to do, yet somehow some of these young women can’t even do that. Well, they can, but sometimes gravity is just not their friend. And when it happens twice, even funnier. Let’s revisit Miss Universe in 2007 and 2008, shall we?

In 2007, Miss USA Rachel Smith had made it to the evening gown round in Las Vegas, and while Sean Paul played in the background, she tripped and fell on her rear end halfway down the runway. An audible “ohhh” erupted from the American audience as she fell, but she gamely got right back up and continued walking as if nothing happened. She even made it to the next round over girls that stayed on two feet, which some people were up in arms about. Then, in 2008, Miss USA Crystle Stewart walked onto the Miss Universe stage in Vietnam in her evening gown and made history by falling again, and this time not even as gracefully as her predecessor. In some ways, this was even worse: Stewart had barely made it onto the stage with her feet when she met it with her bottom. As she got up and walked it off, she actually clapped for herself to keep the audience energy up and maybe help them forget the last five seconds (Note to Crystle Stewart – it didn’t. Nice try. Still love ya though homegirl). Something was clearly wrong as she tripped a little and almost fell a second time while turning to walk down some steps, and you can see her grasping at her dress, which was clearly the problem here.

Unfortunate? Of course. Statistically probable? Almost nil. Hilarious? YES.

And then, there’s my favorite beauty pageant contestant of all time. She didn’t place and she didn’t do anything particularly spectacular, but she won my heart.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Kirke Klemmer, AKA Awkward Miss Estonia.

https://i0.wp.com/www2.vietbao.vn/images/vi55/the-gioi-giai-tri/55117917-loandt227MissEstonia.jpg

Derp.

First of all, your name is Kirke Klemmer. There are three “k”s in your name, which is one more than kohmakas, or the Estonian word for “awkward.” Your first name is kind of like Kirk, so for some reason I picture Kirk Cameron, who is an absolute nut. Your last name is Klemmer, which is just funny, and when combined with your first name, is extremely funny to say out loud. When I put your name into Google Translate, it comes up as Norwegian for “church clamps,” which is a completely random phrase that is also funny.

Second of all, you’re from Estonia. The most random country in the world. I can’t think of a single famous person from Estonia. When I think of Estonia, all I can imagine is you and a country full of people like you, frolicking around the countryside without a care in the world. And all of you have funny somewhat Nordic or Russian-sounding names.

Third, look at you here. You are pretty and have a nice smile, but something else is going on behind those eyes. That something just might be nothing, but that’s all right with me. If you took some lithium to survive the evening , I don’t blame you. In fact, you should have received some sort of award for being making it through without falling asleep or interrupting the telecast with what was probably an epic acid trip. Your hair is styled in devil-may-care curls that make me want to say “yodel-ay-hee-hoo.” Your dress is something else. It is the color of puke. And the fabric makes it look like a rug, right down to the fringe at the bottom. It looks like something one might wear in the North – with a jacket, of course – with a kind of woolly texture.”Puke, “Woolly” and “Miss Universe” are not things that go together.

The glory starts at 2:50, when we see her for the first time. She’s the one dancing awkwardly in the yellow skirt, spinning in circles. She has an expression on her face that says, “I have no clue what I’m doing but my body is just moving around and I’m smiling like they told me to.” Then, about eight seconds later, we actually get to meet her. She’s playing with her skirt, staring off into space, and turns to face the camera at the last moment. In a monotone that sounds like she’s so strung out she might start guffawing at any given moment, she says “Kirke Klemmer, 22, Estonia” and lifts her hands to the world as if saying “I present you with my imaginary unicorn, which is ironically how I’m getting home tonight.” Also, honorable mention for looking particularly out of it: Miss Slovenia. At 8:19, she returns to the screen, bobbing around and making derpily perky Miss Czech Republic look somewhat normal in comparison. 8:21 is her shining moment, where she is seen in the background, blithely doing what looks to be the hokey-pokey in her own little bubble by a column, completely lost in her own little world. She appears again about ten seconds later next to Miss Chile, playing with her skirt and looking nowhere in particular. Sadly, that’s the last we see of her all night, but she was fun while she lasted. I can imagine her wandering around backstage, licking walls or asking people where her lollipop went.

I did a quick Google search for her and I couldn’t find much, but according to a casting website, she got a degree in acting in 2013 from Tallinn University and is doing something in London. She has a Facebook but it doesn’t have much on it but a current picture of her with another girl looking incredibly derpy in black. I’d add her as a friend, but that would be weird since I don’t actually know her. If anyone reading this does know her, tell her to contact me because she just looks like a barrel of fun. Maybe if I type Estonia a few more times, I’ll get a visitor from there. Estonia. Estonia. Estonia. Estonia. Estonia. Estonia. Estonia. Estonia. Estonia. Estonia.

And that’s my tribute to Kirke Klemmer, Awkward Miss Estonia, briefly featured while possibly stoned on the Miss Universe stage in 2006, possibly stoned right now, and awkwardly dancing through my heart.

Estonia.

0

Miss Universe 2013 Missed the Boat

That’s right, you heard it from me. I watched the whole thing twice; once live from Russia online, and part of the NBC telecast. Overall, it was not the best thing I’ve ever seen. I thought that the presentation was just fair, the talent was mediocre, and some of the placements were completely wacko, in addition to some of the other production shenanigans. But there was some good and interesting television as well.

First off, before I go into too much detail, congratulations to Maria Gabriela Isler of Venezuela for the win. I wrote in my previous post that I liked you, and that even if it meant another win for Venezuela, she’s clearly a good choice. Apparently, the entire nation of the Philippines was going NUTS over Miss Philippines, Ariella Arida, who got waaaay further than she should have, in my opinion. The ratings probably skyrocketed for NBC, so I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if those politics kept her going. But back to the point – Good going, Ven, you did your country proud and you seem pretty cool.

  • The opening was delightful in comparison to previous years. The national costumes were featured (yay!) and it wasn’t so much, “Hi! I’m Miss Angola! Bye!” – they got to step up to the microphone and say their full names and hometowns. Seriously, it’s the least you could do for girls who flew all the way from the Caribbean to stand on the stage. When Philippines got up to speak, you couldn’t even hear her.
  • Announcement to the Philippines/Vietnam: not distasteful in the least. But why not go out and just say, “hey, here’s Miss Philippines, if we put her on your screen for ten minutes solid and then put her away, will you be quiet?”
  • Top 16: No Africa, no Oceania, and worst of all, no Israel. They finally pick a girl of winner caliber and she stayed put. Oh well, at least she’s still Miss Israel. Also, Poland was forgotten about, as well as new girls Myanmar and Azerbaijan. Homegirl Russia also missed the cut, which is pretty rare on home turf. Obvious ins were USA, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and Brazil. Pleased to see Switzerland, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Ukraine, and Dominican Republic. Not too surprised about Spain, India and Indonesia. Great Britain hasn’t placed in awhile, so that was good for her, but Costa Rica and China? I was cringing at those two. Kinda knew the online voters pushed Philippines through.
  • Swimsuits? Not the most flattering nor tasteful this year.
  • Evening gowns were uneventful, no major trips or falls.
  • Ecuador’s reaction to being in the top 5 was kind of striking. She really didn’t expect it – no one did – but she actually managed to give Ecuador it’s highest ever placement by just making the top 5, so I imagine people down there are happy for her.
  • Final questions? Completely asinine, with abysmal answers. This had no impact on anything.
  • Philippines’ reaction to being eliminated was interesting – kind of a half-smile/half-frown thing, letting her guard down for a minute.
  • Final moment was HILARIOUS. I don’t quite know what happened up there, but it seemed like a case from the movie Miss Congeniality when no one can hear or think. The camera went to Spain, then to Venezuela, and they were just kind of standing there talking about goodness knows what, and then Spain was whisked away and the crown and sash came forward for Venezuela and instead of an ugly cry she did the exact opposite and did a full-on bug-eyed crazy scream that actually made me think of her as an awesome human being for having a normal reaction and not knowing how the heck to deal with it.
  • The crowning moment of the night? The crown, which kept falling off Venezuela’s head, so much so that she just gave up and took it off at one point. Props to her for the quick reflexes to catch it before it crashed into a million pieces. My theory? Maybe her hair wasn’t sprayed too much and there wasn’t anything for it to latch onto.
  • What happened to Miss Congeniality and Miss Photogenic? Did anyone else notice that any mention of that was completely excised?
  • Also, the credits coming on too early sucked – she was literally crowned with the words “DONALD TRUMP” on her forehead in big white letters. Irony, or just bad planning?
  • Oh, and the whole million dollar swimsuit thing? What was that about? I thought it looked pretty horrible even on Miss Universe 2012, Olivia Culpo, and she was covering it up with a fur stole the whole time. So what it’s an expensive swimsuit – it probably can’t even get wet, which defeats the whole purpose. And also…with that million dollars, couldn’t you have done something, oh, I don’t know…charitable? Or good for the environment? Who needs a million dollar swimsuit? Especially an unflattering one.

In ten words: Blah show, Ven again, but deserving this time. Greasy crown.

Aaaaand, now it’s time to get some work done. Ha.

1

Book Review: Tina Fey, Bossypants

A few weeks ago, I crossed another book off my “to-read” list when, upon the suggestion of my friend Julie, I went to the library and got out Bossypants, the (relatively) new memoir of funny lady Tina Fey. I made the excuse that I needed to read it for a project (which I actually did, incorporating one of the chapters of the book into my paper – thanks, Tina!) and I did not regret it.

Cover

Cover (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I didn’t know that much about Tina Fey before, but now that I’ve read this book, I feel like we’re best friends. Her artful and hilarious way of illustrating stories of her childhood woes was touching (but not in a sexual way), and it made me feel like my blog posts in the “random memories” category might mean something to somebody someday. After several chapters about her early days, she starts going off on wild and wonderful tangents about all the different factors that make her the person whom we see today. Her topics include weight, makeup, photo shoot tips, and how to interact with your boss/employees. I knew that prior to her bit as Sarah Palin, she’d been off the show for a little while, but I didn’t know that even though she was in the cast for awhile, she did way more behind the scenes as a writer than as an actress. Thinking about it…she’s totally right, with her years having much more visible women in them (Amy Poehler, Rachel Dratch, Maya Rudolph to name a few) with more memorable characters. Aside from Palin, Tina Fey’s main point of reference was as a foil to Jimmy Fallon on Weekend Update, which she did flawlessly, but as herself. That’s another thing that kind of surprised me: she didn’t see herself as anything other than Tina. True, to a certain extent, given that she usually appeared as herself on the show, but she also revealed that she didn’t think she looked like Sarah Palin other than sharing brown hair and a similar taste in glasses, from which I beg to differ. People around the country were drawing comparisons between the two even before Palin was announced as McCain’s running mate. And really, it’s more than hair and face – they have the same height and build, prominent cheekbones and big smiles. Tina Fey wasn’t Sarah Palin in a wig; for most Americans, Tina Fey was Sarah Palin. And for some confused foreign media outlets as well. More than the actual politician herself, Fey provided more than enough humor to what was a very tense election, and may have ultimately been a factor in deciding the future trajectory of the leadership of the United States of America.

The best part of the book was the complete script of Tina Fey’s first appearance as Sarah Palin, alongside Amy Poehler’s Hillary Clinton. This hilarious cold open, known as “A Non-Partisan Message from Governor Sarah Palin and Senator Hillary Clinton,” featured the two talking about sex and the media, with Clinton making constant jabs at Palin, which she completely deflected with a combination of confusion and charm. Though Fey would continue to impersonate Palin over the coming weeks, these few minutes were, I believe, Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin at her finest. She had a great scene partner in Amy Poehler to bounce off of, and set a standard for comediennes everywhere to step up their game, and to jump right into political humor because “it’s time for a woman to make it to the White House.”

Though many parts of the book had me smiling and/or laughing out loud, my particular favorite was in a section where she gives advice on how to navigate motherhood entitled “Me Time”, on page 243:

‘Sleep when your baby sleeps.’ Everyone knows this classic tip, but I say why stop there? Scream when your baby screams. Take Benadryl when your baby takes Benadryl. And walk around pantless when your baby walks around pantless.”

Upon reading that again, now I can see why my friend Julie enjoyed the book so much. Maybe a little too much.

The only downsides to this book were that now I feel incredibly guilty for having not watched 30 Rock during its original run, and that now I have to wait until next year’s Golden Globe Awards for more Tina Fey in my life.

2

For Shiran, Who May or May Not Have Any Friends

Because my life is pretty much all work and no sleep right now, it’s time for a story.

Here’s another one from the Israel collection.

It was October 2009, and I’d been in Israel for a few months. During that time, my Hebrew improved somewhat and I also joined a small gym on Emek Refaim. I found out after several weeks though that another gym in town, Body and Soul, in Talpiot, was offering some more discounted memberships, albeit being a little further. I expressed interest, as well as some other people in the program, and someone submitted our names and phone numbers to the gym. A few days later, I get a call from an unknown number. I pick up the phone and I hear this.

“Hi. This is Shiran. Would you like to be my friend?”

Huh?

Um…I guess so? I don’t really know how to answer when someone introduces themselves like that to me on the phone. Here’s how the next part of the convo went.

ME: Huh?

SHIRAN: Hi, my name is Shiran, would you like to be my friend?

ME: Um…sure, yeah…do you have any other friends?

SHIRAN: No.

ME: (in a kind of sad voice) Awww…

SHIRAN: So?

ME: Are you sure you don’t have any friends?

SHIRAN: Yes. No. I don’t know.

ME: (silence) …I’m so sorry. That’s really sad. I’ll be your friend, but…how did you get this number?

SHIRAN: I am calling from Body and Soul Gym. Would you like to be a friend of the gym?

ME: (ding!) Ohhhhh, you mean a member of the gym?

SHIRAN: I don’t know.

ME: Ohhh, dear, that’s something very different.

SHIRAN: What?

ME: (in Hebrew) Is Hebrew better? I speak Hebrew.

SHIRAN: (In Hebrew) Yes. Would you like to be khaver kheder kosher (חבר חדר כושר)?

ME: (in Hebrew) Ohhhh, now I get it. Yes, I would, thank you.

Here’s the deal: In Hebrew, the word khaver (חבר) means “friend.” That day, I also learned that it means “member.” Same thing in Hebrew; two quite different concepts in English. Shiran must have been either very new or particularly unsuccessful with English-speaking clients, because one would think that someone would have pointed that out to her.

The conversation continued on as normal (as normal as one can get) in Hebrew. After I’d given her all my info for her records, I returned to the beginning of the conversation, and explained in Hebrew as best I could what I thought she had asked me in the beginning and why I was confused. And that I felt sad when she told me that she had no friends, and I laughed. She laughed along with me, saying in English:

SHIRAN: Oh, oh, yes, now I know. Okay.

ME: But you’re okay, right?

SHIRAN: Yes, I am fine.

ME: But you have friends, right?

SHIRAN: No.

(short pause)

I mean, yes.

ME: Um, are you sure about that?

SHIRAN: Yes, I think so.

ME: Okay, well, if you ever want to talk, just give me a call, okay?

SHIRAN: Sure. Yes. Okay. Bye.

ME: Bye.

And that’s how I joined a gym and met possibly the loneliest girl in the world (who, afterwards, I unfortunately never had the pleasure of meeting) all in the same day.

Or the most confused.

Either way, Shiran, this one’s just for you.

Oh, and if anyone is ever in the general vicinity of Jerusalem and can make a quick trip into Talpiot (just take the 22/22a from Central Bus Station to Bak’a and walk downhill until you hit Talpiot, or take the line to Givat Pat and walk uphill), stop by the Body and Soul Gym on Hamusachim 5, top floor, find Shiran and give her a hug, because she may or may not have made any new friends in the past four years.