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?”
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.
SHIRAN: Hi, my name is Shiran, would you like to be my friend?
ME: Um…sure, yeah…do you have any other friends?
ME: (in a kind of sad voice) Awww…
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.
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?
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.
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.