You may recall my previous harangue against the chowderheads at the Jerusalem Post, who put out some of the shoddiest reporting in Israel (Y-Net, uh, nonwithstanding) and routinely publish editorials which happily sail into the deep chasm between “idiocy” and “offensiveness.” But until now, it was sort of a fuzzy generalized hatred, a hatred which would cause me to remark to my companions upon seeing the newspaper, “My, the Jerusalem Post surely is a unprecedentedly pedestrian excuse for a daily news-paper, chums, and I would not be averse to its use as a sanitary napkin!” – or cause me to call Caroline Glick a tyrannical Grendel’s Mother who shrieks in the language of demons, for that matter.

Until now. Because now, they’ve made it personal.

That’s right. The Jerusalem Post woke me up.

You see, I was sleeping, which is really one of the few pleasures in this short life besides hummus, and my phone rang. Because I’m a sucker for punishment, I looked at it. “Mispar hisui.” Disguised number. Fuck. Never a good sign. But for some reason, which I attribute to my sleep-addled sense of judgment failing to kick in, I answered it. Bad idea.

“Hello?”
“Alo, David?”

Fuck. FUCK!! A wrong number.

Now, I see you people who don’t live in Israel going, “What, it’s a wrong number, so what? You just say, ‘I’m sorry, I think you have the wrong number,’ and the other person says, ‘Oh, I’m sorry, bye,’ or, if they’re really annoying, ‘This isn’t 555-5555?’ and you say ‘No, it’s 555-5556’ and that’s the end of it. Thirty seconds tops.” I assure you all, the people reading this who live in Israel are saying, “Oh, Elohim adirim, that poor schmuck.” Because a wrong number in Israel is not a mere case of telephonic ships passing in the night. It is, in fact, cause for an interrogation.

“Zeh lo David.”
“Alo? Alo? Alo? David?!”

Israelis are hard of hearing.

“ZEH LO DAVID!”

Now, here’s where it gets Israeli. Back in the Galut, as I mentioned before, this is where a normal person would realize they had the wrong number and exeunt stage right from your life. But that’s not how we do it in the Jewish State! If you dial a wrong number, why not become accusatory?

“Zeh lo David?”
“Uhhh…Lo. Yesh l’kha et ha-mispar ha-lo nakhon.”
“Az mi zeh?”
What the fuck do you care who this is? You have the wrong number, chump! What the fuck are you, a cop? Do you think I know where David is? Do you think I have him locked up in a closet somewhere? Do you think I’m eating his flesh? Do you think I get kicks out of playing with the minds of my callers? I’m not David! LEAVE ME ALONE!
“Uh…Mikha’el.”
“Ah. Mikha’el. Zeh lo 555-5555?”
“Uh…ken?”
“Az eifo David?”

This is about the time the coronary started. But in the midst of rage-induced pulmonary failure, I remembered that I do in fact share an apartment with a man named David, whom you are all familiar with as our Dear Leader ck, and aforementioned David has a habit of giving out my number whenever he sets up some sort of service, such as Internet, which means I get all the sales calls. For this I swear I will put arsenic in his orange juice someday, but that’s not the point right now.

“Atah mekhapes et David Abutbul?”
“Lo. David Azuz.”
Huh.
“Ani lo makir oto.”
“Atah lo makir?”
NOOOOOO! I TOLD YOU! YOU HAVE THE WRONG NUMBER! STOP ASKING ME QUESTIONS! DEMON! DEMON! DEMON!

And then, just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, he dropped the bomb on me (baby), he dropped the bomb on me.

“Ahh, beseder, Mikha’el. Ani me ha-Jerusalem Post.”
ohgodohgodohgodohgodohgodohgod it was all a ruse they read jewlicious and now they have my phonenumberandthey’recomingtokillmeshitshitshitshit
“Atah kore et ha-Jerusalem Post, nakhon?”
Is this one of those Mossad trick questions? Can I survive jumping off my balcony? Are the gunmen already posted outside?
“Uhhhhh…k’tzat.”

And then, just as I was about to get up and do myself in with the kitchen knife, he launched into a hyperspeed sales pitch for the Jerusalem Post. All the while calling me David. I listened to about thirty seconds of it, realized that I was not interested enough in the Jerusalem Post CHINAM!!!!!, or at any price really, to untangle Hebrew at 220 BPM and indulge this wrong-number-from-Hell, so I did the first rational thing I’d done all day, and hung up.

He called me back.

I turned off the phone and tried to go back to sleep. No luck. So now, here I am, a couple hours later, and I have a headache, and my eyes hurt, and I’m tired, and I’m going down to the newsstand to buy today’s issue of the Jerusalem Post. And then I’m going to set it on fire.

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  • The second most annoying case would be the regular call pattern: you say “hello”, the other side right away asks who you are. Damn, people, you’re the one calling me!

  • David, I mean Mikha’el, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but I think you were on the receiving end of what I call the Lazy Israeli Telemarketer Fake Wrong Number Trick. Here’s how it works. About once a week or so, we get a phone call for “Mishpachat Buchrees” (“Alo, Mishpachat Buchrees?”). When we tell the caller that she’s got the wrong number (we are not, nor have we ever been, Mishpachat Buchrees), she launches into a pitch for her nonprofit charity/yeshiva/Cellcom calling plan/political party. The pitch usually ends with a request for money. It’s turned into a standing joke in our house, with our 3-year-old daughter loving to scream “Mishpachat Buchrees!” at the top of her lungs. For about a year, I was convinced that we were saddled with all these telemarketers because we had the bad fortune of inheriting a phone number once used by the apparently generous (or just suckers for subscriptions to La-Isha) Mishpachat Buchrees. Then, a couple of months ago, I was chatting with my neighbors (we live on a small kibbutz), and I told her the Mishpachat Buchrees story. Well, you won’t believe it, but they were getting telemarketers calling for Mishpachat Buchrees too! All of a sudden the master plan became clear to me. In the States, mass marketers buy lists of phone numbers attached to names of families. Here, the mass marketers are too cheap to buy the lists (or they’ve realized they don’t have to), so what they do is to call every number they can think of, and employ the opening “Mishpachat Buchrees?” ruse. When the disoriented person on the other line starts stammering, they launch into their harangue. In order to test my theory, I would like to conduct an informal poll: How many of you routinely get calls for Mishpachat Buchrees or some other “wrong number” that is really just a pretense for trying to sell you something?

  • Actually, every time I’ve gotten a wrong number call before this one, and it’s been too many times, they’re not selling anything. They’re just people who seem offended that I, obviously from the very sound of my voice a digusting piece of lying filth, am not whom they are seeking. Surely I must have some connection to their intended party, or why would I be picking up their phone, right?

  • You know Israeli bank manners, line manners, driving manners, smoking manners, eating manners, travelling manners, cellphone manners, etc. etc. etc.

    And you’re surprised at Israeli phone manners?

    Yehuda

  • I would rather hate the Post for articles like the following:

    “High Court rules 8-1 that Tal Law is constitutional”

    … in a country that has no constitution.

    But I will still never hat it more than Haaretz. What I wouldn’t give for the WP in Israel.

    Yehuda

  • I think that Israel etiquette is to reply to “Allo” with “Mi zeh?” At least that’s better than the people who just assume you are who they wanted to call and start talking (personal call, not telemarketing). Sometimes I hang up, sometimes I ask why they don’t know who they are calling.

    Other annoying calls are telemarketers who ask to speak to my wife (I’ve never been married, and they know my name, so I think someone is dialing everyone in the phone book, but why wouldn’t they just skip the listings that are clearly just a man’s?) I would like to launch into a tearful story about how she just ran away with a telemarketer and I was nearly over the trauma but they’ve reminded me of it but I probably wouldn’t be able to keep from laughing. If I wasn’t doing anything at the time (or don’t want to get back to what I was doing) I waste their time, I ask them who’s calling, what it’s about, and only after a while ask “and why are you calling someone who doesn’t exist”? Or maybe I should just say I don’t allow her to use the telephone.

    I once hung up on a telemarketer and she called back to tell me it was rude to hang up. I hung up again, I think she got the that time. During the elections I got a call from Shas, hung up, the same person called back, I said “Perhaps you weren’t listening last time, “. After Kadima called twice in a row on election day I left the phone off the hook until the polls closed.

    When Uri Zohar’s automatic dialer calls each year to urge me to send my children (don’t have any of those, either) to a Shas school where they will not learn how to earn a living I just leave the phone off the hook.

  • I love that he was trying to sell you an English-language newspaper by talking to you in Hebrew, which obviously is not your first language.

    By the way, the idiom for “you have the wrong number” is “zeh tah-oot.”

  • I never changed my phone listing when I changed my name when I got married. So, when people call asking for “Mrs. L”, I can truthfully say “Sorry, my mom isn’t here right now” and hang up with a clear conscience.

    If they call you in the evening you can also pretend to be a babysitter – telemarketers definitely don’t want to talk to sitters.

  • You know the reason people try to interrogate you when you claim it’s a wrong number. It’s because it probably happens often that they are being tricked. The person they are trying to call tells them they have the wrong number when the caller really doesn’t.
    So it isn’t so irrational when this usually happens.
    But you’re right, it always happens just like that.

  • Hey, why don’t you just pick up a recording of the Cheech & Chong routine, “Dave’s Not Here” (you remember that one, right?) and play it over the phone the next time this happens?

  • p.s. slick little Gap Band reference there. Was listening to that very song on the way to work this morning.

  • Michael- If the dumb bastard calls you back after you tell him he has the wrong number, aren’t you allowed to tell him/her to have a nice tall glass of Christ-y and shut the fuck up?

  • Do the Sienfeld. Ask him if you can call him back when HE is at home. Tell him you are interested but you can only talk about it at 8 pm when he is eating dinner with his family.

    Man.. What a job. I dont know how these people sleep at night. I believe telemarketers are aliens. I never met anyone that was a telemarketer. Well at least no one I know has the courage to tell me that is what they do for a living. So for now, my theory stands. They are aliens from hell trying to sell you the most useless crap on earth. Isnt that ironic? Aliens from hell, that sell us our own crap? If they continue they must think we are really stupid? Well heck if I were looking down from up there, and saw a human picking up crap after a dog let it out on the street, i would try to sell these species crap too.

  • well in the immortal words of !*&^ (name blanked out for reasons that will be made obvious), ex-good friend of CK and Muffti, ‘oh man, the best goddamned telemarketers are heroin addicts. THOSE guys really NEED to sell’.

    !*&^ telemarketing for various shady characters in Montreal including one &* &*(^%.

  • HAHAHAHAHAHA that was great. Thanks for that, Michael. How Lewis Blackian of you. I hope you never self-medicate and that ridiculous things keep happening to you, all for our reading pleasure.

  • And btw, Michael, you crack me up. I know it’s at the expense of your own sanity, but hey–at least you’re making the life of a poor writer richer…through the gift of laughter.

    [End scene.]

    I cannot wait to experience this on a bus with 40 newbies. They have no clue what they’re in for.

  • *wipes tear*

    Oh, oh my. That was one of the funniest things I’ve read in a really long time. You have an excellent way with words. Are you by any chance thinking of going into journalism? I can see you syndicated like Dave Barry.

    Excellent rant. Keep up the good work!

  • I was a tele marketer years ago. It really sucks, the people working there were fairly wierd, but not all.

    It would be better imo, to just work in fast food if you are so stuck up for some cash.

    Or internet marketing….

  • I’ve been told repeatedly that I sound very young on the phone and this must be so because in both the States and in Israel telemarketers almost always ask if my mother is home after my initial hello (and then after that if my father is home, when I say “no” with a perfectly clear conscience). In the States they’d always ask if I knew when they’d be home to which I had a lot of fun making up various things like, ‘oh in about 6 months because they are on a long European vacation.’ Here my hebrew isn’t so good that I can say, well, anything much beyond hello and ‘lo’. Instead of asking when an adult in my life (heh) might be waiting around with bated breath to talk to a telemarketer, I had one telemarketer here launch into “well when your mother gets home tell her….” and started giving the whole spiel!

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