When new immigrants to Israel discuss what’s difficult about living here day to day, compared to where they were before, a lot of them say: getting used to the food, crazy driving, and living with Israelis (stereotype: brusque and unhelpful, yet all up in your business).
For me it’s the more subtle things. I’m punctual, to a fault. Israelis, as a cultural group, are not. (Although there are certain situations in which you are supposed to be on time and then expected to wait. Medical appointments, for example.) When there are loose boundaries, it’s all ok. Example: Miss M’s gan opens at 7:30, which means there is an adult present to supervise. The head teacher arrives by 8, when gan technically begins. But I’ve heard that if you don’t come until 8:15, 8:30, that’s fine too. By first grade they crack down on the late arrivals, so I hear, but for now it doesn’t matter. You’d better be on time for pickup though.
School is off this week, and Miss M is enrolled in an arts & crafts camp, run by an artist at his home. The hours of the camp are 8:00 to 1:00. So naturally, she arrives at 8:00 and gets picked up at 1:00. Because it’s me, and clocks rule my life.
The 8:00 drop off works well for me, because Taxman catches a train right before that, and AM’s gan also has a flexible arrival (7:30-8:00). But when I present her at 8:03, the artist and his wife (who leaves for work soon after, I’m guessing) are sitting at their kitchen table drinking coffee; there are no other kids around. At 1:00 there isn’t a flood of parents; the kids seem to dribble out slowly. By the time she extricated herself and her projects yesterday (at ten after one or so), there were still six or seven girls playing Freeze Dance in the backyard.
It just strikes me as weird, you know? The advertised parameters of the camp are 8 to 1. This is what I’m paying for. Naturally I don’t want to take her at 9 because then she’s missing an hour that I paid for in advance. Conversely, I would never leave her until 1:30 or even 1:15, because I haven’t paid for that.
Truthfully, I don’t know if this is an American vs. Israeli issue or just a Kate vs. the rest of the civilized world issue. I would loosen up a bit if I could, but I can’t. So I won’t. We’ll call it genetic: my dad sets all his clocks/watches a little bit fast so he’s never late/five minutes early. (My mom–hi, mom! if you’re reading–is a little looser…on time, 10 minutes late, it’s all the same. Not for plane flights, obviously, just the small stuff.)
Should you ever set a time to meet me, though, be aware that either I’ll be on time, or I’ll call you to tell you I’m running late. Probably the former. It’s not you. It’s me.