My parents are visiting me in Israel this week (you can get to know them here- https://bannelia.com/2012/12/26/a-1-2-mile-drive-with-my-parents/). We’ll be spending 10 days together, which is the most continuous time we’ll have spent together since vacations of childhood. By mid-trip we’ll probably revert to the dynamic we had then: me an ungrateful brat who is hungry and has to pee; my father grumbling about prices and other drivers; my mother ignoring our complaints by reciting astonishingly boring facts from Fodors as loudly as possible.
Touring England in ’99…
Me—“Dad I’m getting hungry. We need to stop for lunch.”
Dad—“For the love of god! This road is full of Sunday drivers!”
Dad—“What lane does he think he’s in!? Jesus Christ!”
Mom—“If you look on that hillside you can see Roman arches. They were built in AD 85 after governor and general Julius Agricola defeated the Caledonians.”
Me—“Dad. Listen to me.”
Dad—“You just had breakfast at the hotel!”
Me—“That was 4 hours ago. I need three meals a day!”
Mom—“We’re passing the exit for Daresbury, the birth place of Lewis Caroll and location of the Science and Technology Facilities Council Daresbury Laboratory.”
Me—“Dad! Can you at least stop at that gas station so I can pee?”
Dad—“£1.29 for gas! Holy smokes! They’re trying to rob me blind! We’re not stopping there.”
I expect this Israel trip to be much of the same, except we’re 15 years older and the Sunday drivers are Saturday drivers (because Saturday is the Sabbath here).
Israel is a destination that requires visitors to abandon American standards of personal space, customer service, and common courtesy. My dad’s favorite expressions—bound to permeate my tweets this week—are illustrative of just how insufficient his level of patience is for this task.
His way of expressing complete outrage at an individual or group’s behavior. Some of my transgressions as a teenager were “unbelievable!” and everything thought, said, or done by Republicans is “unbelievable!” But mostly, the term is used in the context of watching sports.
The Steelers fumble. Dad leaps from his armchair and shouts, “Unbelievable!” at the players on TV. He turns to whoever is in the room, (usually just the dog) and says desperately, “They’re killing me!” as he clutches his chest.
When Pittsburgh teams play poorly, it is intentionally and entirely to hurt my father. It’s a conspiracy.
Dad’s outbursts during sporting events are why 1) he was not allowed to coach my brothers’ baseball teams after one unfortunate Little League season, 2) by halftime my mother watches Steelers games alone on the basement TV and 3) I eschew televised sports and prefer to walk quietly in the woods until whatever game is over.
Caption: The edge-of-their-seats anxiety of watching Steelers games. Any second Dad will leap from his chair and scream “unbelievable!”
2) “You gotta have an exit strategy.”
This phrase is often used in restaurants. We’re out to dinner with the Mosers and Widowskis, my parents’ friends from law school. It’s been a lovely evening, but it’s getting late and dad wants to catch the third period of the Penn’s game. It becomes clear that the other couples intend to order dessert. My father has no patience for dessert.
He has enough diverse bills of cash to cover our bill + tip without needing change. He places the cash on the table and wishes his friends goodnight. On the way out he smugly says, “You gotta have an exit strategy.”
Mom—“Honest to heavens, we could have stayed for dessert. We only see these people once a year!”
Exit strategies are crucial at graduation parties, baptisms, and all instances of chitchat.
3) “It’s always something” (the title of this blog by the way). My father doesn’t ask for much. He just wants to wake up, take the Trolley to work, get work done at work, come home, eat dinner while watching the news, walk 2.5 miles at the track, watch sports, and then read book club literature when those “stinking nobodies” start to blow the game.
Caption: He just wants to take the Trolley downtown (above) and get some work done in his office (below).
But he is thwarted at every corner! The Trolley is late. He has to update his mother’s will before revising his biggest client’s trust or he’ll never hear the end of it from Aunt Nancy. His secretaries are bickering about office chairs. He has to boycott the cafe in his building because one barista was rude once. He has to boycott Heinz products because they laid off workers in Pittsburgh. We have 25,000 channels, but he can’t for the life of him find the Pitt game! And why isn’t the remote working? Which remote is he even supposed to use for the love of god? The dog is barking up a storm.
It’s always something.
My dad’s ultimate nemesis. Razzmatazz comprises any procedures, technologies, or social obligations that he considers superfluous. Razzmatazz is often the “something” of “it’s always something.”
For example, we are at Au Bon Pain. They want us to order by filling out slips of paper with boxes to check next to menu items.
Dad—“Gah! What is all this razzmatazz!? I should be able to order with words!”
Or, Aunt Nancy is on the phone explaining to my father the plan for Easter supper. We’re supposed to go to her place for appetizers before going to Aunt Gloria’s for the main course and then Grandma’s for dessert.
Dad—“Bah! That is ludicrous. Why do we need to go to three places to see the same people? It’s a waste of gas and it’s a waste of time!”
Aunt Nancy—“But Howie, it’s a progressive dinner. We’re supposed to progress from house to house. It’s sounds so neat!”
Dad—“It sounds like razzmatazz.”
Every children’s toy invented since the bicycle is razzmatazz. Skiing is too much razzmatazz. Those Japanese restaurants where they chop and cook everything in front of you are razzmatazz. Ikea is obviously serious razzmatazz.
Caption: I was not allowed to have this game as a child because it’s too much razzmatazz.
And Israel? Israel has some unbelievable razzmatazz in store for him.