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Sunday, May 06, 2007

Grumpy old men

Every so often I stumble across an object whose placement (or very existence) makes me go 'hmmmmm'.  I experienced such a moment this past Friday morning while Zahava and I were out running some errands.

Among the many places we needed to visit on our rounds was a moshav near Ashdod called Nir Galim

Nir Galim is an old religious moshav that was founded in 1949 by Hungarian survivors of the holocaust.   As a result of their founding member's tragic past, Nir Galim is home to one of Israel's 'Batei Eydut' (testimony houses) where survivors and witnesses to the holocaust can go to record their experiences into an official, search-able record). 

Among the many industries found in this moshav is a tiny carpentry shop that also caters to the needs of Israel's beekeepers.  The shop sells hive parts, protective clothing and other tools of the apiary trade, and is run by two old men... both of whom are well past what would be considered retirement age anywhere in the world. 

Generally only one of these men is on duty at a time (I assume they continue to work at their advanced age by splitting the shop hours between them), wearing the traditional faded blue work clothing of the collective agricultural settlements.  Being old men who probably have known each other for most of their lives, they are the picture of polite cordiality when together... but they continually gripe about one another's work habits when they are apart.  Specifically, neither is happy with the way the other keeps up the office. 

Pretty much every time I go there to buy something, whichever old man is on duty runs into some snag in finding what I want and blames it on the other's sloppy work habits.  Every real or perceived problem is immediately addressed in long, hand-written notes that are left conspicuously taped on, or near, the site of the transgression.

Here are a few of the gripes I have heard muttered by one or the other of the old men as he wrote out a fresh accusatory note:

"The files belong here... not there... when will he learn?"

"He didn't balance the ledger before he went home yesterday... again!"

"Look at this mess!  Now I have to go through and re-count all the gloves since he didn't mark how many he took out of the box!"

You get the picture.

Anyway, when I had finished picking out a couple of queen excluders (a screen that keeps the queen from laying eggs in the honey supers) and a new veil on Friday, I excused myself to use the shop's, er, rustic bathroom while my bill was being prepared.  However, once I was standing inside the little room, I was struck by an extremely odd addition that seemed particularly out of place:  There on top of the toilet tank sat a new spray can of 'potpourri' scented air freshener.

I can hear you already.  You're probably wondering what could possibly be out of place about a can of air freshener in a bathroom, right?

Well, here's the deal:

I neglected to mention that the carpentry/beekeeper supply shop is located directly in front of (and down-wind from) one of the moshav's other industries... an enormous dairy shed that houses an impressively large herd of Holstein cows. 

While I was attending Hebrew University I spent most of my weekends and vacations milking cows on kibbutz Rosh Tzurim, so the smell of cow manure is full of fond, wholesome memories for me.  But make no mistake... it is a powerful smell, none-the-less.

The bathroom of the carpentry/beekeeping shop is a little, unadorned side room that faces directly into the cow shed... and the bathroom's single window above the toilet is left open, no matter what the season. 

One would think that there is nothing either of these old men could possibly do in that bathroom that could compete with the combined excretory prowess of an entire dairy herd.  But it seems one would be wrong. 

Apparently, having run out of real or imagined offenses about which to gripe, one of the old men came up with the idea of adding the other's, um, bathroom habits to the list of things that require amelioration. 

I can just imagine one of the old codgers writing a pointed note to the other about the unacceptable state of the 'facilities', and taping it with a flourish to the newly purchased can of 'potpourri' as it was placed on top of the toilet tank.

As I left the rustic (and fragrant) little bathroom to pick up my purchases and rejoin Zahava back at the car, I could only smile and shake my head at what had to have been a master-stroke in the ongoing war of one-upmanship being waged between these two grumpy old men.


Posted by David Bogner on May 6, 2007 | Permalink


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Those two ol' geezers are the best of friends. When they stop griping at each other is when you should be concerned.

Posted by: K Newman | May 6, 2007 1:16:17 PM

Ah.. the refet. I worked in one for a year and a half.

The truth is you get used to the smell pretty quickly (although when we visit one my kids have a hard time believing it.)

There's actually halachic significance to the smell of the refet. Unlike a lul (chicken coop) where the smell is so bad you should not make brachot, the smell of a refet is moderate enough to allow brachot.

Posted by: Dave (Balashon) | May 6, 2007 1:54:02 PM

how many times have you heard "apiary=apes" jokes?

Posted by: Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) | May 6, 2007 3:34:00 PM

K Newman... You're probably right.

Dave (Balashon)... Gee, when we used to show up for breakfast after the early morning milking, nobody would sit near us. I always assumed it was because they couldn't make a bracha. Maybe it was our personalities. :-)

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) ... "how many times have you heard "apiary=apes" jokes?" Um, you mean counting today? Lemme see... that would be, uh, once. ;-)

Posted by: treppenwitz | May 6, 2007 3:46:16 PM

G-d forbid anything should happen to one, the other would be lost.

Posted by: The Misanthrope | May 6, 2007 7:55:01 PM

That's actually a pretty cute story... the smell notwithstanding!

Posted by: Irina | May 6, 2007 8:39:21 PM

Treppenwitz: Now with Dreckblogging!

Looks like you're trying to get a piece of the (infamous) Golden Plunger award...

Posted by: Elisson | May 6, 2007 8:56:12 PM


"Ah.. the refet. I worked in one for a year and a half.

The truth is you get used to the smell pretty quickly"

i think i commented to you once about this. in ein tzurim the lool was on one side of the dorms and the refet on the other. no matter which the wind was blowing it stunk. and i never got used to it.

Posted by: ari kinsberg | May 7, 2007 12:54:34 AM

you godda just love those old guys...great post...tx

Posted by: marallyn | May 7, 2007 7:10:05 AM

That is one of the most delightful things I have seen all day. When I get home I will definitely share it.
Thanks for posting.

Posted by: The Back of the Hill | May 8, 2007 4:39:42 AM

The Misanthrope... Probably true.

Irina... Thanks.

Elisson... I have to admit that I was unfamiliar with the Golden Plunger Award of which you spoke. Now that I have familiarized myself with it I'm not sure if your comment was meant as a compliment. :-)

ari kinsberg... The Turkeys and Chickens produce a smell that is second only to a pig farm in nastiness. Cow manure is actually quite pleasant once you get used to it.

marallyn... Thanks.

The Back of the Hill... By your comment I can only assume you need to do more to expand your daily reading list. But thanks. :-)

Posted by: treppenwitz | May 9, 2007 12:20:58 PM

So that's where Waldorf and Stettler are retiring. Ha!

Posted by: Account Deleted | May 9, 2007 3:33:56 PM

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