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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Another Israeli story

On my way to work this morning I was pulling up to a security check point when my scooter died.  Not a violent death like the engine seizing or the belt parting.... just a sudden strange silence where the soft purr of the engine used to be.  I tried a few times to restart the engine, but despite making all the right sounds, the engine just wouldn't catch.

Using the last of my momentum I rolled up to a pretty female soldier who, recognizing me, smiled and waved me through.  I smiled back and didn't move.

I explained that my scooter had died and that I needed to pull over.  She indicated a clear spot off to the side and I pushed the scoot out of the way of the cars behind me.

Once I had the scooter off to the side and up on its center stand, I tried to start it again.  It started right up.  Strange.  Not wanting to be late, I climbed back on the scooter, pushed it off the center stand... and the engine promptly died.

Lather rinse repeat several times... same result.  The scooter starts fine on the stand but dies when I take it off stand and put weight on it.

It was clearly something electrical (a fuel issue wouldn't happen so suddenly) so I lifted up the seat and started poking around the engine compartment looking for loose or frayed wires.

Before I knew it, I had several soldiers, police and civilian security people looking over my shoulder asking for details and making speculative diagnoses.  Very quickly it became apparent to all that, of the group, I was the least mechanically capable... so I was quickly nudged aside and more seasoned hands began probing and pulling on things inside the engine compartment.

Soon the commander of the check point came over, and after getting an explanation of why I was there, pointed a knowing finger at the guy who was shoulder deep inside my scooter and offered the following advice before strolling away: 

"That one knows how to take things apart but has trouble putting them back together again.  If you let him play around in there for too long you'd better find a big bag to hold all the leftover parts he won't know what to do with."

The others laughed loudly and some good natured ribbing followed, during which I found out that the guy the commander had called incompetent was a reservist who in civilian life was a mechanic who worked as a senior inspector for the Israeli version of the Department of Motor Vehicles. 

Every few minutes a new officer would come over, see my gun sticking out of my jacket and would give me an impromptu security briefing which amounted to some variation on a theme of, "If there is a security 'event' you are not to pull out your gun… even to defend yourself.  This is for your own safety.  Do you understand?"  After the third time I'd gotten the briefing I realized that they weren't worried about me accidentally shooting any of them, but rather, they were worried that if (G-d forbid) there were a terror attack while I was there, someone who didn't recognize me might mistake me for an additional terrorist and shoot me!

After nearly an hour of the soldiers poking around and not finding the cause of the problem, the commander of the check point came back, and with a smug smile said to me, "I told you he'd do more harm than good".  And then, turning to the mechanic and his helpers, hooked a thumb at me and continued, "Dudu (a diminutive of David), if this guy rides out of here under his own power today I'll make you coffee for the next week!"

The gauntlet had been thrown.  No Israeli man will stand by and let his mechanical prowess be publicly questioned.  Not even in jest.

With that, the soldier/mechanic got down on his back and really started poking around under the scooter with gusto.  Within a few minutes he yelled something I didn't quite catch and another soldier handed him a flashlight.  Once he had the flashlight, he started yelling for nearby soldiers and security personnel to find him some electrical tape.  Once it had been found in someone's glove compartment, he spent a few minutes making manly repair noises.

After a few minutes he stood up, brushed himself off and told me to give it a try.  Sure enough, it didn't die when I took it off the center stand.  He explained that the wire from the coil to the spark plug was a tad too long and due to the flex of the shocks when I was sitting on the scooter, it was coming into light contact with the exhaust pipe.  After a certain amount of time, the hot pipe had burned through the wire's insulation, causing a momentary short circuit that robbed the spark plug of the power to ignite the fuel.

I shook hands all around, giving special thanks to the guy whose reputation had been sullied (and then salvaged).  As I was putting my jacket and helmet back on, I heard him shouting over to the commander to come take a look.  The commander was walking towards us as I started the scooter and pulled back onto the road.  And as I was pulling out into traffic the mechanic/soldier held up two fingers towards his commander and shouted, "Black coffee, two sugars…  Sir.".

I love this country.

Posted by David Bogner on October 26, 2011 | Permalink


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Love this story!

Posted by: Raizy | Oct 26, 2011 1:45:24 PM

You sure are good at telling stories....

Posted by: Baila | Oct 26, 2011 2:09:59 PM

Love it!!!

Posted by: Mark | Oct 26, 2011 3:56:57 PM

Great story! I really miss Israel...

Posted by: Mara | Oct 26, 2011 4:55:01 PM

why didn't you ask him to re- wire your headset while he was on a roll ??

Posted by: britac | Oct 26, 2011 8:05:29 PM

It's time to give up the scooter, Trepp. You need this:

It goes great with a Glock in your pocket!

Posted by: ProphetJoe | Oct 26, 2011 8:12:41 PM


Posted by: SaraK | Oct 26, 2011 8:50:02 PM

@britac: now THAT's funny! :-)

Posted by: zahava | Oct 27, 2011 7:25:33 AM

Haha! That's awesome

Posted by: Laura Ben-David | Oct 27, 2011 10:35:23 AM


Posted by: gilly | Oct 27, 2011 10:55:15 AM

Lovely story.

Posted by: Leah | Oct 27, 2011 11:48:29 AM

Another awesome story!

Seriously - you have probably compiled enough great slice-of-life Israeli stories to write a book. Maybe you should consider it.

Posted by: psachya | Oct 27, 2011 4:08:10 PM

I'm with psycha. It should be a pre-Aliyah required reading:-)

Posted by: Kiwi Noa | Oct 27, 2011 7:28:37 PM

This story gets me right there [thump]. Thanks for sharing.

Posted by: Tzvi Edelman | Oct 27, 2011 11:17:25 PM

When reading, I thought a stuck/dirty center stand switch, but then again, that would have stranded you at home, not just die on the middle of the road. Glad you got going again.

Posted by: JDMDad | Oct 28, 2011 2:54:55 AM

Thanks for that great story
This is Israel and love and miss so much !

Posted by: Trumpeldor | Nov 1, 2011 2:56:31 PM


Once when my car broke down in LA, near a not-so-great neighborhood. I locked myself in the car, called AAA, and hoped to hell that I wouldn't be murdered.

Posted by: Robert Avrech | Nov 2, 2011 1:20:48 AM

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