How to Get a Free Drink Without Really Buying

Authors note:

In honor of Tu B’Av, the Israeli Valentines Day, I have decided to pull this blog out from the archives— from the Nicole Levin/Disney Vault— because, hey, it kind of has to do with Israelis, and it kind of has to do with dating, but it really has to do with drinking alone. Which is why I only published it in one of my many pen names before (BIC).

So I’m just going to apologize to my parents for this one up front.

I have noticed a rather strange phenomenon. Israeli men don’t know how to buy women drinks, or rather, they do it differently here.

Sure, maybe I am generalizing and making blanket statements based on a limited sample size (two men and an inability to perform basic statistics). Still, if what I have seen since coming to Israel is representative of the overall population, this summer is going to be rough. By rough I mean expensive. And by expensive I mean I will have to buy my own alcohol.

Incident one occurred at a kiosk in Tel Aviv. I was in line waiting to buy what I assumed was a particularly weak rubbing alcohol (because why would I need vodka on a Friday night?) when a man cut me in line and handed the cashier 100 shekels. He said something to me in Hebrew, which at the time I assumed was an apology for his blatant disrespect of the line, but was probably (definitely) him saying he was paying for my drink.

But then he walked away without a word, leaving me with drink in hand. He didn’t try to make any advances, get my number, or slip something into my rubbing alcohol that would make me even woozier. I appreciated the free booze, but the fact that it came with no stipulations or obligations made me uneasy—you can’t get a free drink in the US without first clarifying the contractual obligations to make sure it doesn’t involve marriage, or black-market access to your liver (jokes on you mine barely functions anyways)!

So I refused to drink my vodka for fear that in five years the mysterious man would show up at my door and demand that I guess his name or give him my child. (Rumpelstiltskin would be my first guess, Shlomo would be my second).

Needless to say, it was no fairy tale experience.

My second drink experience was much worse, and by that I mean it was less of a romantic gesture and more of a felony.

I was at a bar for a birthday party for a friend of a friend, which is usually how I roll. People don’t question three degrees of separation if you strategically reference the Israeli you meet on Birthright or the bearded man passed out across the room as your “in”. This method has proven effective for crashing a birthday, a wedding and a bar mitzvah.  I haven’t attempted a funeral yet.

I was with another American girl, who, in order to avoid libel, we’ll call Obama. The birthday boy, along with some friends, asked us what Obama and I wanted to drink. They then ordered our drinks, brought us our drinks, insisted that we order more drinks, and then ignored our polite refusal and brought us more drinks.

So four to seven shots of “club soda” later we were ready to go. It was late, and the carbonation was going to my head.

However, we were worried that the guys who had bought us drinks would be upset that we were leaving so early. Six pm to be exact, if we are talking Pacific Standard Time. We were expecting pleas, or maybe protests. What we were not expecting was for them to hand us the bill.

A bill for 900 shekels I might add, which even at the late hour of 9pm Eastern Standard Time, I still understood to be more than my entire camel dowry (which incidentally has no camels, only one goat with a weird back abscess that may or may not be benign).

Once I realized that they expected me to “throw down”, I opened my wallet and took out all of my cash: 100 shekels and three Barnes and Noble gift cards. In a bit of a panic, only amplified by the sugar in my soda, I started going through all of my coins.

I was in the act of desperately trying to figure out why out the US mint bothers with nickels and if Dan Brown published any more books that I could buy with my gift card when our Israeli friend asked us how we were getting home.

“We’ll walk!” Obama proclaimed. She was being naïve. There was no way we could walk back alone given the hour (it was 4 pm in Honolulu!). The streets would be even more dangerous given the fact that the bar owner would be on the loose with a particularly sharp beer opener looking for us because we ran out on our tab.

“We’ll wash dishes,” Obama tried again. I liked this idea.

Our Israeli friend did not. Instead he rounded us up and drove us home (don’t worry— he was just drinking club soda). All the while he chided us for racking up a bill of over 400 shekels that, now that I am thinking about it and deciding to publish it online, I never fully paid back.

But I learned my lesson. Never assume an Israeli is going to pay for your drink, and if he does, don’t assume that it is because he likes you or because he wants something out of it like your number or your first born child. He might just want to cut in line.










About the Author
Nicole Levin grew up in California and now studies government at Harvard University and writes for the Harvard Crimson
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