We were introduced by my lawyer’s secretary while waiting in his Tel Aviv office in Sarona. He said, “Shalom,” and I replied with a “Shalom.” And immediately, after an exchange of names, out of the blue he startled me with a question. “What do you do for a living?” he asked.
Who can ask such a question from someone he has never met until only the past five minutes?
“I write for a living,” I answered.
“Aizeh yofi. How nice. Does it pay a lot of money?” he asked.
“No,” I replied. “It doesn’t pay me any money.”
“You must be joking,” he said. “You just told me that you write for a living, so you must get a salary. How can anyone live without getting any income?”
My lawyer’s secretary, hearing our conversation, winked at me and smiled.
“You don’t seem to understand me,” I shot back. “I said that I write for a living. It is my writing that keeps me alive. I could not go on living without my writing.”
Happily, the “conversation” (the longest I’ve had with a stranger) ended when the secretary told me that my lawyer was now free to see me.
As I stood up to walk into his office I heard the strange man ask the secretary, “ha-im hu normali?” (is he a normal person?), but the door to the lawyer’s office closed before I could hear her response, if any.
I do not relate very well to this kind of chutzpah. The nerve of a stranger to ask pertinent questions about my life!
But in our Israel it is not so uncommon. Everyone wants to know everyone else’s business. Where were you born? Where do you live? Are you married? How many children do you have?
(Thankfully, to my knowledge, no one has ever asked, “How is your sex life?”)
I do not intend to be a racist, but questions from a stranger were not a part of my up-bringing nor my education. This type of “conversation” is not unusual from some Israelis of different origins.
With all the information that they rejoice in gleaning, it all adds up to what America’s president famously and always calls “fake news.”
Sometimes I find it necessary to create “fake news” because it is easier for me than telling someone to “mind your own business.”
Perhaps I could one day apply to Donald Trump for a staff position on the daily White House news.
About 20 minutes later, I walked out of the lawyer’s office. The stranger was gone. I turned to the secretary and asked like one who has been saved by the Lone Ranger, “Who was that stranger?”
“He’s not really a stranger. At least not in this office. He is your lawyer’s future son-in-law,” she said!
Conversation ended. The longest one in my life. And while I am at it, dear readers, let me show my true Israeli colors.
“Ma atem osim? Kama atem marvichim”?
What is it that you do? And how much do you earn?
Hopefully, I can continue making a living worthwhile by my writing.
The question is: should I let my lawyer know?