Michael Hilkowitz
Michael Hilkowitz

“The Hot Dog” – A Moment Lost in Translation

Anyone who knows me knows that I am kinda of a West Wing freak (The tv show, not the real thing, though I am kinda a freak for the real thing, but for very different reason) I tend to think of moments from the series quite often and this morning, one of these moments led me down an unexpected path.

So I am a private English teacher here in Israel, and as is often the case, I had a cancellation in my day of lessons. Come 10 in the morning and I had about an hour to kill. I went outside to smoke a cig and was sitting there letting my mind wander, contemplating various philosophical dictum and I started thinking of a particular episode of the West Wing where one of the characters, Sam Seaborn suggests going for hot dogs early in the morning because “You know they are fresh.” I felt a bit hungry… and inspired. I wanted a hot dog.

Now there is a shopping center across the road from where I teach and for as long as I have been working there, there has been a place called “HaNiknakia” which, in English, translates to “The Hot Dog.” It’s a big sign across the front of a shopping center on a main road. I have never really bothered translating or every really trying to read the small print on the sign because I understood the big print. I’ve never gone in there because honestly, I’m not really so big on hot dogs, but this morning, as I said, I was inspired. Inspiration really does come in all sorts of different forms. As the Dead said, “One in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right.” Today, Sam Seaborn and The West Wing was my inspiration. I was on a mission.

With a sense of determination, I headed on over across the street and walked into the store. I got about halfway through the door and realized that something just wasn’t quite right. Something was amiss. Looking left and right, I didn’t see a counter selling hot dogs as expected, that was for sure. Left and right were cases and shelves with some interesting and exotic novelty items. Items that would probably fit better into one of Sarah Tuttle-Singer‘s blog posts. I had found myself standing not in the doorway of a hot dog shop, but instead in the doorway of a sex shop. I was befuddled and realized, lost in translation is not some kind of abstract concept, a thing you hear about in vague ways. Ladies and gents, it’s real.

So there I was standing in the doorway of a sex shop at 10 in the morning with a middle-aged gentleman standing behind the counter looking at me expectantly. Now, I don’t want to speculate at the clientele that shows up at a sex shop at 10 in the morning, but I would assume from the frozen, deer in the headlights look that must have been on my face and my blossoming red cheeks I felt (on my face) that I didn’t fit with that clientele. Spinning with embarrassment and confusion, I quickly turned and left without saying a word, or, more importantly making eye contact with that guy behind the counter.

Needless to say, I didn’t have a hot dog this morning.

About the Author
Michael Hilkowitz holds degrees in History and Secondary Education from Temple University and is a graduate of the Philadelphia High School for International Affairs. He is currently a Masters student in Security and Diplomacy Studies at Tel Aviv University. Living in Israel since 2012, he formerly served as the Chief Content Office for The Israel Innovation Fund, a 501.c.3 working to promote Israeli culture, art, and humanities innovation abroad.
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