Monday, October 10, 2016

Got me a ukulele....or something

The background to this story is that, when driving "the back way" to Jerusalem, one goes through a security checkpoint (soldiers decide which cars to stop and search) and then, immediately after, there is a large traffic circle.  So cars are going quite slowly for about 1/4 mile and "the locals" have used this to set up some road-side businesses.  One guy sells fruit, another sells soda cans from a cooler and then there's the guy known in my mind as "The Ukulele Dude".  He could also be known as "The Stuffed 'Hello Kitty' Dude" or "The Tacky Tchochke Dude".  Every time we drove by him, Chana would longingly say, "I've always wanted a ukulele" and I would really understand that because I would also get this urge to stop and buy one.  We never had any spare time ("Gotta get the rental car back").  Until the other day.

With images in my mind of Chana joining Batsheva and Auntie Paula at a ukulele-fest next summer, I stuck my head out the car window.  "How much for the ukulele?" I asked in Hebrew.  The guy looked confused.  I pointed.  "Over there.  Like the small guitar".  I wondered if maybe there was a different word in Hebrew for "ukelele", as I had just said the word while trying to put an Israeli spin on the pronunciation

I felt that 50nis (about $12.50) would be appropriate and was stunned when he said 130nis!  "Oh, I didn't realize they were so expensive.  Never mind".  And then it got into a whole bargaining balagan with me saying I only wanted to pay 50 and him offering other amounts, telling me about his 7 children ("cue the line about the large family!"), showing the genuine wood of the guitar, telling me he wasn't going to make any money on the deal, etc. I was actually not really trying to bargain and was just trying to leave without running over the guy's foot (he must have been a door-to-door Fuller Brush salesman in a past life, because he used every trick in the book: "Step 1: put ukulele in car and push it back in every time lady tries to give it back to you").

Finally, Chana started saying, "Mommy, just drive away".  And the guy yelled some number and I said, "Sorry, 50" and then, in an extremely cartoon-like moment, he said, "50" and then I said, "no, 50" and he bellowed "50!!!!!" and Chana said, "umm, Mommy, he just said 50".  I was laughing so hard as we exchanged money for musical instrument.  It is rare that life imitates Bugs Bunny so faithfully.

On the way home, Chana worried that we had paid too little ("the guy has 7 kids!").  Sharing the story when we got home, Penina agreed with Chana ("7 kids, Mommy!").  I will let my brother, Jay-the-well-known-economist, give his views on this (although I'm pretty sure I already know them).

Then Shalom Shachne, the player of many musical instruments, heard the story and saw the ukulele.  And told us that it was it not a ukulele at all, just an extremely small guitar (which explains why the guy didn't know what I was initially asking about).  After trying to tune it and finding that the thing refused to stay in tune for longer than a minute, he also said that I "certainly had not overpaid" from a merchandise standpoint.

On the plus side, I conducted the whole two minute negotiation in Hebrew.  On the minus side, this may only show that I know how to say the number "50" in Hebrew :)

"Uki" (shout-out to cousin Gil)





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