Wednesday, September 3, 2008

I was due...

I guess you could say I was due for a profoundly awkward moment. I am somewhat prone to these, but have not had one for quite some time. So, it really was not all that surprising yesterday when I had one.

Yesterday, Oren, Avi, and I took a field trip to Jerusalem to meet with a potential client that the three of us would be working for together. The project is helping restore the original Prime Minister's mansion that was the home to many of Israel's great PM's (Ben Gurion, Golda Meir, Levi Eshkol, etc.). The plan was that Oren and Avi would manage this process, while I would raise the funds for it. The organization that we were hoping would hire us is the Levi Eshkol Foundation, which is run by Prime Minister Eshkol's wife. She has been unwilling to undertake this project herself, as she is 80 years old, and the goal of yesterday's meeting was to convince her that, although we are young, we are all very capable and competent people.

So, about half way through the meeting (which was mostly in Hebrew, meaning I understood about 15% of what was being said), I asked Mrs. Eshkol where her bathroom was. I did not find anything strange about this, but apparently I chose to ask this question at an unexpected time, because Mrs. Eshkol found it to be funny. I made my way to the bathroom trying to figure out why she found it so funny, and as I washed my hands I decided to ignore it, and reminded myself that the whole point of this meeting was to come across as capable and competent so that she concludes that we can be trusted with this important project. And that is when I realized that I had locked myself in the bathroom.

It was an old-fashioned lock that is not at all uncommon in Israel- the kind that has the big key hole and the huge key that you turn to lock or unlock. I am familiar with these locks from living here for a year, so this should not have been a problem. However, as I turned and turned, and pulled the key out and put the key back in, and turned some more, I realized that the door was not unlocking. I immediately began to feel claustrophobic, as this bathroom was barely big enough for the toilet and sink that were in it, and as the room started to close in, I kept turning the key and trying to wiggle it in the "magic" way that would unlock the door.

It was at that point that I heard Avi's voice on the other side of the door asking tentatively "Debbie? Are you okay in there?" Apparently my frantic key turning had been so noisy that it drew attention away from the meeting of 6 people that was occurring in the other room. I responded by telling him that I can't seem to unlock the door, which is when I hear Mrs. Eshkol from the other side of the door asking urgently "Did you lock the door?? We never lock the door here because it gets stuck!" I silently thought to myself that knowing that before I went to the bathroom would have been useful, but was interrupted by Avi who told me that he grew up with a lock like this and if I took the key out of the lock, he thought he could open it from the outside. Over the next few minutes, I started wondering how much of a dent this scenario would put in my efforts to appear capable and competent, when finally the door swung open and I was free! I then had the distinct pleasure of walking back into the meeting room where the other 4 people were sitting at the meeting table waiting for me to get released from the bathroom and, as professionally as possible, sat down and continued the meeting.

Fortunately, even with my awkwardness, she still decided to let us manage this project, which means much more quality time at Mrs. Eshkol's apartment where there will be no more locking of any doors. Ever.

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