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Thursday, March 24, 2005

A fast, I mean quick post

Yes, today... the day immediately preceding Purim, is a fast day (Ta'anit Esther) and you'll never guess who forgot to wean himself off of coffee. 

Anyone care to venture a wild guess? 

Unfortunately, I forgot to set my alarm to wake me up in time for my pre-dawn caffeine infusion... and the day has been out of sorts ever since.

So far, the big challenge of the day was picking up a new hitchhiker who had called last night to arrange a ride. 

I had never driven this particular person before, but since I only had one soldier and a couple of academics from Ben Gurion University coming with me, I had no problem offering up the last seat.  The problems began when I pulled up to the bus stop where I had arranged to meet this person.   

[At this point you're probably scratching your head and asking yourself why I'm avoiding the use of gender-specific personal pronouns.  The reason is that in English, I can, DAMMIT!]

The name I had written down when the hitchhiker called was one of those vague modern Israeli names that could easily belong to either a boy or girl. But from the voice on the phone it was clear that I was speaking to a young woman... so during the entire conversation I adjusted my Hebrew verb endings accordingly.

When I pulled up to the pre-arranged pick-up point she was nowhere to be seen.  There were a few male soldiers and a skinny 13 or 14-year-old boy waiting at the bus stop... but no girls!

I proceeded to tell the other occupants of the car how annoying it was that this thoughtless girl was either late or had stood me up altogether... and cringed at the first twinges as the caffeine headache began to take shape just above my ears! 

Being delayed was mildly annoying, but I decided to wait a few minutes in case she was running late. 

While we sat waiting, this 13 or 14-year-old boy walked up and knocked on the car window.  Since there was only the one extra seat, I waved him away with the ever-so-polite Israeli hand sign for 'no' (wagging the raised index finger from side to side while staring intently in another direction).

After a minute or two the boy again approached the car, and this time I rolled down the window and explained abruptly that the last seat was reserved for someone (of course I used the feminine form of the word 'someone'; Mi'she'hee.

After I had made this very gender-specific statement, the teen-aged boy asked me, in a high wavering voice, if I was David. 

Giggles and snorts escaped from the female soldier sitting behind me, and one of the academics grinned knowingly in my direction waiting to see how I would handle my gaff.

Obvious now to all... I had mistaken this teen-aged boy for a girl on the phone, which was vexing enough.  But as he got into the car I realized that he hadn't made any attempt to correct me throughout our phone conversation, despite the fact that I had repeatedly addressed him as if he were a girl!

Between the gender blunder on the phone and then waving him off with the curt statement that "the seat is saved for [a female] someone", my cheeks must have been bright red for most of the trip.

Now, as I sit at my desk suffering from the beginnings of severe caffeine withdrawal, I'm no longer feeling embarrassed... just a little miffed.

I'm sorry, if you have a gender-neutral name and your pre-pubescent voice has yet to change... the burden is on you to gently correct the hapless driver if he mistakenly addresses you as if you are a girl, mmmkay?

I make enough bone-headed mistakes in Hebrew when I've had my morning soup bowl cup of coffee... I don't need any outside help, thank-you-very-much!

[Cross-posted on Israelity]

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Posted by David Bogner on March 24, 2005 | Permalink

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As I sit here on caffeine-free Mt. Olympus, looking down upon you mere mortals who have not succeeded in weaning yourselves from coffee, I have only this to say: My, my, my, MY! Aren't WE testy today? :))

Posted by: Lisa | Mar 24, 2005 12:31:48 PM

Oy! I remember doing that to Avromy's Bar Mitzvah student when he called our apartment in Brooklyn looking for Avromy! As I handed the phone to him (Avromy) I announced, "Mmmmm, young lady on the phone for you sir!" When he got off the phone, said he in an amazing falsetto:, "NO! It was my Bar Mitzvah student asking if we could post-pone the lesson by 15! AS IF he wasn't already nervous enough about laining.... THANKS FOR HUMILIATING HIM!"

We've all been there at least once....

Posted by: zahava | Mar 24, 2005 12:48:30 PM

Lisa... OK miss 'I'm all calm and decaffeinated here in my lotus position'... I hate to break the news to you, but that Chai tea you had at '24 Rupies' had caffeine! :-)

Zahava... I remember that! OK, I feel ever so slightly less foolish.

Posted by: David | Mar 24, 2005 1:02:59 PM

That is pretty funny, although I once was on the other side of the fence and was not happy with the misunderstanding.

Posted by: Jack | Mar 24, 2005 6:25:30 PM

it's hard to interrupt and correct someone even if you're pulling your hair out, trying to get the words to say it.

I had a miserable phone interview for a job once that I assumed the person had selected me *because* we'd met last year on campus when I was brought in for a different position. What a blow to my ego, and then scrambling to find the right moment on the phone to say, actually, I've been on campus and we had dinner together, and I thought I was remembered well, and now I have to deal with not only having been totally forgotten, but to correct, you the hiring person, so we don't continue with this awful misunderstanding.
(didn't get the job!)

not gender-based, not language-based, just as red-faced though. happy purim!

Posted by: timna | Mar 24, 2005 6:55:18 PM

Jack... um, so you're saying someone once mistook you for a girl? :-)

Timna... I promise I don't talk very fast, and there was plenty of opportunity for this kid to make it clear he was a boy while we were on the phone. Now that I'm all fed and coffeed up, I am pretty sure I should have followed my first instinct this morning and not waited around. It would have served him right! :-)

Posted by: David | Mar 24, 2005 8:49:41 PM

Jack... um, so you're saying someone once mistook you for a girl? :-)

Yes, that is what I am saying. The story is actually more involved, but I didn't want to take up to much space on your blog.

If you are interested go to mine and read about the FBI and I.

Posted by: Jack | Mar 24, 2005 11:13:18 PM

I've been in the same position.

I was working at a helpdesk, and someone called with the name Raz - which I figured could be either a guy or a girl.

And this person happened to have a very high pitched voice - so I naturally referred to him as a she.

Which of course, he wasn't.

But I had the same indignation as you - if you have a name like Raz, you can't have a high-pitched voice and call the helpdesk and expect me to know you're a guy!

Posted by: Dave | Mar 25, 2005 12:00:49 AM

Wow. That stinks. Happy caffeine to you. I was thinking how much better the whole incident would have been with some coffee. (a) no headache (b) you could have diffused the tension by spraying some all over your car.

I really should write about my experiences in neurosurgery during med school. If you think you've embarrased yourself....

Posted by: Doctor Bean | Mar 25, 2005 2:04:19 AM

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