Here in Israel, there is a culture of spoiling soldiers. People want to express their appreciation for all that they do to protect the country and want to pamper them a bit. It is not uncommon for restaurants and cafes to throw in a little something extra for chayalim who patronize their establishments. One can find 17 pinot chamot (Warm Corners) with 3 more on the way, stationed in various, often considered dangerous, locations around the country. A Warm Corner is a small air-conditioned structure where soldiers patrolling these areas are invited to stop and rest. These Warm Corners are stocked with coffee, drinks, and snacks for the soldiers to enjoy – for free. Several weeks ago, my son was waiting with his fellow chayalim for the bus to pick them up to take them back to their base. The bus was more delayed than usual so they ended up waiting for quite some time. Total strangers came up to them with their hands laden with pizza pies, drinks, and candy. Anything for the chayalim.
We, too, try to indulge our son by visiting him when we are allowed. When he is home, I prepare his favorite dishes and we take him out when he feels like it. This morning, my son needed to get to a different location than usual to meet his unit. Although I don’t usually travel to that area, I was happy to make my son’s life easier and volunteered to drive him. Anything for our chayal.
Driving is not a hobby of mine. I don’t like engaging in highway warfare with aggressive drivers who believe they own the road, not to mention the fact that, unfortunately, I did not inherit my mother’s phenomenal sense of direction. So, I was very happy when my son offered to drive on the way there. The road proved to be a bit windier than I like, but still something I could manage. A few phone calls to my son’s commander to clarify exactly where he was expected to meet up with everyone made me realize that maybe my offer to drive wasn’t the best idea I’ve had. We had to drive on a dirt path with not the smallest of dips and drops - not in my preferred driving repertoire. My son was undaunted by this just as he was unfazed when he banged the bottom of the car in one of those dips. Still not 100% sure where to go, the commander suggested that we pick him up at the gas station where he was waiting. He would then show us the way. So, after not so easily crossing the highway, we went back over the bumpy road to get the commander and then back again to the meeting point. Being that no other chayalim had arrived yet, my son requested permission to once again go back to the gas station to get some ice cream. He was given 20 minutes. With nothing too much for me when it comes to indulging my chayal, we went back and forth over the road once again. At last, the time had come to drop him at the meeting point where his fellow chayalim had already set up camp. We said our goodbyes and I took hold of the steering wheel. “I can do this,” I told myself. I know I can. I know I can.
I managed to keep my cool when a very big truck was heading my way on the narrow road which we shared. I successfully drove over the humps and bumps at a snail’s pace and even managed to cross the highway with little difficulty, Baruch Hashem. I was hoping that the hardest part was behind me. But I didn’t make any friends on the ride home, and maybe I even made some enemies. The thing is, when I see a sign on the road that says to drive slowly, I slow down. But it seems that some drivers are illiterate or blind or don’t think the sign applies to them for whatever reason. Another thing is that I actually believe that the speed limit signs were strategically placed on the road in order to remind people of how fast they are permitted to drive. Otherwise, they probably wouldn’t have bothered to put them there. So, I drive within the speed limit, but some drivers apparently find that offensive. The drivers behind me continuously honked their horns in order to intimidate me out of their way. It worked. I pulled over in order to allow a convoy of enormous trucks speed their way into oblivion.
There was also the issue of finding my way home from an unfamiliar location. I don’t know if I’m alone in this, but I have a love/hate relationship with Waze. While most of the time she does help me get to my destination, at times she can be confusing and frustrating. I also don’t like the way she speaks to me. When my mother was alive, back in the days before Waze, if I was lost, I would call her on the phone. She would patiently direct me even to places she had never been while making me feel well taken care of. I always felt like I was in loving hands. I can’t say the same for Waze. She speaks with me in a condescending tone, as if I did something wrong and asked to be born with no sense of direction. So, change the voice, you may say. I do. But for some reason, after one trip she always reverts back to her old self. Some may say that my sound settings are messed up, but I know how to control those as well. And yet, there are times she gives me the silent treatment. Today, she didn’t bother telling me to make an important turn. But I was on high alert and found my way home without her help, thank you.
By the time I got home from this journey I needed a bit of pampering myself. I hope it won’t take long for me to recover from this morning’s trip. My son is trying to get permission to attend a wedding of a friend tomorrow night. Of course, that would involve picking him up and then returning him to his current location. Repeating this morning’s drive is not an activity that I look forward to. But I’ll do what I have to do. Anything for my chayal.
Suzie (nee Schapiro) Steinberg grew up in Kew Gardens Hills. She works as a social worker and lives with her husband and children in Ramat Beit Shemesh.