Monday, September 29, 2014

Hurry up and wait

As an American immigrant to Israel, many Israelis are honestly baffled why I would choose to give up the good life in the good old USA and come to live in this “tough” country.  The actual, albeit not rational, answer to that query is that I feel at home here for whatever reasons.  Yet, beyond that question is an assumption that everything is better in America.  While some things are better, the comparison is far from black and white.

Two issues struck me when I came back from LA this time, the lack of chairs for the supermarket cashiers and poor quality of the freeways in LA. Regardless of the level of the store, the cashiers there were provided no chairs on which to sit.  The poor women, in my mind, have to spend their entire shift on their feet except during their allotted breaks.  By contrast, even the most modest grocery store in Israel provides a stool or chair for its cashiers.  I recall that when I was young, there was a massive boycott of grapes because, among other reasons, the field owners would not provide long handles for the hoes of its workers, thus forcing the fieldworkers bend over the entire work day.  I believed that was petty and cheap of the part of the employers. The same appears to be true in regards to supermarket owners.

The other shocking difference was the quality of the freeways.  I am aware that the State of California has had budget problems for many years, but it has let its freeways deteriorate drastically.  LA freeways are the lifeblood of the metropolis, the almost sole way from travelling from one part to another.  Yet, their pavement is so broken up that it often requires both hands held firmly on the wheel to keep the car in the lane.  Driving at 100 km/h, that sounds like a recipe for disaster.  By contrast, due to the growing problem of accidents in Israel, the country has invested significant funds in improving the roads, even in the periphery.  I could literally feel the difference as the taxi took us from the train station to our house at the end of the trip. It was a pleasure to roll down the highway in Israel.

So, the land of milk and honey is better than the land of opportunity at least if you want to drive down the road and have to work at a supermarket.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Handicapping it

In my just completed family trip to LA, I had the pleasure, yes pleasure, of taking my handicapped father to a Dodger game at Dodger Stadium.  To be precise, my father is not wheelchair bound, but walks with great difficulty, requiring the rental of a wheel chair for the purpose of this game.  American law requires wheel chair access to all public locations but that does not necessarily imply ease of access, especially in older buildings such as Dodger Stadium.

Thus, my father was very concerned about the amount of hassle involved in this whole endeavor. We were both surprised and delighted by the experience.  First, the parking is right next to the entrance, with a flat plain and no more than 30 meters to get the seats.  The seating is exclusive to handicapped people, involving no stairs and designed with movable seats to allow easy access.  Moreover, there was a dedicated employee in the section helping with all our needs, including bringing some replacement fries when ours fell on the ground.  The concessions and bathrooms were right behind us for easy convenience.  Handicapped sections exist in most areas of the ballpark, allowing for all budgets.  I have to admit I bought expensive seats, but I don’t imagine the conditions are different in the other sections aside from the need to take an elevator.

I am an anti-Dodger fan, but I have to respect the Dodger organization for catering to a growing percentage of the population that has limited mobility.  Unlike many theaters and restaurants that technically have handicap access, this sports organization understands how to integrate a significant segment of people into a group experience without impacting the experience of the general population.  I honestly hope that this approach will become the rule if and when I need it.

To sum up my “handicapped” experience, my father ended the pleasant evening by saying, “Let’s do this  again next year.”  What more can be said?