Lessons from Buying a 2nd Hand Refrigerator in Israel

In my former American life, I thought the two worst processes I would experience were already behind me: (1) applying to college and (2) finding an apartment. I was wrong.

Terrible Life Process #1: Applying to College

I remember the day I got rejected during the early application round from my top-choice school. I went home to check the mail, learned of my failure as a human being and drove back (I couldn’t afford to miss AP Chemistry without the security of early enrollment) in the pouring rain, crying and listening to Linkin Park’s “In the End” on the radio:

I tried so hard
And got so far
But in the end
It doesn’t even matter

I ended up going to a different school, and it was fine. And it turns out the place I initially wanted to go is known for its high rate of suicide and student depression. So I dodged that bullet.

Terrible Life Process # 2: Finding an Apartment 

. . . in Manhattan:

After college I decided to move to Manhattan which entailed an even more gut-wrenching and sanity-obliterating process.  Dealing with brokers, deciding on the spot whether or not to put a deposit down on a musty shoebox in a desirable neighborhood, combing Craigslist posts while at work, combing Craigslist posts while at work after having put down a deposit on a shoebox in a desirable neighborhood out of sadistic curiosity, at the thought of there being an even better/cheaper/bigger/brighter shoebox in an even more desirable neighborhood…

I was sure that once I moved into my apartment I had overcome the most grueling process I would encounter, at least for a few years.  I was wrong.

Terrible Life Process #3: Buying a Refrigerator (in Israel)

One night my roommate was awoken at 2:30 am by sizzling sounds coming from our kitchen.  She went into the hallway and saw sparks flying out of the kitchen, where our 4th-generation-2nd-hand fridge was having a violent convulsive fit, threatening to blow up the apartment. This was by far the most visually stimulating of all fridges disasters we went through over the course of 1 month.

Refrigerator Number 1

Fridge # 1 didn’t fit through our doorway

She headed for the fuse box and turned off all the electricity in our apartment and perhaps the entire building, in order to unplug the fridge.  The next day I contacted the authorities:  Yaron and Schacha, the 30-something owners/real estate brokers/landlords/masters of our domain, physically and psychologically.

Yaron and Schacha are nice guys except for when it comes to important issues like life-threatening electrical situations and hazardous health conditions. Once they came over wearing literally the same outfit of Diesel jeans, Abercrombie t-shirts and Adidas sneakers, and claimed it was an accident.

I was expecting a usual song-and-dance routine when they showed up at my apartment after a 3-hour game of phone-tag and harassment.  And I got my song-and-dance routine.

Refrigerator # 2

Refrigerator # 2 had a torn wire

But this time was different; it turns out that when you expect the performance, odds are you walk away entertained – even enlightened – more than frustrated. (This lesson I kept in my pocket throughout the remainder of my time in Israel.)

I met Yaron & Shacha at my door, and walked them to where the Offender was sitting, unplugged and demonic-looking.

Fridge # 4 was not the source of the problem, I was sure of this; it was the outlet into which Fridge # 4 was plugged – the outlet which was ominously protruding from the wall ever since we moved in, with an exposed cavity of electrical innards. Things non-electricians should never have to see.  Why we chose to ignore this outlet until now is besides the point.  Regardless, I knew that Yaron and Shacha would try to convince me that it was the fridge, or natural forces – anything besides the apartment, or their responsibility.

Refrigerator # 3

Fridge # 3 was more like a microwave

I was prepared.  I was not going to let them talk me out of this being their job, their issue to deal with, their bill to pay.  In games of psychological warfare with Israeli real estate agents, you must stand your ground and show no signs of weakness.

Here are the attempted scapegoats Yaron and Schacha came up with to displace the blame from the faulty outlet (and Fridge # 4):

  1. Shacha unplugged the splitter into which the fridge was plugged, and showed me a burn mark on one of the prongs.  “See?  This is the problem,” hinting it was the splitter’s fault, pointing to the mark. I replied, “Yeah, this is because of the outlet.
  2. Yaron went onto the mini balcony leading off of the kitchen, and came back inside pointing to a wire poking in through a hole in the wall separating the kitchen from the porch.  “Look, you see this wire?  This is no good.  This is connected to an outlet outside, so you can have electricity outside.  And when it rains, it messes up the electricity.”  I replied “This wire was not plugged in.  We have never used it.”  He told me it was plugged in.  I pointed to the three appliances that had taken up the three spaces in the splitter, thus eliminating the possibility of a fourth plug.  His response was “Well, if you want electricity outside, this is a problem.”  I said we did not want electricity outside.
  3. Yaron and Schacha then edged the fridge away from its corner and toward the other side of the kitchen toward an unoccupied but previously problematic outlet (problematic, as in, had already been a culprit of a near-electrical meltdown a few months prior to this one).  Yaron excitedly noticed a lot of water on the floor, covering the space from where the fridge had been moved. “See all this water? This is very bad.”  I really think he was insinuating that the water on the floor had caused the fridge to short out.  Cause-and-Effect logical reasoning is a bit skewed in Israel perhaps.  I replied, “Yeah, it’s from the fridge being unplugged for 2 days.  Stuff melted.”  “Oh.”
Refrigerator # 4

Fridge # 4 almost blew up the apt

They finally agreed after much discussion in Hebrew to have an electrician come to fix the outlet.  A success for the home team.  I was left with the reassurance that an electrician would come – at no specific time, “when he comes, we will come” – and a pleasantly entertaining crisis aversion performance.

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