The trauma began as soon as we approached the Delta counter at Miami International Airport. I was quizzing the customer representative about my usual list of concerns:
Does the airplane have a toilet? How many years of experience does the captain have? What if Delta is bought by Aeroflot in mid-air? Do we have seats together? Do we have vegan meals?
She gave me sort of acceptable answers to the first few questions but stumbled on the meals. She said that my wife, Ora, did have a vegan meal booked but I did not. We were about to embark on a long trip to Israel with a seven-hour layover in Newark, which is not known for its vegan gourmet cuisine.
While I was going through divorce proceedings in my head on account of Ora neglecting to order a vegan meal for me, the customer-service representative called on a senior person for help. After staring at the screen for what looked like eternity, she finally said that I did have a vegan meal on the flight from Newark to Tel Aviv. Ora smiled: “I told you that I ordered vegan for both of us.”
The first flight was uneventful, but we arrived in Newark quite hungry. The flight to Tel Aviv was departing in another seven hours, so we decided to eat something. The closest to vegan food we found was a veggie burger. After we explained to the waitress that we were vegan, and what that meant, we waited for 45 minutes. Eventually she brought us two veggie burgers smothered with cheese on top.
We told her that vegans do not eat dairy, but she probably thought that cheese and dairy were two different things. We were so famished that we decided to forego the ordeal of returning the burgers. We tried in vain to peel off the cheese from top of the burger, which ended up eliminating 95 percent of our meal. At least we had vegan meals waiting for us on the flight to Tel Aviv.
Although we sent two suitcases directly to Tel Aviv, I still had to schlep four carry-on bags with rocks that Ora took for self-defense in case a third intifada suddenly erupted in Israel. Looking forward to resting my back, no sooner did I take my seat than two kids entertained themselves by kicking the back of my seat. While I was fantasizing what I would do to these kids, after the amputation, my vegan meal finally arrived, which guaranteed a bit of distraction removing the foil, discovering what’s inside the little plastic container, rearranging the little tray to make sure that nothing spilled on my lap, and making sure that Ora did the same so no part of her food ended on my lap, either.
I usually calculate the digestive quotient of each meal by examining its fiber content. It turns out that the only part with roughage in our meal was the carton in which it came, which reminded me that I had not brought with me Senocot or Metamucil. Not a good start for our visit to the Holy Land.
We visit family in Israel often, so this time I came equipped. On our trip last year I bought an Israeli cell phone for $50, which was way cheaper than paying the usual $2,773 roaming charges from our stateside service provider. Now when I come to Israel I just add minutes to the $50 cell phone, and I’m in touch with all our relatives and friends. This, of course, turned out to be a curse because I hate phone calls, especially to cell phones because, as everybody knows, the radiation causes cancer, flat feet, Alzheimer’s, blindness and testicular evaporation. Every five minutes the phone would ring with one of the following typical conversations:
Conversation No. 1:
Caller: What are you guys doing today?
Us: We are not sure yet.
Caller: OK, we will call you in 10 minutes to plan the next conversation in another 10 minutes until we figure out what we are doing today.
Conversation No. 2:
Caller: We will call you in five minutes to let you know if in five minutes we are to ready to leave to pick you up.
Conversation No. 3:
Caller: We thought we would be ready in five minutes but now we will have to call you in five minutes to give you an update.
Conversation No. 4:
Same caller, now from second car on a family trip: We made a wrong turn and are headed for Syria.
Us in another car: Good luck. Make sure to stop for gas masks.
Isaac Prilleltensky is dean of the School of Education and Human Development at the University of Miami.