I sang long and loud when the package arrived. 2000 sweet peas, among other included gifts. The local dealers here sell peas, (which may or may not germinate,) for 20 cents apiece! I wish I were making that up, but I’m not. Two dollars for a pack of 10 peas: you do the math, in English or in Hebrew. Sucks to be stuck here if you don’t have a beautiful friend like Beth.
Ok, she done a nice thing. But you expected no less from our Xanga Heroine.
And so this post has to be about Brad. Yeah, I mentioned him in the Title.
You have to understand that I’d completely given up on the seeds’ arriving. Six weeks had gone by since Beth put them lovingly in the mail. My albeit meagre data-base for shipping-times had entries for ‘letter: 6 days’, and ‘package: 2 weeks’. After a month, the only question was what had gone wrong? A zealous postal-worker throwing them in the trash was the most likely scenario.
For one of two reasons:
1) The Israeli government’s desire to keep us safe from ‘invasive species’. (*muffled guffaw*)
Or, more likely:
2) Laws enacted to protect Israeli seed companies, and to ensure that the average yid will just
give up in disgust whenever he has the urge to create a backyard garden, thereby increasing the
profitability of the monopolistic vegetable marketeers.
At any rate, I wasn’t expecting a Guest.
Innocently pruning broccoli near the chicken-house, I heard the guy’s voice: ‘Solberg?…”Yonatan?’ and of course flipped out. Hid behind the coop and peered
through the screen. See, anyone here who approaches you knowing your name can only be Trouble. Income Tax, Value-added tax, Municipal Enforcement, you don’t need much of an imagination. But this fellow, what I saw of him. looked ‘different’. Jeezuz, the muscles. I decided to take a chance.
“Ken. Ech l’azor ‘e’khah?” (‘Yes, how can I help you?’ I asked in Hebrew.
“Shalo-o-om” the guy said, drawing out the ‘O’ as only a non-native speaker does.
“Heyya, buddy.” I said then, warming up, and signaling that we can use a ‘normal’ language.
“Got something for you here.” he said, relieved, and handed me the package. I knew at once what it was, and felt a joy denied me since… since I fell off my bike two months ago.
“Oh my God, I can’t believe it!” I told him. He looked so tired, fatigued, and exhausted; I hoped my enthusiasm would cheer him up and motioned for him to have a seat, remembering suddenly, like any 3rd-rate robot that humans-of-class often offer hospitality to guests. He sat himself down with a move that looked for all the world as if it were the first time in a month.
And of course, as we talked, it turned out that this perception was not entirely unfounded.
Brad in fact was a contract-worker for, no, not the Israeli government but the United States Postal Service(!) Grew up in Towson , Maryland, a second-year student in Anthropology at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, PA, he was working for the P.O. on the side to help with tuition.
“So,, they do the hand-off in Haifa?” I asked, trying as usual to pretend I knew more than I do about people’s jobs.
“No, Lancaster. The Atlantic leg started in Philly. same day.”
I had no idea what he was talking about.
“The Atlantic leg?” was all I could come up with.
“Yeah, to the Azores. Most of us stop there a day or so, you know, to rest up.”
“Rest up for what?” I asked, still not grasping what I was hearing.
“For the hop to Gibraltar and the trans-Mediterranean run. Ok, I hung out in Ibiza awhile this trip. Sorry. I just felt I needed the break. We can take it off the bill, Yonatan.” Brad said, drinking my sad-sack coffee with real or feigned gusto.
“Wait a minute, Brad.” I interrupted, not used to being this in the dark, “You’re saying there’s a flexible flight connection there?” It seemed odd that my package of seeds would rate a personal courier, but I really wanted to hear the details.
“Flight? I swam, Solberg. You didn’t get that?”
I took a long time to ponder what I was hearing. ‘Swam’. Yes, that word in English usually does mean a guy, in the water, moving his arms and legs such as to stay afloat and even move forward. So yeah, ‘swim’. The guy swam. Right. I decided to like totally suspend disbelief. Whatever, I already had Beth’s seeds in my hot little hand.
“So, how was the Med-leg?” I asked, feeling disconcertingly like a counselor asking a troubled kid about his imaginary rabbit friend.
“Well, I had some trouble with the damn GPS around Cyprus. Battery wouldn’t stay connected. I used the rubber-band from the package in my hat to keep the dumb thing alive. Then I almost lost the payload coming into Haifa harbor.”
I felt, let’s call it ‘odd’. But the story, (and other details I shan’t reveal here), checked out. Still, it was a stretch. I had a few more questions:
“So from Haifa to here, how’d that go?”
Brad looked sheepish all of a sudden, and finally admitted:
“I took a bus.”
“Don’t blame you, guy. you musta been beat.”
“Yeah. Even though it felt like Rosie at the Marathon. Plus my time wasn’t ‘bad’, but it wasn’t major-league anyway. Thirty-nine days, eighteen hours to Haifa dock. My training pace shoulda put me here in 38, but I had heavy sea-ice off Greenland.”
“Sea-ice?” I asked, dumbfounded. “Why such a northern route?”
“It a great-circle. Lotta people don’t get that. Airlines fly the route every day, and for a good reason. It’s lots shorter, even though intuitively you’d think to just cut a ‘straight’ line across the Atlantic, on a map, you know.”
I was obviously dealing with a seasoned professional in the Int’l delivery business.
“And all this for eighteen bucks?” I asked him, feeling like an ass for mentioning it.
“Well, $17.89, actually, but the USPS takes ten percent.”
“A shame” I offered, not knowing what else to say. Brad looked like he was anxious to get moving.
“Got a Caribbean run next week. Wish I could stay here longer.”, he got up and stretched a bit.
I took an envious look at my courier. I mentioned muscles? Yeah, he has ’em in places I don’t
even have places. But I guess that’s his job.
“Good luck in school.” I told him when I left him out of the car at Netanya beach. The sea was calm, sun setting almost due west.
“You know the way?” I asked, sorta as a joke.
“Sure thing, buddy. Keep Venus five degrees to the left off your tail and you can’t miss.”
What a guy!