Everybody needs at least one great story. Whether you’re on a date, entertaining a room full of people, or just hanging out with your friends, a great story is an invaluable tool that can help you bring value to any interaction or social gathering. This is mine.
The following is a true story…
How ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Almost Got Me Arrested by the Israeli Bomb Squad
I’d packed my bags and was doing a final sweep of my Tel Aviv hotel room to check for any forgotten items. I scanned the counter top to make sure I’d packed my toothbrush and razor, and as I glanced over at the shower I couldn’t help thinking about how terrible all the bathrooms in Israel were.
I’d been in the country for about two weeks, and each and every bathroom I had used possessed some small, yet fundamental, flaw that rendered the entire facility almost useless.
Don’t get me wrong, Israel is good at a lot of things. They have more PhDs per citizen than any country on earth. They’re great at securing borders. And they produce some stunningly beautiful women.
But for how good they are at those things, they absolutely suck at building bathrooms. They have some of the smartest minds in the world and yet also have some of the most retarded restroom facilities I’ve ever seen.
The shower in my hotel room for example was blessed with a completely flat floor and no water partition (rather than a floor sloping inwards towards the drain like most showers). This meant the water simply flowed straight out of the shower, into the bathroom, and flooded the entire room whenever I used it.
Some of the bathrooms I went into had urinals that were placed so high on the wall, I literally hit to pee upwards to get my stream into the urinal.
One of the more mind boggling examples that I was lucky enough to come across was a bathroom whose sink had a faucet that was longer than the diameter of the actual sink.
I’ll give you a second to let that sink in.
The faucet was so long… that it reached completely over the sink… and just spilled water directly onto the ground.
How does that even happen?
Not only did the person building that sink fail to realize the problem as they were building it; but after the project had been completed; having seen their monumental error, THEY LEFT IT LIKE THAT!
Are you fucking kidding me! Who does shit like that?
There were design flaws like this in every bathroom I entered in Israel. I eventually made a game of it. Every time I went into a bathroom I’d keep my eyes open and see how long it took me to spot the problem.
With everything packed, I grabbed my bag, and checked out of the hotel.
I was preparing to make my way to Tzfat for an archaeological dig that I’d been invited to join. Just a short train trip from Tel Aviv to Acco, then a quick bus ride from Acco to Tzfat. At this point it was just a normal day. I certainly was not expecting any of the craziness that was soon to befall me.
Bag in hand I began making my way to the train station. While waiting at a traffic light I got involved in a conversation with a young Israeli woman who was also on her way to the station to pick up a friend of hers, and after a few minutes she offered me a ride to the station in her car.
I followed her to her car, and upon reaching it put my bag in back and climbed into the passenger seat.
As we drove she asked me about my time in Israel and what I had seen and done so far. Everything was going well until her phone began to ring. She had been smiling and laughing up until this point, but her expression changed immediately as she looked down at the number. She put the phone to her ear and began screaming in Hebrew to the person on the other end of the line.
I sat with my eyes politely fixed forwards.
After about a minute she slammed the phone down, looked me in the eye and said, “We need to make a detour to my boyfriend’s apartment. Sorry.”
She turned the car around and we drove in silence for about ten minutes in the opposite direction.
Reaching the apartment building, she immediately jumped out of the car, ran up a flight of stairs, and disappeared into one of the rooms, leaving me standing next to the car.
I told myself that if she didn’t come back out in five minutes I would go up to the room to check on her. As soon as that thought entered my mind, I heard screaming coming from the room she was in. I took off running towards the room when I saw the door fly open as she came sprinting out followed by a very large man chasing after her.
She ran to my side and began screaming at him in Hebrew while he stood about ten feet from us and screamed back.
I had no idea what was going on. The only three things I can say in Hebrew are “Toda” (Thank you), “Lo” (No), and “Salade oeuf” (Chicken salad). In other words, I can politely refuse a chicken salad.
So they’re screaming at each other when all of the sudden she leans in and kisses me on the cheek, then takes off towards the car leaving me standing there with this guy who, had he not been an Israeli Jew, I would have assumed was named Olaf.
Not quite sure what to do, I shrug my shoulders at the guy as if to say, “I have no idea what’s going on.” I then hear the girl behind me yell, “Quick! Get in!”
I look back and see she’s already in the car.
So my choices are either to jump in car with this crazy bitch or get stranded here with Olaf.
I turn and sprint towards the car, praying that I’m not about to get blind-sided by 220lbs of hummus and Krav Maga. I reach the car and jump in as he starts pounding on the window screaming what I can only assume was the Hebrew version of “I’LL RAPE YOUR CORPSE!”
As we peel out of the parking I look over at the girl, and an emphatic “What the FUCK!” escapes my lips.
“I’m sorry. He’s such an asshole.” is all she says.
We sit in silence the rest of the drive until we reach the train station. I grab my bag from the back of the car and leave her to her life of misery with Olaf.
I board the train, and after a short trip finally arrive in Acco… And that’s where things get interesting.
I find bus 361 to Tzfat, put my bags under the bus, and board.
I stood to the side to allow other passengers to pay while I searched my pockets for money. However by the time I realized I had absolutely no cash on me the bus driver had already closed the doors and started driving away with me still on the bus.
I sat down and figured I would tell one of the other passengers of my predicament and see if anyone could spare a few shekels so I could pay the driver when we arrived in Tzfat. I figured the worst case scenario was that I’d have to run into a store to get some change when we arrived.
About half an hour later we’re in the middle of the desert. (I told this story to an Israeli girl at Stanford once and she interrupted me at this point and said, “There’s no desert between Acco and Tzfat.” Apparently Israelis and Americans have a different definition of “desert.” Living in the Middle East, I can understand how she might not think the area between these two cities is a desert, but trust me, to the rest of the world, if it’s over 90 degrees outside and there’s a lot of sand and dirt without a single tree in sight, it’s a desert.)
Anyway, we’re driving through the desert, and the bus driver looks in the rear view mirror and sees me. He pulls over to the side of the road, puts the bus in park, then stands up and walks back to where I’m sitting and says, “You pay now you thief!”
I had told the guy next to me about my predicament when I sat down and he had agreed to give me a few shekels when we arrived. Now however, under the scrutiny of the bus driver calling me a thief, and everyone else on the bus staring at us, he had apparently lost his resolve.
At this point I wish I would have chosen my words more carefully because I honestly believe I could have salvaged the situation had I not pulled out my wallet and asked the bus driver, “Do you take Visa?”
Getting kicked off a bus isn’t nearly as embarrassing as you’d think. The only thing I wish I would have done differently was remember that my bags were still in the undercarriage of the bus, which at this point was sailing into the distance towards Tzfat .
I was now stranded in the middle of the desert with no phone, no cash, no passport, and no bags.
Luckily I had seen a gas station a few miles back so I began making the long trek towards it.
Upon reaching the gas station, I was surprised at how much it reminded me of something you’d see in a horror movie. You know what I’m talking about. The gas station that would seem completely abandoned were it not for the single old man sitting in a rocking chair waiting to say creepy shit and then send you in the wrong direction to your inevitable death.
This gas station was exactly like that, except the guy was Arab instead of a white hillbilly Deliverance extra.
I slowly approached him and said, “Excuse me. I’m wondering if you could help me out. I’m sort of stuck out here. I have no money or phone, and now my bags are missing. I’m literally stranded out here. You wouldn’t happen to have a few shekels that I could have to get a bus ticket to Tzfat?”
He walked up to me and said, “Of course. I’ll grab some from inside.”
I breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, someone who wasn’t a complete asshole.
I thanked him and asked if there was a bathroom I could use. He pointed me to it and said, “You have to squeeze into the stalls though.” before heading inside.
I assumed he meant the stalls were small, and since I wasn’t planning on doing gymnastics while taking a dump, I didn’t think too much of his warning.
It was only after I attempted to open one of the stalls that I understood he was being literal when he said I would have to squeeze in.
The doors to the stalls opened inwards, but they had made the stalls so small that the door couldn’t open without hitting the toilet, thus blocking the door from opening all the way. I turned my body sideways to fit through the crack in the door and eventually squeezed in.
Upon finishing my business I walked over to the sink to wash my hands. I grasped the faucet handle and turned it, expect a gentle stream of water to appear. What I got however was a jet of water exploding out of the faucet with the force of a fire hose, soaking me and the front of my pants with water.
I came back out soaked in water and found the guy waiting for me with a bottle of water and 40 shekels (About $10 US).
“Oh, you shouldn’t turn the handle all the way. Too much water will come out.”
“Ya. I figured that.”
I thanked him again and went back the way I came. I had seen a bus stop on the side of the road as I was walking back to the gas station, so I figured I would wait there for the next bus. I knew that Tzfat was the last stop of that line, so I figured if I got there soon enough, my original bus would still be there and I’d be able to get my bags back.
I reached the bus stop and waited for about half an hour. Not a single bus came by. Then a car slowed down and stopped in front of me. The window rolled down and it was another Arab guy. “Where are you trying to go?”
I told him I was attempting to catch a bus to Tzfat to which he replied, “You won’t get any buses waiting here. There’s a bus station up this way. You can get a bus there, but not here. Get in. I’ll take you.”
So again I needed to make a decision whether to jump in a car with someone I didn’t know, or get left in a situation that I really don’t want to be in.
I jumped in the car.
He immediately starting asking me questions about where I was from and what I was doing in Israel.
“So… You American?”
“What do you think of Israel?” Shit. This is a trick question. Diplomacy time.
“The land here is very beautiful.” I responded.
“Yes. Yes it is.” he agreed. “Do you speak any Arabic?”
“No. I don’t. I’ve always wanted to learn though.” I squirmed in my chair; unsure about why I just lied to this stranger.
“Yes. You should. It’s a beautiful language.”
Perhaps it was because he was being overly friendly. Perhaps it was because I was hitchhiking. Whatever it was, something just didn’t sit right with me about this guy.
His next question did not instill any more confidence.
“Have you ever been to a Muslim village?”
I could see the bus station ahead in the distance and began muttering a silent prayer to myself.
‘Please stop at the bus station. Please stop at the bus station.’
He drove right by it.
‘What he fuck? Where is this guy taking me?’
At this point I am 100% certain that I’m being kidnapped. Not the ‘ski mask in the middle of the night’ kind of kidnapped, but the ‘lure you into a false sense of security’, ‘Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ kind of kidnapped where you don’t realize you’ve been kidnapped until Stellan Skarsgard starts taking his pants off.
We drove on for about five more minutes. I eventually asked him, “That wasn’t the bus station back there was it?” His eyes got wide and he said, “OH YES. I’m sorry. I forgot.” He turned the car around and started heading back in the other direction towards the bus station. Apparently he was just driving home with me and had completely forgotten that he was supposed to be dropping me off.
We arrived at the bus station and I got out of the car and thanked him again.
I finally bought a ticket and got on the bus to Tzfat.
I arrived in Tzfat and got of the bus. It was only then that I realized that the entire bus station was deserted. There was nobody there and it looked as if the station had been temporarily closed down. After a couple seconds I realized that the station wasn’t completely deserted. There were a lot of police officers there along with the bomb squad.
‘Ha. Some idiot probably left his bags and they think it’s a bomb.’
Then it hit me…
I’m that idiot.
They had found my bag left under the bus and called the bomb squad.
I walked over to the nearest police officer and asked him if there was a bag left under a bus. He tells me there was, and I inform him that the bag is mine.
He motions for me to follow him.
As he walks me towards the bomb squad truck he sees that the front of my pants are soaked and asks, “What happened to your pants?”
“This country’s bathrooms are what happened to my pants. I had to go to the bathroom. First the doors to the stalls wouldn’t open. Then the faucet was broken and sprayed me with water.”
Inside the bomb squad truck was a clean-shaven man in his mid-thirties sitting behind a computer screen with his hand on some joysticks. I looked over at the bus and saw the bomb disposal robot with it’s little claw hands grabbing my bag.
The police officer says something to the EOD tech in Hebrew, at which point the EOD tech looks me over, holds the screen in front of him and finally says, “Is that your bag?”
Him: Why did you leave it under the bus?
Me: The bus driver kicked me off and drove off before I could grab it.
Him: What color is your bag?
Me: It’s black.
Him: What kind of bag. Backpack? Duffle bag? Roller bag?
Me: It’s a roller bag.
He turns the screen to face me and says, “Is that your bag?”
“Yep. That’s it.”
“Okay. Go grab your bag and bring it to the center of the parking lot.”
I walk over to the bus, and when I’m about half way there, I hear the guy yell, “And don’t touch the robot!”
“I won’t touch the robot.”
I grab my bag from under the bus, bring it to the center of the parking lot and step back a few paces. He comes walking over and says, “Okay. Tell me what’s in the bag.”
“Just some clothes. Some shirts, some shoes, some pants. A book.”
“What book?” he demands.
“…Uhhh… Fifty Shades of Grey.”
He picks up his radio and mumbles something in Hebrew. I don’t know exactly what is said, but it’s followed by laughter from the guy on the other end.
‘Fuck you asshole.’
Still standing next to the bomb squad truck, the police officer yells something to the bomb squad tech, then walks over to where we’re standing. They ask if I have any ID on me and I tell them it’s in my bag.
The EOD tech then looks down at my pants and asks me why they are all wet.
Cop: “He had to go to the bathroom, but the door wouldn’t open so he pissed his pants.”
Me: “I didn’t piss my fucking pants! I sprayed myself with water!”
The tech gets on the radio and again says something in Hebrew. More laughter.
‘I am so fucking done with this country.’
The bomb squad tech opens up my bag and starts searching through my stuff.
He found my shoes and shirts and pants, but he couldn’t find my book, so he started interrogating me about it.
“Where’s your book? You said it was in here. Are you sure this is your bag?”
I tell him that it’s definitely in there, at which point he is becoming more and more suspicious of me. He says something into the radio, and this time there is no laughter. I have the strong suspicion that I’m about to be arrested because of Fifty Shades of Grey.
Now before I continue, allow me to back track to Paris to set the stage for the biggest coincidence of all coincidences that has ever coincided.
I was about to see a show at the Moulin Rouge, and was having dinner at a restaurant across the street before the show began. I got into a friendly conversation with a couple at the table next to me, and as it happens, the man was the Director of Productions of a company called QinetiQ. QinetiQ is a bomb disposal robotics companies. They make bomb disposal robots.
I just happened to be wearing the same pants and still had this guy’s business card in my pocket.
Thinking it would calm him down and build some trust with the EOD tech, I pulled out the card and said to the bomb squad technician, “You know, I actually know the guy who makes your robots. I was having dinner with him a few weeks ago in Paris.”
It seemed to have the opposite effect.
“Why do you know bomb disposal makers?”
“You just happen to have his card on you?”
“Are you Jewish?”
“Do you have an interest in explosives?”
I noticed that the police officer had strategically placed himself behind me so that I was now sandwiched between him and the EOD tech.
‘Shit. I’m definitely getting arrested.’
“No. No. We were both in Paris and we had dinner together. You can check my passport, I was in Paris a few weeks ago.”
He looked at my passport and saw that I was indeed in Paris a few weeks prior.
Just then I remembered where my book was.
“Look in the outer pocket. I think the book is there.”
He opened up the outer pocket and pulled out the book.
He stared at me for what seemed like an eternity. I stared right back, determined not to look away first. While staring down an armed man is difficult under normal circumstances, it becomes nearly impossible when that man has just found a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey in your bag.
Eventually he handed me my book and after finishing the search of my bag he told me I could go.
I made my way from the bus station to the building I was to be staying at for the next few weeks during the archaeological dig. As I walked into the main room I was greeted by the rest of the team all seated in a circle.
I was incredibly late by this point, so I proceeded to apologize and tell them all the story of my struggles getting there. When I was finished, the guy running the dig said, “You must be exhausted. Leave your stuff here. There’s a bathroom upstairs if you want to clean yourself off.”
I walked up the stairs and found the bathroom. As I entered I kept my eye open for any trouble that might befall me.
It seemed to be a normal bathroom for once. Carefully I turned the faucet handle and a gentle stream of water came out which I splashed on my face.
Happy the whole ordeal was over and that I was finally in Tzfat, I grabbed the door handle and gave it a turn to exit and head back downstairs.
The handle didn’t move. I checked that the door was unlocked and attempted to turn the handle again.
I was trapped in the fucking bathroom…
Until next time,