Sayed Kashua's design for living
It was the coffee machine that ultimately shed new light on his social situation.
It was the coffee machine that ultimately shed new light on my social situation. As usual, it all started because of my wife. Don’t get me wrong. I can be a real jerk, but I do love my wife today more than ever.
I’ve mentioned before that our apartment suddenly started to get on her nerves. At first there were trivial comments, like “The shower hooks are really annoying.” Or, “There’s not even a proper place for the shoe closet” − even though we never had a shoe closet. The complaints gathered momentum after the baby was born: “We have to paint”; “The walls are already black from the kids’ hands”; “We need another room for the baby.”
At some point the criticism became like a toothache. It doesn’t go away if you ignore it, and, in fact, the pain only becomes more intense and, eventually, unbearable. Very quickly the home I loved so much, in the building I love, in the neighborhood I love, became a nightmare. Things that never bothered me, like the distance between the washing machine and the dryer, were suddenly intolerable. Even remarks like “There are no pictures in this place” affected me, and I saw the apartment itself as being to blame for their absence. Coming home to a home you don’t like is a real drag.
“Renovate,” my redheaded director suggested. “Add a room − you know, the master bedroom used to be two rooms. So paint, move the washing machine close to the dryer and buy new shower hooks. What’s the problem?”
“And a shoe closet?” I said.
“First buy one,” he snapped back.
“What do you say to renovating?” I asked my wife.
“All right,” she replied, “even though it’s very inconvenient to renovate with children around.”
I don’t know how or why, but of the three renovating teams who were tendering to basically build a plaster wall and paint the place, I found myself choosing an Ashkenazi architect who works closely with a Mizrahi interior designer, and who gave me a price three times higher than the others. Maybe it was the iPad the interior designer used when he presented the work plan, or maybe it was because every time he said “plaster wall” he added the adjective “designer.”
“Here,” he said, using two fingers to enlarge the iPad image, “is where the designer plaster wall will be.”
I closed the deal with the Ashkenazi, who promised to go with my wife to all the stores: to choose the color of the designer plaster wall, pick out the shoe closet and find the hooks that best suited her needs. “Because the most important thing in interior design is for the house to meet your needs,” said the designer, pointing at my wife.
“NIS 14,000 for a paint job?” my father shouted at me. “For what? On every electricity pole there’s a sign: ‘Paint your home for NIS 1,800.’”
“What NIS 1,800?” I retorted in my defense. “And anyway, we’re talking about designer paint, Dad.”
My father tried to explain to me that I was an imbecile, that in Tira you could get a new shower and a paint job, with a plaster wall – even a designer one – for a tenth the price. I tried to explain that I don’t live in Tira, that the interior designer promised that the finished work would last a lifetime and that, anyway, there was nothing that could be done about it: Life in my neighborhood costs a little more, with all due respect to Tira.
“You’re a dunce,” my father concluded. “But do what you like.”
I felt like making coffee. At least I wanted to, but the milk frother in the machine − which you have to belong to an exclusive customer club in order to use − stopped working.
“That’s right,” I was told by customer service after a lengthy hold, “the machine is still under warranty.” It would be picked up for repair within three working days.
In the meantime, while I was waiting for the coffee machine, I realized that the plaster-wall construction had morphed into a replacement of old doors, installation of a new air-conditioning system called something like “inventor,” and the purchase of a new bedroom set whose size would be compatible with the modern design − “adjustable,” as my wife called it.
The interior designer suggested moving the piano to a different location and building an acoustic wall that would contain the sound. He also proposed that I put some life into my anemic study and I agreed, even though I didn’t understand exactly what that meant.
The iPad has a calculator, and a few quick clicks produced a sum of more than NIS 100,000, not counting the shoe closet. It took me a moment to grasp that I had intended to spend no more than NIS 20,000. I lapsed into depression, because I had already made a down payment and because I didn’t want to tell my wife that we wouldn’t be able to meet the payments − certainly not now, for sure not before elections.
In the end she gave me a designer smile such as I hadn’t seen for a few years. After all, the house would finally be suited to her needs.
“Do you know,” she said to me on the day on which we were supposed to get our prestige coffee machine back from repairs between 5 and 7 P.M., “what’s most unsuited to my needs in this apartment?”
“Yes,” I replied, “all the inconvenient things. But everything will be fine.”
“No,” she said, “I am deceiving myself with all this new design.”
“I don’t understand,” I said, genuinely not understanding.
“What bothers me the most,” she said, “is that since we moved here, you haven’t wanted to barbecue. I so much want you to barbecue like we used to, every Friday.”
“Barbecue?” I felt my arteries expanding. “I am going to spend a hundred thousand for an interior designer and all you really want is a barbecue?”
“Well,” she said, “I miss the village so badly, and the days when you weren’t embarrassed to barbecue next to the neighbors.”
“Hello,” the voice on the phone said as I started to foam at the mouth. “I am from the delivery company. I have a coffee machine for you. What’s the address?” he asked in Arabic. I gave him the address. He was silent for a while. “But I only deliver in the eastern part of the city. Sorry, I was told you are an Arab.”
“You know what?” I replied in Arabic. “I don’t want an espresso machine. I don’t even like that kind of coffee.”