Culture Shock For Nerds

"Tel Aviv is beautiful and all," someone told me the other day, "but if it didn't have the sea, it would be nothing."

As far as I can tell, most signs in this city telling you not to do something are purely decorative. People park their cars (and even drive if traffic seems bad enough) on the sidewalk. They swim far beyond painstakingly multi-lingual no-swimming notices (sometimes even for contaminated water — dozens of families lugging naked children seem to especially congregate beneath those signs). They move barricades. Earlier today I was halfway down a steep cliff staircase that was seeming more and more like my likeliest cause of death, when I saw the bottom and realized it was taped off and boarded up; I'd have to either ascend nightmare staircase again, or hop a chainlink fence. Someone had removed whatever warning or tape had existed up top. As it happened, I needed to wait at the bottom anyway, because a whole family had congregated and were working to bend the fence so that they could push through and climb up.

It's never malicious, or even mischievious. "Eh, or not," everyone seems to shrug — men, women, children, the elderly. I am immediately enchanted, every time. I want to follow them back to their lockers, watch them lean Jordan-Catalano style against the wall. "So you want to get out of here, or whatever?" they'd ask, and I'd pretend like it wasn't a big deal, but totally, totally.