Down In Front
(Published on Israelisms.com - 2000)
Did you know that there is a rest-stop on the way to Hell? It's
called Malcha Mall, and if you're pushed through it's portals,
you can be pretty darn sure that you will not be gamboling in
the fields of Paradise any time soon. Malcha Mall is G-d's way
of notifying you that you've screwed up big time and will soon
be entering Satan's sweltering airspace.
Ordinarily, I give Malcha a wide berth. I would sooner run naked
through the alleys of Meah Sharim on Shabbat than endure a single
minute in that awful "din" of iniquity. Religious I
am not, but I live by some very strict laws and one of them is
"Thou shalt not step foot in Malcha Mall, especially on weekends
or holidays". Alas, Fate is an entirely unpredictable animal,
and tends to override personal preferences.
So there I was, in the middle of the Chanukah holidays, on my
way to the dreaded Malcha Mall. I had been duped by my delightful
nieces Rachelli (11) and Noa (9) into taking them to see Woody
Allen's latest egotistical escapade, Antz. I had tried
everything to resist this nightmare! I had offered sumptuous meals
at Burger King, Chanukah gifts of Barbie apparel, a year's supply
of Bamba* - but they hung tenaciously on to Malcha. I was on the
verge of offering to buy them a hamster when my brother entered
the room and shot me a "do-it-and-I'll-murder-you" look.
For a few seconds I weighed up death or Malcha, but the image
of my parents weeping over my grave and my brother sitting in
an Israeli prison, forced me to acquiesce to Malcha.
The moment we entered the Mall, we were confronted by a cacophony
so loud, it would have woken Beethoven from a deep slumber. There
were, what seemed like, hundreds of thousands of children, and
a handful of adults, coursing through the three story monstrosity.
Trying to reach the movie theaters was like rowing upstream in
a leaking kayak. Just as we'd gain some ground, a crowd of people
would advance in our direction and sweep us back to where we'd
started from. After about five minutes of frustration and an already
developing migraine, I was ready to flee. Rachelli and Noa however,
were clearly having the time of their lives, totally oblivious
to my mounting dementia.
I decided wisely to deposit the merry twosome in a toy store
with orders not to stray, while I pushed my way to the movie theaters
and bombarded my way through the ticket line. I had decided to
dispense with my first world politeness, and pushed and cursed
my way to the front like all the other rude Neanderthals. Adapt
or die. Or, when in Malcha, act Machiavellian!
Having collected the nieces, been practically strip-searched
by the theater doorman (lest we had committed the terrible sin
of bringing in our own food, instead of blowing our entire monthly
salaries on a box of popcorn and a coke), we finally found our
seats. As I looked around the theater in horror, I became convinced
that the entire audience was on Ritalin, and had, collectively,
forgotten to take their last few doses. Hyperactive children were
yelling, throwing popcorn, and practically bouncing off the ceilings
in a state of complete mayhem. I sat there in the darkness, breathing
deeply, trying to restore my inner calm by pretending I was someplace
else. Anywhere else!
And just as the movie began, I heard the little plaintive voice
of Noa beside me:
"I'm thirsty - can I get a Coke?"
"Me too," chimed in Rachelli, "and some popcorn,
can we get some popcorn?"
They were both already up and out of their seats and looking at
me expectantly. I didn't have the energy to protest, I just handed
over the money like a helpless mugging victim. Ten minutes later
they reappeared with popcorn and Coke in quantities big enough
to support the entire population of Biafra for a year. Of course,
having missed a quarter of the movie, they now began to volley
questions at me. They weren't alone, as 99% of all the brats in
the theater were asking each other what was going on, as the soundtrack
was in English and most of them didn't have a hope in hell of
reading the sub-titles. And let's face it, Woody Allen is a little
beyond the scope of the intellectual capacity of recently potty-trained
And just as I was on the verge of throttling a few little movie-goers,
I heard Noa shriek and then burst into tears.
"Oh G-d, what now?" I thought, summoning up the last
smithereens of my patience to deal with the latest catastrophe.
I glanced over at Noa. She was sitting, frozen in her place with
the huge cup of Coke lying upturned in her lap. The poor kid was
completely sodden from her chest down to her knees. I took a deep
breath, counted to ten, and FREAKED! My first thought was… Pneumonia.
Every offspring of a Jewish mother knows that if you spend one
minute in wet clothes you are sure to get afflicted with some
awful illness! Luckily, due to another common Jewish mother practice,
she had been dressed in so many layers of clothing that by the
time I'd peeled off the top three, she was left with two dry layers
underneath. This whole performance went on during the movie and
no-one even batted an eyelid, as if stripping in movies was as
normal as throwing popcorn or shouting comments at the onscreen
As usual in movie theaters across Israel, when the movie ended
we were led out through the back door via an underground passageway
that made one feel like you'd just been to a top secret screening
sponsored by the French Underground. By now the Mall was teeming
with people and my only thought was to get out of there as soon
as humanly possible. Clutching my partially sodden niece in the
one hand and Rachelli in the other, I pulled them along through
the masses like a bulldozer ploughing through a forest of redwoods.
Just as we were nearing the exit gate, Rachelli suggested we go
for burgers. I laughed out loud like the mad Ophelia, and told
her I'd sooner shave my hair off. Poor kid, one day she'll understand…
" So, did you have a good time?" asked my brother as
I deposited the children safely at home.
"Just swell" I enthused, "Hope we can do it again
* Peanut butter flavored potato chips