My wife, Marcia, and I do not know how the local weather service estimated wind gusts in Jerusalem on Thursday evening, December 1st of this year, but we do know that they blew it. The reported wind velocity of 24 kilometers/hour (15 miles/hour) is simply not what happened and, sadly, we have witnesses.
The Beaufort Wind Force Scale, a measure that relates wind speed to observed conditions, classifies wind blowing at 24 kph as a “Moderate Breeze.” The scale advises us to anticipate…
Dust and loose paper raised. Small branches begin to move.
Dust and loose paper?
Granted, we now live on a high and frequently windy hill in the Jerusalem suburb of Giv’at Massuah, but the Beaufort’s Scale’s so-called moderate breeze, last Thursday night, lifted then blew a small, wall-mounted table tray (pictured below) over the rooftop parapet of our five story building and sent it tumbling past our kitchen window. After falling two stories, it crashed (at impressive volume) onto our neighbors’ patio, below.
We jumped out of bed and ran to investigate the sonic boom while the Moderate Breeze howled outside. The lights were on in the apartment below so, we assumed, our neighbors had also noticed. I’m thankful that they did not step outside into the weather, look up and spot me, the perpetrator, staring down from my window, gap-mouthed, at the wreckage in their laps. It’s worse than it sounds. These folks are not ordinary neighbors. Months earlier, while we were moving in, Marcia briefly met the Orthodox lady who lives downstairs when she found time to scold Marcia in Hebrew for not waiting until Passover to clean our filthy windows.
Her complaint had arisen from a trickle of wash water that had run from our apartment down to her patio. But now roughly fifteen pounds of mangled metal lay cockeyed on her porch, delivered by the breeze.
Having placed the innocent-seeming stand on the rooftop this summer, I never imagined it would become a doomsday device. On the bright side, nothing downstairs seemed broken and, clearly, no one had died. On the dark side, come morning, I had no choice but to go downstairs, confess and grovel for neighborly grace.
Given Marcia’s first brief, experience with the lady downstairs, I assumed I was in for a lecture. Or threats. Or a lecture followed by threats. I knocked on her door at 9:00 AM precisely—if one doesn’t set a specific time, some things never happen—and I braced myself for the worst.
To my surprise, the lady of the house opened the door immediately and smiled. I noticed she was holding an English-Hebrew dictionary. (Possibly to look up, lawsuit?) “I was just coming up to see you,” she said in broken English, “but I didn’t know what is the English word for merpeset?”
“Balcony” would do.
She further explained that she had intended to advise us… “Never put that table…” She stopped to point out at the wreckage beyond her sliding glass doors. “…on the roof again.” Somehow that seemed reasonable. And she gave my table back!
Miraculously, it seemed, our flying lunch stand had fallen about twenty feet harmlessly into the exact center of her balcony/merpeset. None of its ceramic floor tiles were broken, there was no broken glass (and the table has a glass surface) and none of the windows or patio furniture downstairs had been scratched or even touched.
Apparently pleased by my contrition—I was mortified by how many bad things could have easily happened—this once stern-seeming woman introduced me to her daughter, shared that she and her husband had sons serving in the IDF and asked if Marcia and I were French.
As Eliphaz the Temanite told Job over three thousand years ago, “…man is born for trouble as sparks fly upward.” We had dodged a bullet, if not sparks, and, despite my bad judgement back in June, gotten to know our distant-seeming neighbors a little bit better by dint of my mistake. Breaking the ice by almost breaking their necks.
Exit quickly, with blessings, and three lessons learned…
- A wise man places no faith in the Beaufort Wind Force Scale.
- The path to happiness begins where rooftop things are bolted down.
- Windows are best washed at Passover.