By Larry Gordon

It’s arguable whether Miami Beach is the second- or third-holiest city in Judaism after Jerusalem and parts of the New York and New Jersey area. Back down south for a few days for a family event, it was, among other things, a great escape from the few frigid days that arrived up north and exited in a flash last week.

The weather down here this past week was spectacular, a week following a meteorologically disappointing intersession that had New Yorkers complaining about the cool and rainy days that dominated that period. So we managed to dodge the freezing temperatures in New York and also missed the less-than-perfect weather at one of our favorite jaunts — Miami Beach.

As a native New Yorker, it is important to be mindful of the seemingly slower pace of life that is the norm just about anywhere outside of New York. Additionally, as identifiable Orthodox Jews, we have the added obligation to do our people proud and not react with a New York attitude to things that occur in out-of-town places that do not necessarily sit right with our usual big-city demeanor.

Here are a few observations about how life at a Miami Beach pace interfaces with a couple — my wife and I — from up north. First of all, let me say that Miami Beach is a great city, and many of the extended parts of the city feature vibrant and deeply meaningful Jewish life. It is certainly not the way it used to be. Today there are restaurants and minyanim galore, the key indicator that an area is catering to or evolving into a place that attracts frum Jewish vacationers.

About two or so years ago, though, with the advent of Lyft and Uber, I pretty much gave up renting a car, dealing with traffic on Collins Avenue, and looking for parking spaces in parking garages and on the streets. Punching some buttons on your phone and having a car pull up to take you where you want to go is the maximum in ease and convenience. And more than that — down here, anyway — prices are quite low and very affordable.

I also gave up driving in Jerusalem, but for different reasons. That is mostly because of the constant impossible traffic congestion, awful parking situation, and, of course, the time spent in your car just idling.

Last week in Miami Beach I had an epiphany and decided to rent a car for the first time in years to visit a friend in Fort Lauderdale. We reserved a small SUV online from Enterprise, which I thought would be simple enough and we would be on our way. But not so fast.

The reservation confirmation said that the car would be ready at 11 a.m. That sounds efficient, doesn’t it? I get there, and there is a group of people sitting in a waiting area reminiscent of a waiting room in a medical office, though I would shortly learn that in most medical offices the people move with much more efficiency.

After about 15 or 20 minutes, it is my turn. I step up to the counter and the person in front of the computer screen asks for my credit card and driver’s license. He’s typing and typing some more. He’s grimacing a bit and shaking his head from side to side. I ask him what the issue is, and he responds that at the moment there are no cars available, but that I will be given the first car that is returned in the category that I ordered.

I’m starting to feel a little New York-like but do not want to demonstrate that right here this early on in the process. So I gently ask what that means and then show him the e-mail on my phone that states that I have a reservation at 11  a.m. to pick up a car. Then I inquire, perhaps a tiny bit more testily, why I was given a reservation confirmation when there are no cars available in this branch’s parking lot.

The gentleman behind the Enterprise counter says to me that this is the company policy, that is, to send out reservation confirmations. I think I heard him say that, but I wanted to make sure, so I ask again, “Are you saying that it is company policy to send customers confirmation when there are no cars available to rent?” He nods his head in the affirmative, which just assures me that I did hear what he said.

But just to make sure, I asked him again. I repeated, “Are you saying that it is Enterprise company policy to confirm a reservation even when there are no cars to be had?” He says that yes, it is. I am both awestruck and dumbfounded. While I was certain that this was not company policy, I was amazed that this gentleman either believed that it was or was trying to convince me that it was.

Anyway, after a brief, calm back-and-forth, I found myself asking again if he was sure that there were no cars that I could use for the day, as time was marching on. The odd thing about these situations is that somewhere under all the bluster and stories is a buried solution. That’s when I heard the words, “Well, there is something…”

About fifteen minutes later, I was driving a pick-up truck to Fort Lauderdale. No, I never drove a pick-up before, but I can now report that it is not much different than piloting a large SUV. It drives like any other car, but you just need to be extra-careful backing up and sometimes turning right.

The day with the pick-up truck was just fine. I did not need the cargo bed, as much as I would have wanted to use it, but that is just the way these things go, I guess. After the day with the pick-up, it was back to my preferred mode of transportation, Lyft and Uber. Which one I use is completely arbitrary, though it seems Lyft runs better discounts and specials than Uber does.

The other day, I had a ride from Lincoln Road back up to the 41st St. area for $1.64 plus a tip. Granted, that kind of pricing is somewhat unusual, but it’s still a perk that makes me feel like using Lyft down here more than Uber. But the real story about that Frida afternoon ride was when I asked our driver, who had an interesting accent, if he was from the Ukraine, like the driver we had earlier in the day.

“No,” he said. “I’m from Israel.” He said his name was Tom and he was from Petach Tikva. He said that he was in commercial real estate but when things weren’t going so well he drove for Lyft to tide him over. On the short ride, we talked about Israeli politics and the future of Prime Minister Netanyahu with the advent of the April elections in Israel. He said he likes President Trump very much and that he believes that most Israelis are big fans of the president. And he added that many of the thousands of Israelis in South Florida feel the same way.

All that hubbub notwithstanding, it was a sunny, warm, glorious week in Miami Beach once again.


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