Ein Gedi Botanic Garden

Ein Gedi Botanic Garden
Seek the serenity of a Judean Desert sky in Autumn at the Ein Gedi Botanic Garden

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Running For The Bus

The Number 5 bus from the Central Bus Station to Ben Gurion University in Beersheva was at the bus stop and I was still 100 feet away. I made a run for it; in Arad, the driver would have seen me and STOPPED TO LET ME ON. Not so this time.
In Beersheva, where the local Metropol bus drivers have been on strike for months now, protesting their minimum wage salaries with no benefits, drivers who ARE working have become hardened to humanity.
It is an unusual behavior for Israeli bus drivers, who are known for their friendly and accommodating attitude. Or maybe it's just the Egged drivers who are that way, I don't know. I have never ridden with another company until I started working in Beersheva.
I really needed to catch that bus, and I was irritated that the driver was looking right at me and still planning to drive right by. So I stepped out in front of the bus. I figured, if I block him, he will be forced to stop. And if he has to stop, he has to let me on.
It was a power struggle, but he finally gave in because I behaved like an Israeli. I wouldn't give up and I didn't give in. At last the door opened. "Next time I might just run you over, no matter what you do," he greeted me sourly.
"I don't understand you," I replied with some asperity of my own. "I am RIGHT THERE, literally a few feet away, you have barely pulled away from the curb, and you can't even stop like a mentsch to let me on? What IS this??!!!"
He then explained that the bus is really run by a computer which effectively locks the doors once he has closed them after the last passenger boards. There is a seven-second delay programmed before it will reopen so the driver can't just stop to let anyone on...
Uh huh. Interesting buses this company uses, I said. But it still did not explain his hard-boiled attitude, and I told him so.
"Look," he said. "I am working 12 hour days just to make a minimal salary, one that any cleaning lady can make. (I could relate to that; my husband is in the same boat, but he travels almost an hour each way to and from work.) "The guys who are on strike, they haven't worked for months. I don't know how they are living. But I can't afford to do that. It has been almost two years since I have had a job. They hired me because the regular driver is on strike. My family is desperate."
I didn't want to point out that some people would call him a scab -- but a moment later, I didn't have to. "You wouldn't believe some of the things people say to me," he added sadly. "An old lady spit at me, another cursed me out. Even kids. Teens now are not what we were. I would never have dared to speak to an adult, much less a stranger, the way these kids so casually do today, without even a flicker of conscience." I agreed with him there. I had seen it for myself on the same bus the week before. The kids were absolute pigs, nasty too.
"After a while," he continued, "you don't trust anyone and you don't like anyone either. You just want to get through the day and go to sleep and forget it all. That is what this country has come to. That is what we have been driven to."
I was shocked and saddened. True, I had seen some of this myself; but I never expected to hear it so bluntly from a bus driver. Now I knew something was seriously, badly wrong here.
"This can't last," I said. "There is an anger, a sense of hopelessness and a loss of focus and ideals, that is killing this country. Something has got to give."
"Hope it's soon," he said. "Don't know where we will be if it doesn't." When we got to the university, I quietly wished him well. He smiled, the first one I had seen on the trip. "Have a nice day," he said.
I was glad to get home to Arad, where the bus driver still stops when he sees me running, regardless of where in the street I am -- where my kids can still get on the bus if they don't have the fare, and are told by the driver to have their mom drop by the bus station later to pay for the trip.
In Arad, the drivers are friendly and regardless of how bad things get, they can always find some kind of word of hope to tell you, to let you know that in the long run, it's all in G-d's Hands anyway. And He is big enough to handle it.
Nice to be back in Arad.

2 comments:

  1. Chana, I almost felt I was there with you. No place like Israel. Good luck with the blogging. Yenty

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  2. Well done, you could end up being the social consience of Israel.
    As a wise lady once told me - if HE brings you to it, HE will bring you through it. May this be true of Israel too

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