Monday, May 17, 2010

Much Fuss About the Bus

Just got back from a quick trip to Israel, during which I mastered the basics of the Egged Bus system.  In the past, I relied much too heavily on my husband for all our transportation needs.  He either drove us everywhere we needed to go or navigated the bus system for me and I just followed him on and off the buses.  But this time, he was 6000 miles away, so I had to face up to my anxiety, give myself a pep talk, and figure it out.  For me and for my teenage daughter.

On the one hand, it's quite ridiculous to be proud of what I accomplished.  I'm a grown woman, and every English-speaking 18 year-old seminary and yeshiva student manages to get her or himself all over the country using the very same bus system.  So do the Thai workers.  And the refugees from Darfur.

On the other hand, it's quite exhilarating to stare down one's anxiety and just do what needs to be done.  And it's a heck of a lot cheaper than relying on cabs to go everywhere.  And it was kind of a rush to use my primitive Hebrew to ask someone if this bus goes to such-and-such a place.

In a very real sense, using the local bus system made me feel more deeply knit into the fabric of Israeli society.  As I mentioned to my daughter while we were waiting for a long-delayed bus, in Baltimore, there is a socio-economic stigma associated with those who ride public buses.  But in Israel, there is no such stigma.  Who doesn't ride even the occasional public bus in Israel?

I learned a handful of bus numbers and where they go.  I transferred from one bus to another with ease.  And when one bus took an hour to make a trip that should have taken 30 minutes, I simply hopped into a cab from the Central Bus Station and made it to my appointment just a few minutes late, a little embarrassed, but with a very local excuse about Jerusalem's morning traffic.

Yeah, I'm a regular Egged-head now.

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