If you read yesterday’s post, you already know that I’m so busy these days, I barely have time to breathe. And since I work at home most of the time, I don’t even have the reprieve of travel time to clear my head (or to read a book or take a quick nap). Except, of course, on Wednesdays. For the past 3 Wednesdays I’ve been commuting from my home to Binyamina, a pastoral town in Northern Israel where my company moved while I was out on maternity leave. In the morning, it’s a 30 minute drive to Bet Shemesh and then another 1 hour and 50 minute train ride to Binyamina. On the way home, fortunately, there’s a more direct train, which takes only 1 hour and 20 minutes to Bet Shemesh. But since I don’t have a set ride home as I do in the morning, I’ve had to hitchhike home from Bet Shemesh. Last week it took 3 hitchhikes and 1.5 hours to get home after the train ride. But today was a whole other story.
As it happened, someone fell (or jumped) onto the track on the Bet Shemesh line, so everyone on my train was told to get off at Lod, a stop in between Tel Aviv and Bet Shemesh. At first, we were told that we’d have to wait an hour for the next train. After outrage by the 100+ passengers waiting to get home after a long day, the railway workers informed us that there would be buses waiting for us outside, to continue along the route that the train would have taken.
Now would be a good time to mention that while I normally travel alone, today I was approached by a lovely elderly woman who didn’t speak Hebrew and needed help navigating the system. She was carrying several heavy suitcases, so like any well-raised person I of course offered to help her find her way and to carry her bags. When she lost her ticket en route, I waited patiently for her to find it, all the while trying to figure out how we’d get where we needed to be.
After waiting nearly a half hour for the bus which never came, the woman asked me to find her a cab to Jerusalem, and said that if I wanted, I could join for free. I figured, why not – it can’t be harder to get home from Jerusalem, and at least I wouldn’t have to stand around for the next train.
Two blocks into the ride, the cabbie was kind enough to let us know that he needed to stop for gas (a phenomenon that I don’t think would fly very well in the US). As he’s filling up, the woman starts to chat. “I’m from Jerusalem,” she says, “but now I live in Tribeca.”
“So nice,” I reply. “If you’re from Jerusalem, why don’t you speak Hebrew?”
“That’s because I’m a Palestinian.”
Well, that’s a bit of a conversation stopper.
We drive along, while the cabbie continually texts and checks his phone. Suddenly, it rings, and he answers it on speaker, chatting amiably in Arabic as he drives along Highway 1. And suddenly I realize I’ve been the heavily-accented American immigrant serving as a translator between 2 Arabs, one of whom doesn’t speak English, the other whom doesn’t speak Hebrew, while they both speak fluent Arabic.
Does anyone else find that ironic?!
The story ends with the woman saying that since he’s an Arab, he might as well take her directly to Ramallah, so they dropped me off and continued on their merry way. I continued on mine, so that by the time I got home 3.5 hours after I left the office, I’d taken 2 trains, a cab, a bus and a hitchhike, while walking the remaining few blocks by foot.
For those of you going stir-crazy locked in the house after Hurricane Sandy, I hope you can live vicariously through my misadventures.