Tuesday, April 26, 2011

y = mx + b

The equation for a line. In Israel it works something like this, Y=MX + B
Y-you, first in line
M-muscle strength
X -how well you have perfected the use of your elbows
B-the amount of bullshit you talk about how you need to get to the front

In simpler terms for those non mathematicians...Israeli's cannot and do not wait in line. At the post office you take an number, but people often cut in front of you, at the coffee shop you better be assertive or you could be waiting all day to order, the same is true for a ticket window, check out, entrance to the bus/train station or a government building, and of course...getting on the bus.

Last Thursday around 10pm I arrived at the Arlozorov bus station in Tel Aviv to take the 480 bus back to Jerusalem. Usually the 480 fills up, leaves, and within 5-10 minutes another one has pulled up, so I am never really concerned about "missing the bus." This time, however, when I arrived there were about 50-60 people waiting at the station, and no bus in site. This was a bit strange but I waited toward the end, in position to put my duffle bag under the bus when it pulled up.

Instead of the typical green Egged coach bus pulling up a strange red and yellow coach bus finally arrived, but parked a bus length behind where the regular bus would park. The bus station employees began telling everyone to purchase bus tickets at the ticket window because they would not be allowed to purchase them on the bus. (I came to understand that a bus must have broken down and this was a replacement, although it took me a while to catch on to the fact that I needed to buy a ticket at the window as I had never done that before for this particular bus and I didn't even know there WAS a ticket window there.) Let the rush begin...

Not only did all the religious and old people (seems like that was the majority of people waiting for this bus) push their way toward the window, the ones that had tickets already (about 70%) formed a huge mob around the door to the bus. The bus driver was extremely upset by this behavior, although I don't know what he was expecting. He tried to get off the bus and tell everyone to back up, but he could barely get out the door of the bus and instead stood on the stairs to the bus telling everyone to back up onto the sidewalk and away from the door. The driver made it clear, I thought, that no one would be allowed on the bus until this had happened. The driver then exited the bus from the back door. The, mostly haredi (very religious people) families surrounding the bus door just did not move. People from the back continued to push forward, others continued to fill in on the sides, and no one went anywhere. There was no sense of "let's work together until this works for everyone," only, "eventually the bus driver will have to open the door, i'll just stay right here, as close to the front of the group as i can." Man did this frustrate me to watch.

A man standing near me, a bit away from the mob, started talking to me about how crazy this bus driver was and that we should just wait for the next bus, which is exactly what we decided to do. While the bus driver continued to yell that he would not allow passengers on his bus under these circumstances, and the bus station employees tried to push the crowd back with physical force, assuring the bus driver that everything was fine, I just sighed, upset at what I was witnessing. I moved away and noticed that a few minutes later the bus station employees were holding people back, trying desperately so have people slowly and calmly get on the bus, while the bus driver was upset and yelling about the pushing and shoving. Another but pulled up shortly after and I put my duffle bag under and got "in line" to get on this bus. I couldn't help but notice how much more civil the people were in the (almost) line that I was in, as opposed to the first bus. I also couldn't help but notice how many haredi men and their families were getting on the first bus, and how many young, seemingly "secular" people were getting on the second bus.

My conclusion: I am trying desperately not to judge the haredi religious men and their families, but they make it increasingly hard not to. Actual conclusion: Israeli's are not very fond of lines, but trying to break them of this habit seems almost more ridiculous. It is as if the disorder is the best way to ensure any order. However, while replaying the scene as I sat on the bus I thought, maybe if there were more bus drivers like the "crazy" first one, people would relearn what we (at least in the states) learned in kindergarten....wait in line, or no ones goes to recess.


  1. what a situation! glad to see you have a blog grllll, i peeped it off FB =) looks like your having quite the learning experience. i look forward to reading more! -Becca

  2. a - I loved reading this post,
    B - you could avoid all that and stay with me in tel aviv.... :)
    C - in italy its probably much worst, while on the bus, probably about 2-3 stops before they need to get off the bus they will start pushing their way towards the door. yes also in this case its usually the elder people. often I find my self standing in the more open spots of the bus with other foreigners....
    D - yes, the ultra religious people and their family has no manner or patient for anything, and its not only on the bus but as a way of life for them.

    see you soon!