Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Portly Peretz

I spent this past weekend (in Israel, weekend = Friday and Saturday as Sunday is a normal work day) at my cousin's Moshav, Kfar Rut, which is located right next to Modi'in (twenty minutes from Jerusalem, twenty five to Tel Aviv). We spent it in a wonderfully relaxed manner, watching movies and cooking delicious food. Definitely took some solid cooking tips from them. Saturday night, Ofer drove me to a bus stop on the highway in Latrun where I would catch the Intercity #470 from Jerusalem to Be'er Sheva. We arrived with seconds to spare as the bus pulled up right behind us. Hastily saying good bye, I hopped on the bus. Much to my chagrin, the bus was completely full (Saturday night means end of weekend means end of weekend army leave means buses are filled with soldiers aged 18-23 returning to their bases). So, with the seats taken and the isles also filled, I sat at the very front of the bus, literally on the entrance steps next to the commander at the helm, the bus driver.

Peretz, or so I named him in my head, was a portly fellow of about 40 years. Immediately after handing him my 30 shekel fare, I noticed his far-off, dreamy gaze at the road ahead. I knew right then that I haaad to talk to him. After all, on my many bus rides over the years in this country, I had often contemplated what it would be like to be a bus driver. The thought always appealed to the Beatnik in me--the want to just say "Fuck it," drop everything, and road trip across the country. I always figured that being a bus driver (or, I confess, I also daydream about hauling weight on an 18-wheeler) would enable me to see the country and get paid! The best of both worlds. So, in my continually improving Hebrew, I struck up a conversation with Peretz. "Sir, if you don't mind my asking, do you prefer night driving or day?" Without even glancing at me, but smiling ever so slightly, he answered "I don't like either. But they both have their pros and cons." I was surprised, "But during the day, you can look out the window and admire this country's beauty, no?" This time, he did look at me, grin growing, and shrugged. "Maybe. It's a job, you know?" Unconvinced, I prodded further. "But surely you must have a favorite route, or do you travel the same line every day?" His dreamy look returned to his eyes, just for a moment, though. He hesitated, and answered, "Jerusalem." Finally, something to work with. "Alright, I love the Jerusalem buses, too. Always a diverse population from all over the world on those lines. And the streets, narrow and magnificent. Is that why you prefer the Jerusalem buses?" He shook his head, "No, that's not it."
"Well, then, why?" I asked.
"ככה, just because," he responded, eyes once more belying his concise answers. And then, with his biggest smile yet, he added in jest, "Jerusalem, the Holy City, no?"

I joined his laughter, and that was the end of it. I knew he was hiding something from me, that he hadn't shared with me all the secrets of bus driver lifers. I suppose that is reserved for the cadre of initiates. I shall meet Peretz again, I'm sure of it, and I will discover his wealth of knowledge. Until then, though, my daydreams will just have to hold me over.

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