Tuesday, December 21, 2010

'This is Israel!': Service Economy in the Jewish State

Not that the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem has ever been a pleasant experience (though better than the disco slum of Tel Aviv), but it is a place that I have managed over the years: security, more security, escalators, and then to that special part of the world which I call Waiting for the 400 bus - the frequent bus to the ultra-orthodox Bnai Brak that stops at Bar Ilan University where I work. Some people say that Atlantic City was created so that the large orthodox population in Lakewood would have available transportation; though perhaps I should not continue that thought, comparing Atlantic City with Bnai Brak (no boardwalk in the latter).

Anyway, as it turns out the bus that has been leaving from platform 22 - since the 'new' Central Bus Station opened about ten years ago - is now leaving from platform 4. And, oh wait: the times of the buses are not now on the hour, twenty-minutes-after, and twenty-minutes to, but on the half hour, ten-minutes-to, and ten-minute- after (write this down, fellow travelers). How did I know all of this? There was a sign - written in magic marker and pasted up with scotch-tape (apparently they did not have time to contact my ten year old daughter Channa to make a really nice one). It was, however, just the right size to be overlooked by one of my colleagues, who presented her ticket to the driver of the bus on platform 22, and was promptly yelled at for being on the wrong bus. Good thing he told her. She might have ended up in Afula. Or somewhere.

I was debating about sharing my complaints with the driver of the bus which I did finally find (which left a half hour late anyway), but after discussions with one of the other confused passengers, we found ourselves uttering, like I do too often: 'this is Israel!'

Right. This is Israel. So there's no point mentioning that in a city like London or New York ('achi, this is not London or New York; this is Israel'), there would have been signs of service shifts for the month prior, and maybe apologies for the inconvenience. Those cities also manage public transportation systems with transportation authorities watching out for the public interest. Egged takes care of 55% of the routes in the country - is that a monopoly? - but as far as I know there is no public body that monitors their service.

So put up a sign on the day, and then watch the frenetic dash of the passengers through the bus station; witness their confrontation with the sometimes surly (and certainly harassed) bus drivers; and then the resigned shrug of the shoulders when everyone shows up at work an hour late: 'This is Israel.'

But does it have to be this way?


Miriam said...

FYI, transportation in London makes me miss Israel desperately. Over the past few weeks with a few inches of snow, the airports have been closed / to it, delaying passengers by up to 5 days (because they didn't buy enough de-icing fluid); trains are running on emergency schedules - ie rarely - and the main websites for the train companies show the wrong information; none of the roads have been cleared because the councils do not have enough salt and grit. So don't think it's any better here, because it isn't.
Miriam, London

wdk said...

So it's not that the grass is greener; the snow is also whiter as well. Will try to keep that in mind.

Lindsey Shapiro said...

But you can always find comfort in that good ol' Israeli spirit of "Yalla, tizrom!"
Seriously though, when you think about it- it's not "only in Israel" but throughout the whole of the Middle East. As hard as it is for us Anglos many a time- Israel is a middle eastern country after all.

wdk said...

why do i not take comfort from that?