Let’s call it the Israeli moment, the Chavaya, that if it would happen anywhere else could get your blood to boil but, when it happens here, you realize there’s just something different about it that lets you take it in stride.
Case in point-
Trying to get by taxi (the subject of another column) from your hotel in Jerusalem to your son’s home in Armon Hanatziv at any time after 3 PM is a challenge. As you sit immobile in your taxi, you wonder if it’s rush hour or just a bad time of day to get anywhere. Yet, trying to get to the shuq at Machne Yehuda at 10 AM poses a problem, too. So, let’s just agree that it’s too many cars in too little a space (Jerusalem.)
I’m familiar with the route the driver should take past the First Station (which wasn’t really a station but a terminal), turning from Remez onto Derech Chevron to head towards the tayelet, the promenade, and I wasn’t surprised when the driver couldn’t turn left onto Albeck that would take us right up to the promenade. So, the next best way is to travel straight ahead on Chevron to Yanovsky where the left turn will be so much easier. Of course, the driver knows that, too, and he heads straight ahead to make the turn at the second traffic light onto Yanovsky.
Those familiar with Jerusalem traffic patterns will know that shared bus and taxi lanes exist on most major roads to speed up traffic flow, and Derech Chevron is no exception. To make up time our driver heads down the taxi lane. But, lo and behold, a bus is letting off passengers and blocking the way. With no traffic coming at us, the driver deftly moves to the left and effortlessly passes the bus and gets back in the lane.
A moment later we’re at the intersection with Yanovsky preparing to turn left when we hear that sound that is halfway between a car horn and the sound of a train horn; the kind of sound that makes you jump in your seat. It’s a policeman on a motorcycle and he waves us to the side after we make the turn.
The policeman approaches the car as I roll down my window and say “please, we’re on the way to our son’s house and we don’t want to be late.”
“Everything is OK,” he says, “you won’t be late.” Lesson 1, time has no meaning to a policeman determined to teach a taxi driver how to drive.
Out goes the driver with his handful of licenses, identification papers and whatever else he carried with him that day to argue with the cop.
With that comes Lesson 2, taxi meters don’t cease ticking away when a driver leaves the vehicle to argue with a cop. So, I yell out the window, “the meter, the meter,” and both the cop and driver wave back, “it’s OK, it’s OK.”
Five minutes later, the ticket written, the cop departs, and the driver returns to the car and tells me he can’t believe he got a ticket. I agreed because this was not the first time that I had been in a taxi that passed a bus in the same exact situation. “I know, I know,” he says, “I’ve done it many times. Will you testify for me?”
“Here’s my card,” I tell him, “have your lawyer send me an affidavit and I’ll be glad to sign it.”
As we reach our destination and our usual 50-shekel ride is now 70, my granddaughter Michal reminds me that the meter ran while he got the ticket.
“In a perfect world,” I tell her, “this wouldn’t happen. But we’re far from a perfect world.” So, I paid him the 70 shekels, contributing to his legal defense fund, and a modest tip.
Lesson 3, which I hope Michal absorbed, is there are far worse things in life than losing 20 shekels because of a traffic ticket. And, as for the taxi driver, I don’t know if he successfully fought the ticket; he never asked me for an affidavit. What lesson did he learn?