The fight rail

There is something odd about the light rail in Jerusalem. It has all the newest technologies and engineering, but for some reason since it’s construction it has been running about twenty minutes behind its estimated schedule. For once I am not the only one baffled.

It’s a mystery, basically an Agatha Christie novel but without the murder or the Orient and especially not the express.

So the Israeli government brought in specialists to solve it, or at least, this is what I have been told (by rival newspapers who I refuse to hyperlink). Consultants studied everything from the tracks to the computing, and just like Poirot, they eventually figured it out, but in this case it was not the train, it was the people.

Turns out Jews really are pushy. And I thought it was just my mother.

Let me break it down for you.

In Boston, when someone takes the T, they wait until someone else has exited first, and then they get on. In Singapore, people wait patiently off to the sides, and if they fail to do so some man comes around and hits them with a stick. In California we don’t really have public transportation, but we do have elevators, and it is basically the same concept but with more buttons and less Dunkin Donuts.

For many cultures (at least three), letting people off a train first is common sense.

But in Israel it is not so common. The second the doors to the light rail open everyone pushes their way to the front of the line. Actually come to think of it, the term line is a bit generous, it is more of a mosh pit.

The commuters don’t wait for people to exit either. So people are getting on and off at the same time, resulting in  an awkward jig that is a little bit too reminiscent of my middle school P.E. square dancing unit. Everyone keeps bumping into each other and somehow you end up holding hands with a boy who picks his nose.

So no surprise here, my first trip on the light rail was definitely cootie filled. Before the doors to the train even opened I had been pushed to the back of the mob (perhaps because I was not angry enough). I tried to claw myself to the front of the line, but I was at a disadvantage because I had no experience in the army and I had just cut my nails.

Even if I didn’t know how to jump out of a plane or the fundamentals of Krav Maga, I thought my white/yellow belt in Karate might help. Unfortunately although my aggressive stretching and knowledge of basic stances prevented cramping, it did not stop the train from leaving without me.

So as I waited for the next train a woman came over and gave me a nice pamphlet to keep myself entertained. I was hoping it was some sort of communist magazine or coupon for free Krav Maga training, but instead it was a step-by-step guide for getting on the light rail.

Step 1: Let people out.

Step 2: Get in.

It was a short guide.

While it may seem like a waste of paper it is surely an improvement from previous guides for public transportation which are nonexistent, but if they did exist they would have one step which would be stepping on other people’s feet and small children until you get on the train.

Israel is getting better, or at least it should be, considering how many resources the government has devoted to this project. As it turns out the government paid this woman to hand out these guides, and she was not the only one.

At one stop I counted at least half a dozen of these representatives, one of which seemed shocked when I explained to her that I did not need a guide because I already knew how to get on a train. She seemed even more shocked when I recommended that she start hitting people with a cane to keep them behaved.

Maybe some things are worse than just being pushy. I’m glad my mother never brought out the stick.



About the Author
Nicole Levin grew up in California and now studies government at Harvard University and writes for the Harvard Crimson
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