Bus story

I use public transport. I used it when I was new in the country, and took the 4H to the university every morning. It was summer, my first in Israel and one of the hottest summers I remember. The number of the bus was 4 aleph, but since the Hebrew letter aleph slightly resembles a capital H, foreign students would refer to it as four-h. Every morning I would squeeze myself in the already overly full bus, and stand for an hour till we reached the university. It happened quite often that the bus went by without opening its doors, because there was no room for even one person more. That was a major tragedy for people like me, who are always late and therefore count on getting somewhere in the shortest possible time. (And no. Years of bus-use haven’t taught me the obvious lesson.) Then we had to wait for the next bus and hope that one would be less full and would still bring us to our destination in time. When we finally reached the university I would invariably be slightly motion sick. Since my youth I suffered from motion sickness in buses. Growing up in the Netherlands I went everywhere by bicycle, so riding in buses didn’t happen very often. But when it did happen, I invariably suffered. After that summer, however, something changed. Occasionally I will still feel a mild discomfort, on very hot days or with an empty stomach, and when the bus is very full. But usually I am fine. I can even read. Or write.

I used public transport in the days in which terrorists found an old-new way to put terror in the hearts of the Israeli public. Thankfully I was never in a bus that got blown up (yes, come to think of it, most people survive that. And will never be the same, some physically but all mentally).

And today I still use public transport. Not much has changed in 25 years. But since about 2 years we boast a light rail and an green plastic electronic card that holds our ticket. The card has our name and picture, and can store either a monthly pass to local public transport, or a multiple rides card that gets “stamped” every time one enters a bus or light rail. Till then both of them  were printed on a piece of carton. I understood that the plastic card was supposed to save paper. Of course I and many people with me realised this would be a perfect way to track us. The card has our picture and our name, and in every bus or light rail we enter we have to put the card in a machine that magically knows if we have a ride left on our card or we have to buy a new one. There was a possibility to get an anonymous card. But that card was limited in its use. Obviously, the bus company wouldn’t put a monthly pass  on an anonymous green plastic card. In the end money always talks the loudest, so we all got a personal named and pictured green plastic card. In the beginning the machine that ‘stamped’ our card would spit out a paper ticket. It was useful and reassuring to have the paper and to be able to see if the ticket was still valid (it is valid for 90 minutes – but I typically don’t look at the time when getting on a bus), and how many rides were still left on the plastic card. Then the paper tickets stopped coming out of the machine. When asked, the busdrivers explained there was no need for it any more. Now, we suffer a light shock every time the light in the machine becomes red when our multiple rides ticket is finished (cause we have no way of knowing when that will happen), but we deal with it. Months have passed. Today I enter the bus, dutifully put my green plastic in the machine, and walk on. The bus driver calls me back: “lady, your ticket!” and hands me a printed paper ticket. Surprised I ask why? “It has changed” is the answer. I look at the ticket, and am pretty sure it is not mine.

After I get  home I ask my husband if he got a printed bus ticket today. He says no. Go figure.

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