I will confess: I like riding Jerusalem buses. It's a really good thing too, because I spend an incredible amount of time these days riding Jerusalem buses.
A few weeks ago, I was feeling ambitious and decided to take everyone to the zoo, solo. I had Avtalyon and Marika all ready when Iyyar came home, and the three of us went up to meet Barak's hasaa at 2:15. He didn't know about my exciting plans--I hadn't said anything for fear one of the littler kids wouldn't be up for it--so when I saw him, I asked him if he wanted to go to the zoo, and when he (obviously) said yes, I told him to run inside and dump his backpack by the shomer's desk (I'd already asked the shomer if this was OK). He was on his way when a couple of high school girls headed in the other direction, who'd overheard, offered to take it for him.
(Would you give your kid's backpack to a couple of strange teenagers in America? Probably not, huh? Here, I didn't think twice.)
Anyway, we went to the zoo, and it was great. We saw the squirrel monkeys, which was awesome, particularly because Avtalyon is obsessed with Caps for Sale and what did he see when he woke up from his stroller-induced nap but a tree full of... monkeys! We saw tigers, we saw wild boars, and of course we saw the best thing in the zoo: the display of North American grey squirrels! Behind bars, where they belong.
On the way back, though, it was harder, because the kids were tired and the bus, it was PACKED. Like, no room to get on in front, so we got on through the back door. And there I was with Marika in the Snugli, Avtalyon in the stroller wedged between my knees, Iyyar in my lap falling asleep on top of me Barak leaning on my side with a sort of glazed look. Nobody was falling apart or anything, but I was buried in children and completely immobile. And I was stuck in the middle of the bus, way far away from the driver. How, exactly, was I going to pay our fares?
I asked. "Excuse me," I said to the nearest guy, "I'm a new immigrant [this is always a good thing to mention when you are about to ask for help] and I don't know what I am supposed to do. How do I pay when I can't get to the driver? Can I pay when I get off?" I had my tickets in my hand. "How many?" he asked me. Um, what? "Me, and my kids. One adult punch and two youth punches, and we all need transfers." In Jerusalem, when you don't travel often enough for a monthly pass, you buy cartissiot--a multi-trip card that comes with a certain number of punches, each good for one trip and one transfer. The guy reached out his hand and took my tickets. How nice! I thought. He's going to take them to the driver for us.
But he didn't. He couldn't really move any more than I could, so he reached up over everyone's heads and passed the tickets as far forward as he could. "One adult, two youth, with transfers," he called over to another stranger. That stranger's hand passed the tickets to another hand, out of my sight. "One adult, two youth, with transfers." Four minutes later, hand over hand, the tickets came back--minus one adult punch and two youth punches, and with the transfer tickets.
Maybe there's another city in the world where you could do this. But if there is, I've never been there.