What I was able to gather from the woman on the phone was that she'd been on the 33 bus and had seen Barak alone and crying in the back. She'd asked him what the problem was, he'd said, "I don't know where my Imma is" and she'd asked him if he knew his phone number. THANK GOD he did--I had drilled it into him, singsong, with the promise of a ruggel when he knew it cold, months earlier. Efes-chamesh-arba, shesh-shesh-echad, etc. She said, I'm waiting with him at the entrance to the mall, and asked me if I wanted him to put him in a cab with directions to get to me. I said no, I think he'd be too scared (and never mind the booster seat etc.) I told her I'd be there as soon as I could and that I was calling a cab that second. Ran out the door with a booster in hand, then turned around at the top of the stairs when I realized I had no money in my wallet; got money from inside our apartment, ran back out, and took a cab to the mall.
Now. Where was Barak supposed to be? Barak was supposed to be at his friend's house. You know that whole hasaa issue you've been hearing about for the last year? The current deal is that three afternoons a week, I take Barak and his friend home, and the other three afternoons, said friend's father takes him. Today was friend's father's day, and the plan was that he was supposed to stay at his friend's house to play until 3. Apparently what happened was that Barak ran to the back of the bus (where it is more fun to sit) and friend and friend's father did not follow him; the bus got crowded; when it was time to get off, friend and friend's father somehow got off without Barak. From what I understand, the father thought he was already off and he wasn't.
Barak was right where the woman who called (whose name was Avital) said he was; sitting on the steps by the bus stop, face streaked with tears and dirt, eating noodles out of a container she'd got him at Cafe Neeman. She was lovely and told me again what had happened, now speaking in English; I thanked her profusely, she refused to take money for the noodles, and went off (to her job? or to go shopping?) inside the mall. I talked to Barak very sternly about the whole running-to-the-back-of-the-bus issue. He told me with maximum Barakian earnestness (and that is pretty... maximum) that he was NEVER EVER GOING TO DO THAT AGAIN. "Were you really scared?" "I was so scared. I thought I was going to be lost forever. I thought I wasn't even in Yerushalayim anymore. We went past the zoo!"
Since at this point Mr. Bigfoot was missing his ulpan, we went inside the mall and did some shopping I'd been needing to do--got an adult-sized sunhat and an easy-Hebrew newspaper for Mr. Bigfoot and some first-grade-appropriate books for Barak. And we stopped and got something to eat. And talked about how scary it was to be lost.
And then we went home, on the six.
Now. What's the sixty-thousand-dollar question here? It's how, exactly, Other Father got off the bus without Barak.
I can sort of see it, but not really. If it had been another mother with a stroller, I could have seen it more. With a stroller you have to get on in the back, but the kids have to get on in the front to pay, so it's easy, on a crowded bus, to lose sight of them. But he didn't have a stroller, just two first-grade boys. Barak ran to the back of the bus, which he should not have done. When I talked to the friend's mother, though, she told me that he did this a lot and often didn't listen. To which my question is--why? And it sounds like other father is not into enforcing discipline with other people's kids. Which, frankly... well. Barak does what he is told with me. He does what he is told at school. He's not a wild or crazy or rebellious kid. If he was doing his own thing, he thought it was, tacitly at least, permitted, even if not ideal. He's not a saint, but he's generally well-behaved. Where is the other father in all of this? This is why we have discipline, in large part, isn't it? So that our kids stay safe?
And what the other father did when he realized he didn't have Barak made no sense. He didn't jump in a cab and go after the bus. He didn't call me. He didn't call the police. He called Egged. What could Egged do? The buses, so far as I know, don't have radios. He doesn't have a cell phone, so I'm not sure what he did exactly--I don't know if he even had my number with him. But Barak had been on his own for close to an hour when I first heard about it. A lot can happen in an hour. Anything, really.
I don't get it, why he didn't keep an eye on him, and how on earth he got off the bus without him. And I am not planning on allowing Barak to travel with said father again, which takes care of Plan B for afternoon transport. So I really, really, really have to find a Plan A.
In the end it's good that this happened: Barak now understands the importance of bus safety, and is unlikely to go running off to the back EVER AGAIN; nothing bad happened; he learned an important lesson.
But so scary. It could easily have... well. Let's not think about that, okay?