———————————————————————————————————- In my youth, getting on the bus in Israel – even thinking about getting on the bus would fill me with anxiety. Not many people owned a car, so public transportation was used by almost everyone.
So let me draw the scene for you:
You’re standing in line at the bus station except that there’s another line for soldiers and disabled people. I loved the fact that they had priority, and their line was pretty orderly. On the other hand, my line would change its form, shape and order within seconds, as follows…
A friend-of-a-friend would recognize someone standing in line and would start up a conversation: “Hey, aren’t you Shmulik, the friend of David who I met at the party two years ago?” This small exchange gained the newcomer a spot with Shmulik, even though there were 20 people standing in the line.
And then you have the woman carrying baskets coming and immediately beginning to argue that she told someone to save her a place in line, and this person is not there anymore, but regardless – she was fifth in line, and she just walked out for a second.
Or, the one who comes over quietly, not arguing with anyone. He stands beside you so closely that you know what he had for breakfast; and slowly but surely pushes himself into the bus ahead of all the other passengers.
So it’s not surprising that with this kind of “disorder”, one would be confronted with people arguing, shouting, requesting the newcomers to take their place in line just like everyone else, but to no avail.
I would prepare myself as if for a battle as I walked to the bus station – to not give up my place, and to not let anyone get ahead of me; to hold my ground; and maybe even to take some ground if the opportunity arose.
Such was my mental state when I first saw the lines at Disneyland. No wonder I started to perspire, and not from the heat. I immediately thought of the people who would no-doubt argue, cut in front of me, and the foreboding struggle.
And, you can imagine my surprise when a line of 100 people moved smoothly and efficiently without one incident, and my sigh of relief.
But lest you think that I only criticize my “Landsman” and think I am better than they are, let me say for the sake of honesty and truthfulness that just the other day while searching for a place to park – I drove in the opposite direction of the arrows, so that I could grab a parking place!
This virus is contagious.
A couple of years ago, I went to an Israeli movie festival in Los Angeles. I went early to get a good seat, since I knew that this particular movie is going to draw a big crowd. Just behind me sat a nice Israeli lady and after a couple of minutes the following conversation ensued:
“No. These seats are already taken.”
“All of them?”
And so the seatless movie-goer started looking for another spot. However, this exchange, which repeated itself for at least ten minutes, lasted until the lights dimmed and the previews started. At this point a new exchange occurred:
“No, you can’t sit here. These seats are taken.”
“What do you mean ‘taken’, I’ve tried to find a seat for the last ten minutes, and there’s still no one sitting here!”
“Well, I’m sorry, but I’m saving the seats for my friends.”
“Well, I’m sorry too, but your friends should come on time, the movie is about to start and you can’t save the seats!”
“Of course I can save the seats, there’s no law against it!”
At that point the frustrated ‘seat seeker’, called an usher and got the woman to release the seats despite her loud protestation.
So the above mentioned exchange is not so weird to me, since I’m used to it. The disturbing part for me was that I went to the movie with someone who didn’t speak Hebrew and was not from Israel. While he didn’t understand the words, he absolutely sensed the anger and aggressiveness, and I felt my body tense in response to his agitation. This was not your typical American movie outing with popcorn and quiet anticipation, Fortunately the movie was good enough to diminish the impact of this incident.
Yet, to counter this experience, let me tell you about the time I carried a couple of boxes to my office when a box slipped out of my hands and books were falling all over the entrance of the building. As I was bending to pick up the books, I noticed people going in an out of the building, and yet not one person stopped to help me. Just then a young guy, who looked like your average terrorist ran towards me and quickly helped me to put my books back in the box. I wanted to thank him profusely but his cell phone started ringing and when he responded he said in Hebrew : “Hi Moshe, I’ll be there in a minute, I had to help this one lady with her books.”
The only person who stopped to help me was an Israeli, and he didn’t even know that we come from the same country.
So we may not have refined manners, but our heart is in the right place.