Backseat Driver: One for the books

Bacseat Driver One for

November 8, 2009 13:03
4 minute read.
egged bus check caption 248.88

egged bus check caption 248.88. (photo credit: Sarah Levin)

The news spread like wildfire: Akademon, the Hebrew University book and stationery store, was having a sale on books at incredibly low prices. I decided to mix pleasure with practicality and to take the Backseat Driver column to the Mount Scopus campus of the Hebrew University. My first step was to look for the proper information on the Egged Web site. Well, why open with complaints? It didn't work. I couldn't find any clear information - partly because Egged, for some reason, listed the stops on the bus route in alphabetical rather than geographical order. So I decided to use the old-fashioned way: to ask people in the street which was the best bus line to take to reach the campus. Since I was close to King George Avenue, I was advised to take the No. 4 or 19. The No. 19 sounded wrong to me. I found it hard to believe that the same line would connect the major hospital of the city, Hadassah, with the university, so I decided not to take it. First mistake. So I waited near Hamashbir for about 10 minutes (a reasonable length of time, considering the road works and the fierce arrival of winter) and the No. 4 arrived. I boarded the bus, without checking with the driver if he indeed stopped at the university and found a seat at the back of the bus. Second mistake. (Later, despite a special trip the central bus station information center, I was unable to obtain the exact route of the No. 4 due to a computer error that would not be fixed until after press time. The details of intracity bus routes are not available on the Egged Web site.) On my right side, a double seat (two facing two), sat two religious women and two Muslim women. The four had their heads covered, though differently, and sat silent until a noisy group of teenagers came in. They made so much noise that one of the religious women asked them to lower their voices. One of the boys answered her rudely. As a result, the four women began to exchange comments on the problem of today's youth. "They don't listen to us; they don't care," said one. "When I was their age, I didn't even dare to look my parents in the eye," said another. "Me too. We were much more disciplined and obedient," said the third. "It's all because of the TV and the Internet. They learn horrible things from there," suggested the fourth. "Sure, TV is poison for children's souls," concluded the eldest, one of the two Muslim women. The kids were already gone, but the four women kept on clinging to the glorious days of their disciplined youth. The bus went on through Geula, the Bukharan Quarter and Shmuel Hanavi, and it became more crowded. After a while, I noticed with a little concern that for a bus that was supposed to ultimately reach the university, there were very few passengers who looked like students. But I said to myself that perhaps it was not a good time of day for students. "It's the middle of the day; they are probably all in their classrooms already," I reasoned. By now, the bus reached the Ramot Eshkol neighborhood and continued along French Hill. Upon reaching the Students' Village, close to the university, I felt some relief; but then the bus took a sharp turn inside the neighborhood, leaving the campus far behind. I tried to convince myself that it was probably a detour to pick up residents from the new high rises on the other side of the main road. The bus did pass the apartment complexes but didn't even stop there - after all, why would people who can afford such luxurious apartments take a crowded bus? Especially nowadays, with the risk of catching the flu? I didn't even finish my thinking when I realized that the bus had just reached its final stop, with no sign of the university in sight. I asked - it was about time - the driver, who looked at me with a mixture of pity and disdain and explained that to reach the university, I should have taken the No. 4A. Then, out of sheer compassion, he added that I could still catch it not far away, about a five-minute walk. I walked, and just as I reached the indicated bus stop, the No. 4A was pulling away. An elderly woman who was waiting for another line at the stop told me that the bus frequency in that part of the city (meaning after they have to get through all the traffic in the city center) was very erratic. I didn't expect less, to tell the truth. After about 10 minutes, bus No. 46 arrived. I didn't even know there was such a line. I asked the driver if he could get me close to the campus. With a big, warm smile he answered, "Why only close? I'll take you right inside." It turned out it was a direct line between the Neveh Ya'acov neighborhood and French Hill and the university. The bus was almost empty, and the music was on full blast, but I felt cheered up. Within less than five minutes we reached the tunnel that leads into the campus. When I got off the bus, the guards inspected my handbag suspiciously, asked to see my ID and then asked me if I had a permit to enter the campus, adding that "Obviously you are not a student; perhaps you are a teacher?" added the guard, trying to be nice. Finally I was inside. I soon found the book fair. There was nothing there that warranted the 70 minutes and the NIS 11.80 it cost me. After a few minutes I decided to leave, and this time I took the right bus - line No. 4A, which took me to the city center in less than 40 minutes. And this time it was full of students. No mistake.

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