Thursdays, Fridays and holiday eves are the busiest shopping days in Jerusalem. While many shopkeepers on Jaffa Road have suffered severe loss of customers during the construction of the light rail system and some fared so badly that they were forced to close down, the Mahaneh Yehuda market is always busy before the weekend, as well as on the day before a holiday.
Some shoppers enter via Rehov Agrippas, while others brave the inconvenience of Jaffa Road. Many come with shopping trolleys or at least shopping bags, But at least just as many, or perhaps even more, come without any bags in which to carry their purchases.
This has always amazed me. People come from all over Jerusalem to Mahaneh Yehuda, yet for some odd reason, so many come unprepared. The upshot is that they struggle through the lanes of the market, carrying numerous plastic bags in each hand. The plastic tends to cut into the flesh, and carrying so many bags becomes not only a burden but a pain.
Getting on a bus with such a load is no picnic, especially for people who are short. Boarding the bus at street level, rather than from the pavement, is somewhat of a challenge for short and/or elderly people because the first step is relatively steep. It's tough enough without the plethora of plastic bags. Trying to balance the bags while mounting the step is a nightmare. One lot of shopping bags has to go down on the floor while the passenger fumbles for bus fare or a multi-ride bus ticket. Of course the bags aren't sealed, and invariably fruit or vegetables escape and begin to roll down the aisle, with other passengers bending this way and that to try to salvage the items for the hapless shopper. When he or she eventually sits down, the bags are piled all around them - including the seat next to them if it's vacant - and other passengers entering or exiting have to climb over the produce. It would be bad enough if only one or two passengers took up space in this manner, but the bus that takes the route to the Diplomat Hotel, which has been converted into a hostel for senior immigrants from the former Soviet Union, is often full of shopping bags because the residents tend to go in clusters of four or five people, and several cluster groups return to their living quarters on the same bus at the same time.
Still, one has to be grateful for small mercies. It isn't all that long ago that shopping baskets included live fish and fowl. Thankfully, that's something we no longer have to contend with.
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