Bus stories: Life-cycle events

Some life-cycle events even involve the drivers themselves.

An illustrative photograph: Bride Osnat Baron and groom Yaniv Jenger kissing through their masks during their wedding party with a limited number of guests in the garden of a private house in Jerusalem on April 27, 2020 (photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN/ REURERS)
An illustrative photograph: Bride Osnat Baron and groom Yaniv Jenger kissing through their masks during their wedding party with a limited number of guests in the garden of a private house in Jerusalem on April 27, 2020
(photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN/ REURERS)
Life-cycle events make the world go round. People travel on buses to help them get around. And sometimes life-cycle events are marked on buses, and sometimes they involve the drivers themselves.
It was early one morning, prior to the corona crisis. The driver seemed to be doing a count of how many people were boarding. Frequently, drivers have to check that there aren’t too many people standing in the aisles. It turned out, however, that this driver was checking if 10 men had boarded the bus so far.
Once he determined that he had a minyan (the quorum necessary for public prayer), he asked the passengers if they minded a slight delay so that he could say the final Kaddish from Shacharit, the morning service.
He explained that he was in the midst of the 11-month period when Kaddish is recited after the loss of a parent.
It is done several times during the morning service.
“I had to rush out of synagogue to start working early this morning; so if you really don’t mind, I just want to say the last Kaddish that I missed. I can send a note to your boss if you need one explaining why you were late.”
The passengers all agreed. No one asked for a note to bring to their boss. The driver shut off the engine.
He seemed quite emotional. Those of us who have had the experience of needing to find a minyan three times a day for all those months of reciting Kaddish are aware of just how challenging, though also rewarding, it can be.
By the way, the men were not asked to cover their heads. In fact, the driver did not even confirm that they were Jewish. But the Kaddish was recited, men and women answered at the appropriate places and the commute continued.
Thankfully, my bus stories have dealt not only with death but also birth.
A few years ago, I was walking down the block in Jerusalem and saw a bus pulled over. Passengers and the driver were outside the bus. They were comforting a pregnant woman who was sitting on a bench.
It turned out that this woman’s water broke while she was riding on the bus. She told passengers that she was not yet in her ninth month, and her husband – figuring it was still early – had traveled abroad on business.
So someone on the bus called Magen David Adom. The bus parked, and now they were all waiting for the ambulance. The woman seemed calm, though it was her first pregnancy. In true Israeli fashion, people gathered around her and were giving her advice on what to do.
The ambulance came. The driver and the passengers, minus the woman, got back on the bus and they continued with their ride and their routine, while the woman went on her way to start a family.
Just a number of months ago, a driver called me to tell me that his own wife had gone into labor while he was driving a bus.
No, no: she wasn’t on his bus. She was home while he was working.
She tried calling him, but he was a driver going by the rules and disregarded his ringing phone while he was driving the 470 line from Beersheba to Jerusalem.
Unable to reach her husband, the exasperated wife called a dispatcher, who worked out an ingenious plan: the only way that was deemed possible to get the driver’s attention.
The dispatcher sent another driver who was briefly off-duty, and aboard an otherwise empty bus in the same general area, to a bus stop along the Beersheba-Jerusalem route.
It was timed out carefully and accurately. The driver with the empty bus arrived at the stop just moments before the 470 arrived. He flagged down the Jerusalem-bound bus.
The driver of that bus thought that his poor colleague needed some sort of help.
He pulls over. “What’s going on?” he asked.
“Your wife’s having a baby! She’s been trying to reach you,” he was told. The expectant father, with passengers on board his bus, was flustered, not sure what to do.
But his colleague had an empty bus and the perfect solution. “Take my bus; I’ll finish your route. Mazal Tov!”
The expectant driver apologized to his passengers, said that he was going to join his wife in the hospital for the birth of a child and that Itzik would be their driver for the rest of the way to Jerusalem.
The passengers burst into applause and chants of best wishes, and were more than happy to have a different driver under such circumstances.
On Thursday night, March 5, 2020, the fears of coronavirus were descending upon the State of Israel. However, buses were still filling up with passengers. A guy was sitting next to me.
He tells me that he’s very tired, will likely fall asleep, but is expecting an important call from his wife.
“Please make sure I hear the phone when it rings,” he says.
The phone rings. I tap him on the shoulder, elbow him, say to him that the phone is ringing, but to no avail.
So I answered the phone myself.
“Wait,” says the woman on the other end of the line. “Who are you? Where’s my husband?”
Me: “He’s sleeping.”
She: “And you just decided to answer his phone?”
Me: “Well, he told me that he was expecting an important call from you.”
She: “So wake him up.”
Me: “I tried, but he’s very tired.”
She: “So shout. Tell him it’s a boy.”
So, there I was in the middle of a very crowded bus, shouting to the guy next to me: “It’s a boy!”
People around us began chanting: “Mazal Tov!”
Then, perplexed, I got back on the phone.
“Wait! He just missed his own child’s birth!” I exclaimed to the woman.
“No, no,” she says. “It’s my sister. She and her husband were trying to have a child for years and finally the treatments were successful.”
Finally, the guy woke up. So I informed him of the news. “Your wife’s sister had her baby. It’s a boy!”
Drowsy, he says to me: “How do you know?”
Me: “Well, your wife and I have been having a wonderful conversation, and she told me the story.”
He: “Yes, it’s simply a miracle. Please tell people not to give up. Even if they think that they’ll never have a child, they should not lose hope.”
Me: “Fine. I will publicize your message to everyone I know, but in the meantime, would you like to speak to your wife? I think she’s still on the phone.”
AS WE continue in this article to cover the various milestones which we encounter in our lives, we now move to proposing marriage. In pre-coronavirus times, I once wrote of the proposal made aboard a bus, to be followed by friends getting on at the next stop and beginning to sing and dance in a very-well choreographed proposal.
This past October, amid the pandemic, when such a scene could not have been played out, I witnessed – in a grocery store – a far more modest marriage proposal, though no less creative.
I knew that something was up. The shopkeeper was off to the side, seeming to be poised to take a photo with a phone.
He’s ready.
Right nearby, a young man takes out an ice cream cone from the freezer in the grocery store, shows the ice cream to his girlfriend, and asks her to marry him.
“With that?!” she asks incredulously.
“Please marry me,” he repeats.
“Yes!” she shouts.
“Great,” he says and proceeds to take out a ring, explaining:
“First, I wanted to make sure that our life would be sweet like ice cream, then we’ll worry about the riches symbolized by the ring.”
“Wow, romantic!” the shopkeeper shouts, adding: “I wish you happiness and riches!”
(It sounded better in Hebrew: “Osher ve’osher!”)
A few friends came out of seemingly nowhere and began singing.
“Keep your distance and outside,” says the shopkeeper.
And off they went, walking down the street, singing, as the bride-to-be wore her ring and ate her ice cream.
Once you get married, there is a tradition that the bride and groom are like a queen and king for a week. They are pampered. There are celebrations of Sheva Brachot, referring to the seven blessings recited at the wedding ceremony and at festive meals that take place that first week.
However, one late afternoon recently in Jerusalem, a newly-married couple decided to celebrate with the public and to run the celebration themselves: no pampering.
They positioned a barbecue grill on the sidewalk and went about cooking hot dogs and hamburgers and offering a very different kind of Sheva Brachot ambiance to anyone passing by who wished to partake. No charge.
They said that they were so excited to be marking such a happy occasion during such challenging times, and therefore wanted to share their happiness with fellow Jerusalemites.
They went as far as to wear crowns to show that they had not forgotten that they were a king and queen. Still, while they might have been a royal couple, they were working very hard, nonetheless.
The writer is an editor and proofreader at ‘The Jerusalem Post’ and previously broadcast on Kol Yisrael and KAN public radio under the name of David Ze’ev.