February 4, 2012

Trains and Plain Janes

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:14 pm by dgcombs

As Fuzzy Fogtop once remarked after arriving at his destination of Pinsk, trains and their passengers are completely different and entirely the same, if you see what I mean. !(http://db.tt/Ghsjh0ZG) When we landed in Tel Aviv, we decided to take the train North to Haifa. It’s not far. Well, nothing is all that far in Israel. We struggled with the luggage and managed to find ourselves standing in front of a machine which dispenses tickets. That’s when it became painfully obvious that twenty minutes with a How-to-Speak-Hebrew book would have been helpful. Linda spotted the tiny button labeled “English” well before I did. We again coerced the luggage to do our bidding and get on the train. The current rules on how many bags you can carry and this crazy “Winter” weather took its toll on our packing skills. Fewer, bigger bags rather than more and smaller was the order of the day. And pack them to the gills!

We passed two stops when a mom and her precocious 12 year-old daughter dropped in and asked why we had luggage taking up space people could use. We accommodated them and moved our bags around. They had been out shopping all day and were tired. I had been on a plane all night next to a noisy teenager. I was in total agreement. After a few minutes casual conversation in English, the daughter drifted away into her own little world. She listened to music, singing the lyrics just before nodding off. Mom, unable to contain herself, stopped answering email on her iPhone and snapped a picture. The sound of the camera roused the snoozing daughter who gasped, “you’re not going to put that on Facebook are you?” Mom laughed. I want everyone to see my adorable daughter. I’m still snooping Facebook. I’m sure I can find that picture.

Just then, a woman bearing a striking resemblance to the “crazy cat lady” on the Simpsons came walking up to the aisle next to us. She held up a passport (possibly hers) and a read in Hebrew in a monotonic voice from a piece of paper. Then she moved up five paces and repeated the process. The daughter was wide eyed, “What was that?” The mom explained that she is saying she needs an operation and if she doesn’t get it she’ll die. She’s asking for money. But if you give her some money, she’ll go straight to the bar and drink it away.

It was their stop and they got off. Fortunately, the crazy-cat-lady was well away. But their seat was claimed by a wild eyed young lad with a shaggy haircut and a beard. He wouldn’t let anyone sit in the second seat, turning them away in stern Hebrew. Great, I thought, he wants to accost these crazy Yanks all on his own. I started hoping our stop was up next. But at the next stop, another young lad got on. Same beard style but carrying a rifle. He sat down. He asked if they could move the remaining bags to make us more comfortable. Well, of course, Mister I’ve-got-the-gun! They smiled at each other and started talking. Just like normal people. And in English. That’s something you don’t see on trains every day. I started suspecting something odd was going on. Turns out they are brothers from Calgary – yeah, the one in Canada. The one that stole our Atlanta Flames. They decided to come to Israel after high school and join the army. The Israeli army. Nice lads. Not crazy at all. They helped us find our stop and kept the train from moving while we got off. No really. One of them had a rifle, remember? Israeli army?

Turns out Fuzzy Fogtop was right after all, if you see what I mean.

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