Another story from the early days of my aliyah…this one is from 4 months in!
“Shoom makom,” he responded. (“Nowhere.”)
“L’eifo tzarich?,” (“Where do you need?”) the cab driver asked. He was being pushy…but such is life in Israel.
I was happily sitting in the back seat watching the whole thing unfold and while I thought it was a bit funny for a cab driver to do the approaching, I just sat patiently because I wasn’t in a hurry. I don’t mind sharing cabs because usually it leads to interesting conversation and a chance for me to practice my bad Hebrew.
The grocery bag guy responded again with something like he didn’t really need to go anywhere…he was staying in-town. Well the driver wasn’t taking “no” for an answer so he opened the door and said, “Shev” (“Sit”) and the guy got in the front seat and smiled. He thanked the driver and off we went.
We started talking about where we were from and how long we’d been in Israel. The driver is from Russia and he’d been in Israel for 30 years. The grocery guy was from Argentina and had been in Israel for two years…and me…I’m from the US and have been in Israel for almost 4 months. They were remarking at how good my Hebrew is (ha ha, no) and how wonderful it is that we can all be in a cab together in Israel. The driver even said, “THIS is what is so special about this country!” I was sitting in the back smiling to myself — because I agreed. It IS wonderful that we’re all in one cab together, speaking Hebrew together and enjoying Israel. We’re living the Zionist dream together and working to build Israel into something even more fabulous for future generations. Yes, all of this really WAS going through my head.
On the way to my destination, about halfway there, the grocery guy asked to be let off at a bus stop. The driver pulled over and the grocery man opened the door and thanked him. The driver said, “Kesef” (“Money”) and the grocery guy looked confused. They then had an exchange about how cab drivers don’t give free rides. Grocery man (his Hebrew wasn’t very good…almost as shaky as mine) tried to explain that he didn’t order a cab and had he wanted one in the first place, he would have gone to the cab station. The driver said he didn’t care. He wanted his money…he didn’t just drive people around for free. Grocery man said he should have clearly stated that he was a cab driver and that he would request money because he got confused when the driver told him to sit.
I listened quietly in the back. I sort of empathized with the grocery man because I had noted that it was weird for the driver to be so aggressive…but I also agreed with the driver because really, who expects a free ride from a cab driver??
The grocery man finally just got out and slammed the door without paying. The driver looked back at me and asked me what he should do. “Should I start a fight?” he asked.
“Lo. Lo nora. Kadima,” I said. (“No. It’s not terrible. Let’s go.”)
The driver asked me why I thought that. He said that any other driver would get out and punch the guy. I said, (still in Hebrew) “For what? For 8 shekels? His stop is on the way to my stop. (switch to English) It’s not like you had to drive all the way over there and then back here for him.” He explained to me how driving a cab works in Israel. He basically rents the car from the cab company and has to pay something like 300 shekels a day for the privilege. He has to make at least that much in one day to make his work worthwhile. I understand his feeling of urgency but dude, you basically shoved the guy in your cab! I didn’t say that out loud but that’s what I was thinking.
He started laughing and drove me home.
“Eize ketah,” (“What a scene”) he said as I got out of the cab.
“Erev tov,” (“Good night”) I replied.