As night fell over the Mediterranean Thursday evening, Murphy’s Law seemed to dictate my every step for the rest of the night.
After meeting with people for the day in Tel Aviv, I was walking back through Floretin toward the Central Bus Station at about 5 p.m., knowing that I had another event to cover at night in Jerusalem. But while walking along Levinsky Street – and avoiding as many dodgy characters as possible – I realized that I might need to use the bathroom.
I was about to use one of the toilets on the ground floor of the bus station when a woman warned me in Hebrew, which I thankfully understood, that these bathroom were dangerous and I should not use them. Having taken a look at the toilets before she said this, I had just thought they were downright disgusting, with God knows what splattered across the seats, bowls and walls. But I’m glad I heeded her advice regardless.
I managed to sit through – or rather slept through – the hour -long bus ride and arrived in Jerusalem with just enough time to run home to my own bathroom, drop off my stuff and leave for the next event of the evening, if I sprinted. I figured that this was the best idea anyway, as I was now less than eager to use the Jerusalem Central Bus Station bathrooms after hearing the woman’s words about those in Tel Aviv. Not to mention the amount of Purell that would presumably be required afterwards.
I ran over the Calavatra Lightrail Bridge that connects Yafo Street to Herzl Boulevard and got to the corner of Herzl and the side street into Givat Shaul, about a block and a half from my apartment. I saw a police car parked across the road, but I figured that they were tending to whatever was going on with that day’s light rail tests, and weren’t really concerned with my activities.
Boy was I wrong. Apparently, cops in Jerusalem can’t think of anything better to do than to pick on harmless pedestrians.
The light was still red, but there were clearly no cars coming anytime in the near future, so despite friends of friends’ tales of getting stopped for jaywalking – and pretty much always getting away with just a warning – I decided to take my chances. I mean, I really needed to get to that bathroom quite desperately, aside from the fact I was on the verge of running late for my next event.
So I went, and as soon as I did, a thoroughly obnoxious policewoman on a power trip stepped out of her vehicle and slammed the door.
“Why did you cross when the light was red?” she asked me in Hebrew.
OK, I thought calmly, I’ll use the “dumb American” tactic. I’ll pretend to not know any Hebrew.
I stared at her with a dumbfounded expression and didn’t answer her question.
So, to my misfortune, she switched to English. “What are you doing? I don’t know where you come from, but we don’t do this here,” she snapped, and demanded my teudat zeheut (Israeli ID card).
I handed it over, explaining that I was late for an important meeting and desperately needed to use the bathroom, so I ran through the light after checking that everything was clear. To the second question, I answered that I was from New York City (big mistake), and that we jaywalked freely all the time there.
“No you can’t,” she responded. “Last year when I was in New York I got a $50 ticket.”
She clearly had some personal issue to avenge this evening.
She went back into the car with my ID, and she and her male partner – who spoke no English – fiddled with whatever computer system is inside their vehicle as I stood for about 20 minutes, still desperate for a toilet.
When she stepped out, she informed me that I owed the government NIS 100 ($27) for my crime. So I decided to go with the sympathy tactic, ahem, the crying tactic – and if this was a male officer, it would have totally worked. Keep in mind, it takes me three and a half hours of work to make NIS 100, so this was no small sum for me to pay. It might seem so in dollars, but people make far less money in Israel.
Well, turns out she couldn’t care less, and even somewhat gleefully told me that I was the 10th person she had caught at that intersection that night.
“Have a nice evening,” she said, handing me my prize-winning ticket.
Nice evening indeed, I thought. Yes, getting to the toilet had cost me NIS 100.
After finally reaching the bathroom – and believe me, that sit-down was not worth its price – I was out the door once again, and on the #28 bus toward Har Hatsofim, to Hebrew University’s Mount Scopus campus, where I was covering a special lecture program.
Naturally, on the bus, I got myself into trouble as well – this time for trying to sit on the metal box on top of the front wheel, something people my size often do when there are no other seats available. Normally I wouldn’t mind standing, but I had trekked around in dress shoes all day for the first time this season, and my feet were feeling it.
I stayed out of trouble for the next couple hours, until I took the wrong bus on the way back from the event, and somehow ended up lost somewhere on the campus of Givat Ram. A 30-minute roundabout walk finally guided me to my final destination for the evening – Ravid’s apartment – where, luckily, some freshly ordered sushi and an ice cold Pepsi Max awaited me.
Thus concluded quite a strange – and rather expensive – Thanksgiving.