Thursday, April 5, 2007

Going Around in Circles, II

Jerusalem's streets are curvy and swervy, sweeping up, down and around hills, with buses serving most of the city, most of the time. By and large I've been walking around, taking the occasional bus from my neighborhood into the center of town, and using cabs late at night. But there are many sites that are too far to walk and would require an expensive cab ride.

For sure, I thought, there is a map with Jerusalem's bus routes on it, which would make getting around a bit easier. I asked my landlords where I might find such a map. They had no idea, other than to try the central bus station.

For sure, I thought, a bookstore in the city's center would sell such a map or know where to find one. I asked such a bookstore and they, too, suggested the central bus station.

So, off I went to the central bus station, except - without a map of Jerusalem bus routes - it wasn't clear to me which buses actually went there. After asking a few people, I found the right bus. After a very long wait, the bus arrived.

After getting pushed and shoved in the security "line" (remember: Israel doesn't have lines!) at the entrance to the central bus station, I found the information kiosk. An unlinear "line" had formed in front of it and I staked out my spot, positioning my body so that no one could cut in front of me. A woman showed up, occupying the space between me and the person in front of me. "There is a line," I informed her, in a matter of fact tone. "Yes, I know," she said, lingering where she was, looking as if she might pounce. After a few minutes, she moved to the periphery of the crowd.

Finally, it was my turn. In the very best Hebrew I could muster, I asked if there was a bus map of Jerusalem. The indifferent clerk, who looked like he was 14, said, "No", offering no further suggestion or assistance (perhaps he could have asked where I was trying to go).

Thinking that maybe he didn't know what he was talking about, I picked up the Egged (the bus company) information phone in the terminal and asked again about a map. "No," said the voice at the other end of the receiver.

Still not quite believing that there was no Jerusalem bus map (isn't this a world city?), I went to yet another information booth on a different floor. Again, "No."

Dispirited and in disbelief, there was nothing left to do but eat. Kosher for Passover food was plentiful and I tried some potatoes baked with mushrooms and cream, comfort food for this traveler.

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