One of the more interesting phenomena in Israel is the hitchhiking culture, called “tremping” locally. If you’ve ever seen the mobs of Israelis waiting at bus stops near the entrance to a city, some with their index fingers pointed down (instead of thumbs up), they’re requesting that, out of the goodness of your heart, would you please stop so I can possibly catch a ride with you?
Typically, this is how it works: a driver stops at a trempiada (a local gathering place to catch a tremp), rolls down the window and calls out his destination. Then, he or she has to repeat it several times before the throng of hopefuls hears it clearly, at which point anyone not interested in the ride will repeat the location for the benefit of other trempers. Anyone who wants the ride will then jostle their way through the crowd to reach the car before it zips away. The passengers will squeeze in to the allowable maximum in the car, and the driver will then continue on to his or her destination.
So once you have a car full of strangers, what is the etiquette? Are they a captive audience? Should they sit in silence for the next 45 minutes? What about our “always reachable” society of smartphones and SMS? There are many schools of thought to exactly how both the drivers and passengers should behave. Sure I’m doing people a favor, but that doesn’t mean I have to by a tyrant. That being said, here are some rules for tremping etiquette:
- My kids leave my back seat a shambles regularly. Give me a minute to throw it in the trunk so I don’t have to be embarrassed by it.
- I’m not talking to you because my conversational Hebrew is lousy. Unless you say something in English, then I’m playing Jewish Geography with you.
- Please do not smoke, fart, or otherwise stink up my car worse than it is (see “shambles”).
- I might not share what I’m eating, because it might be the first thing I’ve eaten all day. You can eat as long as you don’t cook anything in the back seat, and you take your waste with you.
- If you need to call someone to tell them you just got into a tremp, so that, let’s say, I don’t abduct you, that’s fine. You can SMS the rest of your conversation to your girlfriend.
- If you need to make a work call, call someone to pick up your kids, or other life-important call, I will be accommodating.
- If you jump in ahead of a soldier in uniform, I will kick you out. I might even be polite about it. Depends if I’ve eaten.
- If you shove ahead of someone who looks old enough to be your grandparent, I will kick you out. I will not be polite about it.
- I might lower my music. I might continue to sing along. Depends on my mood. You’re welcome to join me if you know the words. If you can harmonize, all the better. If you have better music, I have a Bluetooth device. If you ask me to stop, I will sing louder and off-key.
- If you need to get out !here! then tell me 50 meters (150 feet) before we get !here!
- Bus stops are better egress points than !here! Traffic circles are not, but at least I won’t stop in the middle of one to let you out.
- Egress is יציאה in Hebrew.
- If you try to sell me something, you will immediately egress. I probably won’t slow down.
- Just because I drive past a full trempiada doesn’t mean I don’t care. It means either I’m late, you can’t see the packages in the backseat, or I’m only going very locally. I will stop twice next time.
- I am doing this to pay it forward, so my children will get rides from your parent/spouse/sibling. This is karma.
- There is no Hebrew word for karma.
- If I’m a single guy in the car and you don’t want to get in, that’s fine. If you want to get in the back seat, that’s fine. I won’t talk to you anyway, because it’s creepy. Unless you look like you might be one of my kids’ ages and I’m heading back to my yishuv (town). Then I’ll only try to identify myself as such, so it is less creepy.
- Pull down your skirt. I tell my daughters this, now I’m tellin’ you.
- If I pick up both boys and girls, there shall be no hitting on one another.
- If I pick up multiple boys, there shall be no hitting one another.
- Please keep hands and head inside the moving vehicle at all times.
- I will accommodate the climate control from my handy-dandy A/C panel. Please do not open your window in the back. They are low-tech and you will forget to roll them up.
- Don’t tip the driver. Thank them. Then we both get points for being nice gosh-darnit people.
And please remember to always look safe. If you look like someone they wouldn’t invite into their home, they won’t invite you into their car.