A bone-tired Shmuli staggered through the front door early Friday morning. His mother was quite surprised to see him home from yeshiva, especially because he was scheduled to spend Shabbos at the yeshiva’s Shabbaton beginning later that afternoon. But Shmuli was far too weary to provide any explanations, instead sufficing with giving her a hug and a perfunctory greeting, then calling over his shoulder, “I NEED to get some sleep!” while taking the stairs two at a time en route to his second floor bedroom.
Busy with Shabbos prep, his mother had little time to dwell on the mystery, assuming that Shmuli had most likely traveled into Yerushalayim the previous night to attend his older brother’s surprise birthday gathering in a small cafe there. He had probably returned home extremely late and exhausted, after she had already gone upstairs to bed.
But apparently, that had not been the case at all. In fact, Shmuli had missed the impromptu birthday celebration and had only arrived in the Holy City much later, meeting a chavrusa and learning through the night at the Kotel.
The details of the unplanned overnight stay only emerged much later, and his mother never did get a complete picture of all the ordinary, and some far from ordinary, particulars.
What she did manage to glean, however, was more than enough to turn her hair white and cause it to stand on end. “Thank goodness for tichels and sheitels,” she’d murmured to herself yet again.
Although the initial idea of meeting a chavrusa and learning together in the Old City was pre-planned, the overnight stay was definitely not. That Plan B evolved when Shmuli discovered that his billfold had slipped out of his pocket on the intercity bus into Yerushalayim – along with his ID, credit card, and all his cash, among other things.
So unless he wanted to beg for alms at the Kotel, he was apparently stranded there without even the requisite bus fare to return home.
How he finally managed to find his way home, albeit bedraggled and sleep-deprived, on Friday morning, she never did find out definitively. But apparently there were more immediate and critical concerns to deal with.
Although she was unsure of the specific details, one thing soon became crystal clear: Shmuli had returned without some of his important possessions.
He had noticed immediately upon getting off at his stop that his billfold was no longer in his pocket, but he and a friend chased down the bus just in time to see it leaving the next stop. They ultimately gave up on catching up with the bus, moving on to an alternate plan.
With the benevolent assistance of the black-kippah-clad driver of a later Egged bus, Shmuli eventually managed to track down the name and cell phone number of the Arab driver of the bus he had taken to Yerushalayim several hours earlier.
Shmuli told his driver where he had been seated and, b’chasdei Hashem, the driver was able to recover the missing items. It was quite late by that time, so with the assurance that the billfold would be transferred to the Egged lost and found bright and early the next morning, Shmuli thanked the driver profusely, and graciously declined the offer of a bus ride home from the frum driver who had helped him. After discovering that the Light Rail had already shut down for the night, he then spent upwards of 40 minutes walking to the Kotel on foot to meet his chavrusa.
The following morning, his chavrusa loaned him the bus fare to get back home and the cat-and-mouse telephone game recommenced in earnest.
Contrary to earlier reports, the driver had apparently not delivered the billfold to the lost and found department. Instead, the lost wallet containing basically every important possession Shmuli owned was logging countless kilometers on the route back and forth between his home and Yerushalayim!
Frantic phone calls to the Arab driver confirmed this fact and thereby saved Shmuli from a pointless wild goose chase. However, as luck would have it, another driver was at the wheel of the bus that day and it took significant time and effort to locate his contact information. Needless to say, it was not possible for the bus drivers to speak while driving (although they seem to violate that policy every time I am a passenger!) So Shmuli had to keep scrupulous track of the time and phone at two hour intervals, when there was a scheduled break between routes.
Thus, the soap opera that had unexpectedly begun late on Thursday night continued into erev Shabbos, motzaei Shabbos, and even Sunday.
Shmuli was getting increasingly frustrated and agitated (and I daresay that the seemingly never-ending procession of Egged drivers was pretty sick of hearing from him as well).
And then the long-awaited miracle finally happened! One driver thought to ask Shmuli where he lived, and then arranged to meet him at a nearby bus stop along his route. The rendezvous was set up, and the billfold joyously returned to its owner, blessedly intact, not one shekel or important document missing.
The long and arduous journey, both literally and metaphorically, had at long last reached its happy conclusion.
Now all that remains to be done is to superglue all of Shmuli’s pockets shut!