Bus drivers in Israel are…well, somewhat unique in many ways. Many people have stories of amazing things they have done – in terror attacks, they have risked their lives to get their passengers to safety. They’ve slammed doors closed before terrorists can get in; they’ve hit the gas pedal to move out of range; they’ve hit the brake when a terrorist was on-board hoping, and succeeding, to cause them to fall, while opening the doors so that passengers can escape.
And in less turbulent times, they have been known to turn the bus around because a child forgot to get off the bus and is crying; they have parked the bus and told passengers they won’t move until someone gets up and gives a pregnant woman or elderly man a seat.
They have been known to completely leave their route (with passengers going along for the ride) in order to drive a former prime minister to her home, or take a woman to the hospital after she suffered a heart attack, thus saving her life.
Many are greeted by name as they drive the same route for long periods of time. So many stories and now I have one too. The first was when my bus started to pull out of Ammunition Hill this evening. Many drivers try to get going because the rule is that once they are “out” of the station, they don’t have to open doors for more passengers.
Tonight, the driver closed the doors, drove about 5 yards and then stopped and opened the doors to let two more passengers get on. And then, as we wound our way through Maale Adumim, people got off, calling out “good night” or “thank you” as they left. One person got off two stops before mine.
I wasn’t sure, but I thought she was the only other passenger on the bus besides me, but I wasn’t sure.
“Is this your stop?” the driver called out to me. I wasn’t actually sure he was talking to me but I answered, “no, the next one.”
And, as he continued to drive, I asked him, “am I the last one?”
He answered that he thought so and continued. I live in a neighborhood that is a “figure 8” – the bottom circle is where I live, and no buses go there; so the buses travel down one side of the top circle and then curve around and climb back up the hill and out through the same traffic circle that begins the 8.
My stop is at the bottom of that top circle, after going down the hill, around the curve and a bit up the hill. As we approached the traffic circle that marks the point where the upper and lower circles join, the driver stopped the bus in the middle of the circle and asked me if I wanted to get out here. It saves me a bit of a walk (maybe 2 minutes) but it was still such a nice thing to do, thoughtful.
I thanked him, wished him a good night, and got out of the bus. He drove away as I walked towards home. In so many ways, this is what Israel is about – thinking of others, that thoughtful gesture, that open communication.