Hitchhiking from the settlements is probably the #1 form of transportation, ahead of buses and private cars, since there are lots more people and teenagers than there are cars and buses.
I'm not ashamed to admit that I think I'm a relatively decent person, and try to help people when I can. The problem is that the Muqata is not the closest of places to Jerusalem, and many people love going to Jerusalem for a variety of reasons: Work, University, Sherut Leumi, Sunday morning soldiers returning to the IDF, meeting up with family and friends, parents returning from visiting their children, and just going to hang out in the Holy City.
Since I work in Jerusalem, I'm one of the instant favorites for my neighbors to call for "tremps". I've been doing this for years...and its getting more and more difficult by the day. Lets take this morning; I had 4 people who reserved in advance, and 2 more which I picked up at the "Trempiyada" (bus stop shelter) on my way out. Let's now hold this thought for a second.
As anyone who has been in a relationship knows, men and women are very different (but equal!). One interesting difference is the sense of smell. Women seem to have a very keen sense, and can detect all sorts of smells (good and bad), while men aren't as in tune and may not immediately notice the baby's diaper in the other room, or appreciate the fine aroma of a vegetable salad.
Switching back to this morning. Many times, I welcome a perfumed fragrance which enters the car, as even a male nose is capable of recognizing a pleasant scent. However, today my nose was assaulted by one of the worst smelling hitchhikers -- I can only assume they had never heard of soap, water and deodorant. The awful stench quickly engulfed (fogged up?) my van, as I felt myself turning green. I felt even worse for my female hitchhikers in the back who were probably suffering even more than me. (Now comes the fun part of living and driving in the West Bank.)
Had the Muqata been located in Beit Shemesh or Modiin, I would have just opened up the windows and let some fresh air circulate to make the trip bearable. Since the Muqata is located in an area where our Arab neighbors lob rocks at us from time to time, we have special plastic carbonite windows which are shatter resistant, and rocks usually bounce harmlessly off them.
- I'm talking on my cellphone's speakerphone while driving. A hitchhiker also gets a call. I raise my voice so my coworkers can hear me on the phone. The hitchhiker yells even louder into his phone so he can be heard.
- Calls at all hours of the night - "I hear you drive to Jerusalem every day, can you pick me up at my house tomorrow morning and give me a lift?" (We do have regular bus service!)
- Hitchhikers who smoke. I usually stop the car and ask them to get out, regardless of the friendly Arab town I may be driving through. Even if they stop - they still stink.
- Teenage Hitchhikers who vomit -- and then their parents call up to say "isn't that funny?"
Don't get me wrong - there are hitchhikers I have no problem taking at all, and even enjoy their company. But when I get a hitchhiker who talks my ear off with:
"You know, you left 20 minutes late today. If you would have left earlier like my son-in-law does every morning, you wouldn't be stuck in this annoying traffic like you are now. I hate getting stuck in traffic - what could be more annoying than being stuck in traffic on the way to work? Just think, if you wouldn't leave late like you do all the time, you wouldn't be stuck in this traffic jam..."
it can even try the patience of a seasoned road warrior.
Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael