Wednesday, September 16, 2009

my sweet set of wheels

After almost four years of living in Israel taking buses, walking and hitchhiking, I decided it was time to purchase my own means of transportation. I rejected the car option out of hand. It seemed impracticable, expensive and a hassle. I watched my friends spend hundreds of shekels weekly on gas, circle for hours looking for parking, and wait impatiently in traffic at all hours of the day.

An adventurer at heart, the obvious option was a קטנוע, aka a 50cc motor scooter. The first task was obtaining a motorcycle license. Shortly after I made the decision to purchase a scooter, the Pope arrived in Jerusalem for a visit. His presence disrupted traffic and temporarily closed down several bus routes. One morning during his trip, after waiting for over a half hour for my bus to work, I thrust my finger into the street, hoping someone would stop for a hitchhiker within the city. Fortuitously, a generous man in his 70's pulled over and offered me a lift to work. As it turns out, Gabi was just finishing giving an American couple driving lessons. I ended up with a ride to work and a driving instructor who cut through tremendous amounts of red tape and expedited the process of obtaining a motorcycle license.

With license in hand, I was anxious to own a scooter already. I researched the various options and decided that buying second-hand made the most sense. I scoured websites and asked everyone I knew with a scooter about anything for sale. My Israeli friend, Prezman, an expert in motor scooters, graciously accompanied me on many trips to view potential scooters. He advised me on many such trips not to purchase the scooter for sale due to problems with the engine, the amount of kilometers, price, etc.

I had all but given up hope. The license was burning a hole in my pocket as I was still riding buses to every corner in Jerusalem looking for the perfect fit.

One day in the midst of searching, I was riding on the back of Prezman's scooter, returning from yet another failed attempt at purchasing a used scooter. We were stopped at a red light on a main street when Prezman said, "Becky, look, that's the exact scooter you want!!" I glanced to my left to see a Charedi (ultra-orthodox) man sitting atop a Typhoon 2006 gray 50cc scooter, the very model I wanted. "But Prezman, it's not for sale, and there's a Charedi man sitting on it, and the light's about to turn green!" I responded.

"סליחה, אדוני, אתה מוכן למכור את הקטנוע שלך? היא מאוד מעוניינת" ("Sir, would you be willing to sell this girl your scooter? She's very interested"), Prezman addressed the man. "Well, I hadn't thought about it, but why not?" the Charedi man responded. As the light was changing colors, he shouted out his name and his number, which I hastily stored in my phone. There's no way this guy is serious, I thought. And there's no way I actually saved his number correctly.

Nevertheless, I called him several hours later to follow up. I was dismayed to hear a generic voice-mail at the other end of the line. I left a message hoping for the best. Later that evening, Shimshon returned my call. The next day he brought the scooter over for me (and my friend) to check out. Prezman was shocked at its excellent condition, and its low number of kilometers, and strongly recommended I buy the scooter.

The following day I found myself in the post office with Shimshon in order to transfer ownership of the scooter. There I was, standing with a Charedi man whom I'd met at a red light on the streets of Jerusalem! While waiting in line, Shimshon and I exchanged a few words of small-talk and when he discovered I have no religious family in the country, he invited me to come to his family for Shabbat! Only in Jerusalem, I thought to myself as I drove away on my new scooter.


myrna said...

You're the greatest.

naomi said...

You are queen of best Israel stories. Nice scarf!