Sunday, January 8, 2017

Israeli Training

I have chosen to live in the quiet north of Israel, affectionately called the "periphery" by official sources, for many reasons. One of them is the fact that the roads here are generally (still) open most of the day, rendering driving and breathing much healthier. Yet, I am occasionally obliged to descend to the center of the country for a day. To avoid the pleasure and fatigue of crawling in traffic jams, I take the train, which shall become even more convenient in a year when the train line to Karmiel is completed.

As any baseball statistician can tell you, nothing is perfect.  Even taking the train has its negative sides. Common with many systems, parking is often in shortage at the stations while the trains are often late. In other words, you know you are not in Northern Europe. An even more striking difference is the behavior of the passengers. As a measure of comparison, I remember taking a TGV from Paris to Quimper (Brittany), a trip of some four hours. The carriage was comfortable and quiet. In fact, I only noticed that there were quite a few children near me after almost three hours when I looked around. I recall thinking that the parents must have slipped their children some tranquilizer to get them to sit so quietly and for so long. Of course, the children's behavior followed societal expectations, which require even adults to avoid loud conversations and disturbing their fellow travelers.

Back to the Acco-Tel Aviv line, we have quite a different story. To be direct, children would be more tranquil than your average Israeli adult. Not that it is all negative. Upon a returning from a long flight abroad on a train from the airport, our train was stuck in the train station for almost an hour due to a suicide on the tracks (for which the train management was not responsible, clearly). The reaction of our fellow travelers was quite genial. Everybody took out some snacks and shared travel stories. If we could have lit a campfire, we would have done that. It was a rather happy delay.

Unfortunately, this openness is frequently not so positive. It is hard to identify which behavior is the most annoying. The candidates are long personal conversations about breakups or surgery conducted in the "privacy" of the carriage; personal attacks on train representatives with the poor luck of being in the carriage during a train delay; soldiers and students that create obstacle courses in the aisle by placing their cumbersome bags in strategic locations; parents that don't care if their children play noisy games on telephones or portable computers as long as they leave them in peace; and groups of youth that profit from the lack of parental supervision to sow their oats.

Don't get me wrong. With the correct attitude, any of the above actions can be entertaining and help the time go wrong. Also, many trips are quite unremarkable. To be fair, this behavior is not unique to Israel. Still, for me, the best solution is to limit my trips to Tel Aviv to the minimum and enjoy my quiet life in the north.

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