Friday, April 16, 2010

Traffic Jams and Motorbikes

A few days ago I took my motorbike down to south Tel-Aviv today to get my seat repaired after someone slashed it.  There is a motorcycle upholsterer down there.  It would never have ocurred to me that such a person existed if I hadn't passed him by at some point.   His name is Sasson and he is one of the old school Russian immigrants. The new school came in the nineties, wear designer clothing and are ultra-cool but Sasson belongs to the generation that arrived in the seventies and grew up revering Stalin, wearing design-free clothes and thought gold teeth were the ultimate in cool. 

I once worked with a systems analyst from Bukhara (a city in Uzbekistan).  He was a charming man with a mouth full of gold teeth and we told him that if he got them replaced it would benefit his career, but he refused.  Apparently he felt taking ones perfectly good gold teeth out was too vain or something. 
Anyway Sasson has a glass eye, gold teeth and motorcycle seats in various states of repair hanging outside his "shop" which is really just a large garage-like room.  I selected the particular brand of fake leather I wanted for my up holstery and he gave me an old one he had lying around to use while he fixed it.  The cost was 200 shekels, or about 55 US dollars.
Today I went back to replace the seat. As I tried to drive to the motorway I found the Police blocking the way.  That happens occasionally in Israel.  Usually because someone has left a suspicious looking package in the road.  Assuming this was the case I got on the motorway from the next entrance where the road is narrow and even with a motorbike you find yourself struggling to get through the unusually heavy traffic.

Sasson only takes cash so I had to find a cashpoint which took a while because the first one I went to was no longer there and the second one was out of service. Only the third one worked.  Having got my new seat I though I would go and have a felafel at a particularly cheap place I like off Allenby and that's where things went badly wrong.  I found myself struggling through extremely heavy traffic.  In town even motorbikes can struggle because they are large and you have to take care not to scratch people and the gaps aren't quite wide enough to fit through.  It  would have been faster on a bicycle. Bicycles can also ignore traffic lights and one way systems in these conditions. 

Anyway I struggled to my 10 shekel felafel (3 dollars) and then struggled to get out of the city because the Police had cordoned off major exit roads.  What was going on?  For a moment I thought maybe there were some bombs going off but then a fellow motorcyclist explained.  It seems the Police in Israel haven't had enough action in recent years so they decided to make pretend.  In the middle of the rush hour they closed down major intersections and pretended there was a big terror attack taking place.  Tel-Aviv is pretty congested at the best of times but today was total chaos. Even on a motorcycle it took me twice as long as it should have done and spending your time struggling to slowly slalom round cars with a 200 kilogram motorcycle is no fun.  At least the temperature was a bearable 24 degrees centigrade.  In a couple of months it will be a lot hotter.   Actually I think you could have an Olympic sport involving Vespa drivers slaloming round moving cars. 

As I finally got into my neighbourhood I saw a police car whiz by on the empty road they had cordoned off.  Number M2.  M is for Mishtara (Police) so M2 is the second in command.  I bet he'd pay a lot of money just to have the numberplate M1. 

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