Mightier Than The Pen

Making The World A Bitter Place

Taken for a Ride, or at Least a Lurch

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Lesson number one from today: if you have a choice between the free buses and walking, hoof it.

You get what you pay for. Sort of. I mean, our municipal taxes definitely paid for the city-sponsored busing we “enjoyed” today, but it only appeared free because no one asked for tickets. Since thousands of people descended on the city, whose ancient parts attract oodles of visitors this time of year, the city wisely closed the central areas to private cars and arranged for free shuttles to and from several major parking areas around town. We would have avoided the central areas altogether, but (a) we live in the center and (b) we had a birthday party to attend smack in the middle of this tourist Mecca.

So far so good. Except that someone miscalculated the number of buses needed for each route; there seemed to be a glut of them for some outlying areas, but we waited a good half hour before one showed up to take the growing and increasingly agitated crowd to the destination nearest our home.

When it did show up, we and our children had to joust our way onto the bus. Now, you Westernized Protestants out there have no idea what it’s like among the barbarians of the Orient. This society views anyone who would wait patiently in line as a sucker. If you don’t know how to employ your elbows, shoulders, hips and feet to force your way through the competition, you will find yourself left behind. Age, sex, level of infirmity and encumbrance matter not a whit. Of course, once you do attain the prize of boarding, feel free to reserve any number of seats for the rest of your party; you’ve earned it. They just have to be good enough to find their way through the frenzied mob, as well.

I admit I am out of practice at this sort of thing. We got our car about eight-and-a-half years ago, so regular use of public transportation has faded into memory. The crowd-penetrating skills I honed for years before that began to atrophy, or so I thought. Fortunately, like riding a bike, they returned in an instant, even accounting for the folded stroller in one arm and the tired preschooler in the other. Somehow, my elbows knew exactly how to adjust to these new factors, and to position themselves so as to deny the persons adjacent any advantage in the forward campaign (I am even more impressed by my wife’s success, as she managed to navigate the scrum with a baby strapped to her back and a six-year-old in tow, while also keeping her eye on the nine-year-old, and not once did she have to pull rank by barking at those behind her to watch out for the poor baby on her back they were crushing).

The bus, of course, decided to break down after we’d proceeded about a hundred feet.

So we clambered our way off the bus and onto another directly behind, one originally slated for a different destination – and thus we managed to overhear an earful from the disgruntled passengers forced to disembark in our favor – passengers whose destination seemed amply served: I counted four buses for that route before we got our one, defective bus. Fortunately, the fellow in charge had no problem asserting his authority and telling them to file a complaint, though not in such polite terms.

Then came the traffic.

Lesson number two: If you plan to make pizza at home, make sure you have all the ingredients available BEFORE starting.

The aforementioned six-year-old attained that age today, so we went from one birthday party to another, albeit with the busing adventure in between (ABC Tours: we put the “busing” in “abusing”). Since no one anticipated a half-hour trip turning into a two-hour saga, we didn’t have time to go out to get the mozzarella before the guests started arriving. They were quite understanding of the situation, and remained patient even through two failed attempts to find the stuff at local stores. Finally, I trekked (on foot, of course) a bit farther and secured the cheese, and dinner was wonderful.

You might ask why we insisted on mozzarella, when other, less expensive and more readily available varieties of cheese can be obtained almost anywhere. You thus reveal yourself to lack any sense of taste. The local mozzarella may lack flavor – “may” as in the way Iran “may” be suspected of hostility toward, say, Israel – but as a pizza topping it still beats any of the other cheeses available here by a wide margin. They sell many different varieties of cheese, all called “yellow” cheese (as opposed to “white” cheese, which comes in a tub and might be confused with cream cheese if one’s idea of cream cheese is runny and bland), and which are standard fare in the pizza joints. The culinary hopelessness that such places embody makes that whole Iran-Israel thing seem rosy by comparison.

Lesson number three from today: keep your blog posts from getting too long.

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Written by Thag

September 26, 2010 at 10:57 pm

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