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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

At least they can't be accused of profiling!

At about the mid-point of my morning commute there is an intersection in the middle of nowhere (actually, you have to drive about six kilometers past nowhere to get to this spot), where a small rural road crosses the somewhat larger two-lane black-top road I travel.

At some point in the past decade or two a traffic circle was added (likely in response to a few-too-many accidents)... and next to the traffic circle stands a tall IDF pillbox that allows soldiers to monitor the road, and if necessary quickly set up a roadblock.

These days it is a rare thing to see a roadblock, and truth be told, I'm not sure the pill-box is even manned all the time.  But this morning as I approached the intersection, I saw that there was a long line of cars waiting while a quartet of Israeli soldiers inspected them one by one.

At larger intersections and more formal roadblock locations there is room for two lanes of traffic in each direction... a device that allows the soldiers to wave through cars that don't fit the profile of whatever security threat they are looking for, and to spend more time inspecting/questioning cars and drivers that do.

But since this was a narrow section of twisty road, each time the soldiers felt the need to spend more time checking a particular car or truck, everyone in line after them simply had to wait.  Unless, of course, they happened to be on a scooter. [~ahem~]

After waiting like a good boy for about five minutes and seeing that I was still a full football field from the checkpoint, I pulled out into the empty opposite lane and slowly putt-putted towards the roadblock.

When I got close to the roadblock, a driver in one of the cars pulled out as if to block me, but a soldier quickly jumped out in front of him and waved him back into line... while signaling me to go ahead.   When the driver opened his window and started shouting at the soldier (in Israeli accented Hebrew) "Hey, why are you letting him go while I have to wait?", the soldier smiled, pointed at me and said, "He brings us drinks and cookies... what did you bring me?".

Now obviously the soldier wasn't really implying that he and his comrades were open to bribes to look the other way and let suspect vehicles pass. This was just his way of letting the driver understand that they recognized me... and didn't recognize him.    It was just my good luck that at least one of the soldiers on duty had been the recipient of one of my (and your!) afternoon snack runs.  :-)

Follow-up note:  I should point out that it makes me absolutely insane when I'm stuck at a roadblock or some other traffic jam and I see cars trying to cut ahead on the shoulder or the opposite lane, and then moving into line further ahead of me.  This makes me nuts, not because it's unfair (or uncivilized)... but rather because the process of cutting back into traffic creates an even worse traffic-snarl/bottle-neck, and adds to the delays everyone else further back in line will experience.  Two wheelers, on the other hand, do not have this affect on traffic when they filter forward, and in fact cause no delay whatsoever to those they pass along the way.

If you don't believe me, you should go to You-Tube and do a search for some of the videos of the Paris Motorcycle protest a few weeks ago.  It seems that the French tried to outlaw lane-splitting/filtering by scooters and motorcycles.  So in protest, most of Paris' two wheeled commuters spent a day acting as if they were cars.  They waited in lane at lights and behaved in every respect as if they had four wheels.  The result was that Parisian traffic ground to a halt under the sheer weight of all the additional traffic that had previously moved unfelt between the cars.

Posted by David Bogner on May 25, 2010 | Permalink

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I completely agree with you on your follow-up note, and I typically try to corral them in by straddling the two lanes or riding the shoulder, but it isn't always effective. But I exclaimed with an audible "YES!" when I read it... A comedian I've forgotten the name of said that each person should be equipped with a dart gun with suction cup darts, and when someone on the road committed a "road foul", THWAP! stick a suction cup to his/her window... 3 darts, you're out, easy mark for the police. I've oft wished for that dart gun...

Posted by: Jethro | May 25, 2010 7:02:18 PM

Unfortunately lane-splitting / filtering isn't allowed here in the states (except for California). Try that here, and you'll get a bunch of open doors, and/or a ticket from your friendly neighborhood police officer. At least for motorcycles. The smaller scooters do get away with more. That was one thing I was amazed to watch when I was in Israel back in '05. A lick of common sense!

Posted by: JDMDad | May 25, 2010 9:58:49 PM

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