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Monday, February 20, 2012

Nice to be known

Because the snowy, sleety, icy, rainy stuff continued through yesterday morning, Zahava was nice enough to let me take the car into work on Sunday.

I have to say, as much as I love riding my Vespa on the 170km round trip through the Judaen Hills, it was kind of a treat to be inside a warm dry car for a change while the weather was acting up doing exactly what it is supposed to do this time of year.

Near the end of my commute, I pulled up to the security checkpoint just north of Beer Sheva and gave my normal cheery good morning greeting to the young woman in the guard booth.  But since she was used to seeing me on my scooter with a full face helmet, she didn't recognize me sitting in the car.

She started asking me all kinds of 'security questions'*; where I was from?, where I was going?, etc. 

I just smiled at her and didn't answer... something that is likely to get the security personnel a bit on edge.  When she started repeating her questions, I held up my hand and said, "You don't recognize me?"

Impatiently, she said, "We get hundreds of people coming through this checkpoint every day... do you really think I recognize everyone?"

I just smiled and said, "I bet you'd recognize me if I was on my scooter?"

Instantly she broke into a beautiful grin (I'll be honest, she was a little intimidating looking when she was glaring down at me and asking questions), and shouted, "Ahhh, you're the red Vespa guy!.  We all talk about wanting a scooter like yours!"

I said, "Really?  Everyone?"

She responded, "Well, the girls all want one.  The guys all say they want motorcycles, but I see the way they look at your scooter and talk after you go by... they want one too."

We chatted for a little while longer about how far I ride each day and what kind of gear I wear to keep me warm, dry and safe.  Finally another car came along behind me and  beeped impatiently, so I waved and said goodbye.

I have to admit, it's kinda fun being 'the red Vespa guy'.

*'Security questions' are asked, not to get the answer, so much as to hear accents and/or observe the person's eyes and posture for signs of nervousness or deception.  If you've ever flown out of Israel on a commercial flight, you'll notice the big difference between the security screening process here and in other airports around the world is that elsewhere they look at your carry on, your clothing, your shoes, your passport, your ticket, etc... but rarely look you in the eye.  In Israel they check those other things, but before you get anywhere near the boarding gate, at least seven trained people have looked at your eyes and posture; at the entrance to the airport; at the curb as you unload; at the entrance to the airport building; before getting into the pre-check-in baggage screening line; in the pre-check-in baggage screening lane; at the check-in counter; and in the formal security screening area.  And if any of those trained people isn't comfortable with the way you look or sound, you are going to meet a few more trained people before you get on the plane.

Posted by David Bogner on February 20, 2012 | Permalink

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You should put RVG after your name on your business card. That will get people guessing:-)

Posted by: Kiwi Noa | Feb 20, 2012 7:48:34 PM

Jeez, no kidding. I ALWAYS get stopped and get to meet a few more trained people before I get on the plane. Something about looking too damn happy to be here, and terrified of not being allowed back in, must set them off... I just can't do "bored and irritable." Good in life; bad on planes. Now if I had me one o' them red Vespas...

Posted by: rutimizrachi | Feb 20, 2012 7:51:54 PM

Speaking as one who has flown a few times recently - I wish some of your trained people could train a few of our trained people...(sigh...)

Posted by: psachya | Feb 21, 2012 1:25:41 AM

Some U.S. airports have started to adopt the so-called Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques, or SPOT. The TSA has been heavily criticized for mind-boggling instances of strip searching elderly grandmothers, rupturing a cancer survivor's urostomy bag and other inexplicable screenings ostensibly aimed at weeding out terrorists. TSA screeners were reclassified as "officers" in 2005, got new uniforms in 2007 and metal badges in 2008. The fact is that they have no law enforcement powers and lack the kind of training displayed by Israeli security staff. It doesn't help that the Israeli methods are perceived to be a form of "racial profiling."


Posted by: Yaron | Feb 21, 2012 4:14:59 PM

"the red Vespa guy"...now that's way too cool. As I know you know, airport security here in the U.S. is a joke. Most of our screeners probably need a map to get home after work.

Posted by: Yabu | Feb 24, 2012 1:51:13 PM

Addressing the weather issue you mentioned, we were in Efrat yesterday and saw snow (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) out my son's patio door. It didn't stick, however. But the water-run-off system in Israel needs improvement, as we discovered when we carefully walked down the forty steps on my son's ma'aleh to Netzach Yerushalayim, there was slush and deep puddles everwhere--and the steps were very, very slippery.

Also, have you noticed that in heavy rain, the dotted lines which mark the lanes on streets and highways just disappear? We've racked up over 4,000 kilometers on this trip, and everywhere it's the same: yom gashum, no dotted lines, hence no one knows where the lanes are. You just follow the car in front of you and hope he knows which lane he's in, 'cause you sure don't.

By the way, it's pouring out here in Tel-Aviv as I am writing this. Bet there's snow in Efrat right now. This has GOT to be the wettest winter on record in years! Lousy for people, good for the country...

Posted by: Lady-Light | Mar 2, 2012 12:53:19 AM

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