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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Back in the saddle again...

I used to get at least half a dozen calls every week from soldiers and students looking to catch a ride Sunday morning to Beer Sheva (where I work).  Back in the day I used to drive our family station wagon to work, and was more than happy to have company (and to do a good deed).

But then I bought a scooter, which has saved me a metric butt-load of cash on fuel... but has seriously cut down on the available seating for hitchhikers:

Commute 1 

Oh sure, once in a while I'll pick up someone I know for a quick trip within our town... or even to Kiryat Arba (about a 15 minute ride).  But so far nobody has made the hour ride with me to Beer Sheva. 

That is, until today.

Last night I got an SMS from a friend (hi Doreet!) asking if I had room in my car for a soldier (her daughter's boyfriend) who needed to get to the Beer Sheva bus station early on Sunday morning to catch the shuttle to his army base. 

I called her back and explained about my new mode of commuting, and suggested that she contact someone with a car who still made the hour commute in that direction.  I told her that if he couldn't find a ride he was welcome to come along with me.  She thanked me and we said goodbye.

A couple of hours later she called me back saying that the only ride she'd been able to find in that direction was with someone who was leaving too late.  It seems her daughter's boyfriend needed to be back on his base fairly early, so was my offer still open?

I said sure and told her to have him at my house at the time I usually depart.

When I went out this morning, standing next to my scooter I found a tall, lanky soldier wearing the uniform and insignia of an IDF Paratrooper.  He had a backpack and M-16 slung over his shoulder and was eyeing my scooter dubiously.

I noticed the look (as well as the lack of jacket), and asked him if he'd ever ridden on the back of one of these things.  He admitted that, except for a bicycle, it would be his first time on two wheels. 

I shouldn't have been too surprised about the lack of a jacket.   Several years ago I remember chastising a soldier hitchhiker for not wearing a coat when I found him half frozen at a bus stop in the middle of the winter.  He explained with perfectly deadpan delivery that his platoon commander had forbidden the soldiers in his unit from wearing jackets, telling them that, "Paratroopers don't get cold".

So I knew it was pointless to ask about a jacket, but I was worried about his eyes and offered him a pair of sunglasses (which he gratefully accepted in French-accented Hebrew). 

As I helped him get my spare helmet adjusted, I told him that all he had to remember was to do whatever I did;  If I leaned right... he had to lean right.  If I leaned left... he had to lean left.  He nodded his understanding and got on.

As we pulled out I realized there was something else I'd neglected to tell him. 

Chicks ride pillion with their arms around the waist of the driver.  Bros hold onto the seat handles and avoid physical contact at all costs... unless a chick is driving, and then hey, the more contact the better!.   ;-)

The only person who has ever hugged me quite so tightly while riding on the back of the scooter is my wife. 

I momentarily debated pulling over and telling him about this small-but-important codicil of the bro-code, but decided that the Paratrooper uniform and machine gun probably added enough macho-points to the equation to balance out the uncomfortably intimate embrace.   Heck, the guy jumps out of planes for a living... it would take more than a hug to knock the shine off that! 

Anyway, about 15 minutes into the ride I could feel him starting to loosen up... and by the half-way point his hands rested only occasionally on my hips... which according to the bro-code is somewhat acceptable.

When we finally pulled up at the Beer Sheva Central Bus Station, he got off slowly and thanked me for the ride.  But I could see he was having some trouble, and asked him if everything was ok.  He simply smiled and nodded as he handed me back my spare helmet and sunglasses.

As I sat at the light waiting to leave the station, I looked back over my shoulder and saw him take a few tentative steps... followed by a few deep knee bends and a couple of more baby steps.  This was repeated a few times before he settled into a bow-legged gait that would have made Clint Eastwood proud.   

Ah yes, saddle sore.  I'd forgotten that an hour on such a small seat might leave its mark... especially on someone too terrified to adjust himself into a more comfortable position. 

Oh well, I'm sure he'll have plenty of time to work out the kinks on the shuttle ride to his base.

Posted by David Bogner on September 19, 2010 | Permalink


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As usual, enjoyed your ever-so-slightly TMI take on life from the Bogner perspective. Did waste a bit too much time searching in vain on Wikipedia for a clear definition of a "metric butt-load of cash," however. Ah, well. Guess I'll do something more useful, such as celebrate "Talk Like A Pirate" Day. Arrrrr. Note to self: Next time the current soldier boy is looking for a lift, call Chez Treppenwitz Vespa ride, to add to his list of cool Israel experiences. Remind him of bro-code.

Posted by: rutimizrachi | Sep 19, 2010 11:11:40 AM

Quite right about the soldiers not being allowed to wear jackets, at least for the first six months in the army - so my two soldier boys told me. They just used to wear several undershirts!

Posted by: shelley bloom | Sep 19, 2010 2:32:25 PM

awesome scenery behind the putt-putt!

Posted by: fred | Sep 19, 2010 4:33:09 PM

I've had a few male friends ride behind me, and have ridden behind some friends of mine as well. (in the states, the term when it's a guy in back of a guy is riding bitch) We were all pretty good at the bro code. The guys I rode behind were excellent riders (I'm not ashamed to say there are many out there who ride better than me). I learned a lot just by being there and seeing exactly what they do and how well they can manipulate their bikes.

Now this one gal (just a friend) who panicked on a ride and put her arms around my neck...

Posted by: JDMDad | Sep 19, 2010 7:50:03 PM

And there you have yet another story about why a lack of side car means that I am not riding on the back of a two wheeler of any sort.

Posted by: Jack | Sep 19, 2010 9:30:33 PM

Riding pillion?
Hit the road --
But be a man
And learn the code!

Posted by: Rahel | Sep 19, 2010 9:33:49 PM

And I'm sure he'll be thrilled to read - or better yet, have his girlfriend and/or her mother read -- about his faux pas online!

Posted by: Alisha | Sep 20, 2010 8:26:33 AM

Just LOLing.

Posted by: Sarah | Sep 20, 2010 12:25:24 PM

Dave, in my line of work, someone who constantly finds hisself in all sorts of unusual, weird or bizarre situations (far in excess of everyone else) is known as a Sh*t Magnet.

I am a Sh*t Magnet. So are you. :p

Posted by: Karl Newman | Sep 20, 2010 12:29:03 PM

Reminds me of the winter of 1987. A friend and I decided to take 3 weeks off from work and volunteer at a kibbutz in Israel. The kibbutz was Bnei Azmon (Azmona) near Neve Dekalim. We arrive with our stuff to the airport and were told to take a bus to a specific intersection somewhere near Ashdod or Ashkelon and wait for "Tweeto" to pick us up. So that's exactly what we did, took the bus and waited at that intersection. Sure enough Tweeto drives up to fetch us ... on an ancient Vespa! Yes, you guessed it, Tweeto, me, and my friend, all crowded onto that darn Vespa with all our stuff and slowly made our way to Yeshivat Yamit where we stayed while volunteering at the kibbutz. After we dropped our stuff off at the yeshiva, he took us for a ride through Rafiach till the border with Egypt and back. To this day I cannot imagine how we fit on that Vespa!

Posted by: Mark | Sep 22, 2010 9:55:11 PM

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