It was certainly too late, but after completing my morning errands I generously over estimated an allotment of time for a bike ride. To further stretch these waning hours before my last bus to Beit Shemesh, I committed to meet a friend. We would meet half way through my ride, where we would follow up with a bite to eat. After poor coordination, we ended up meeting at some point far later than we had anticipated and settled for a drink instead along the bike path that begins at Emek Refaim. Hungry still after suspending my thirst, I suggested we ride back towards the top of town to find a place to eat. After navigating Jeruslam’s pre-shabbat rushed streets of endless foot traffic and honking buses, we only made it to our lunch destination at 3 pm; a slim window before the final bus to Beit Shemesh would leave its first station at 4:15 pm.
“I have to get outa here!” I thought, which quickly escalated to a quick “gotta go” to my friend. Just at that moment, I received a call from the family I would spend Shabbat with politely asking if I can pick up some sweet-potatoes before departing from Jerusalem. I ran up to the Shuk in a hasty search to find the sweet-potatoes o’ so necessary at this moment. I threw my bike — unlocked — and dove into the bustling crowd of pre-shabbat shoppers. Into a stall, I began filling a plastic bag with spuds only to find the shop-keeper accepts cash only. I toss the bag down with frustration and race towards a supermarket along the way. I find the potatoes I needed and bargain my way past a woman whose cart was loaded with enough food for an army. I still haven’t eaten lunch and my patience is thinning as quickly as my time. I hop on my bike back to my apartment, yams-in-hand, and fly up five flights of stairs to my front door.
3:40 pm. I have barely enough time to contemplate my bag as I nervously try to rehydrate from the early-afternoon’s exhausting ride. By 4pm I stuff what I can find and make the executive decision to shower at my destination. Shooting down the stairs I consider my best options for making the bus — at least a 20 minute walk away.
4:09 pm. I run up my block to the light rail station. Though, I arrive at the sight of a parting train. Next train, 6 minutes. Not enough time. I ran to a taxi waiting at a bus stop and in rapid Hebrew demanded “I have a bus that leaves in 5 minutes by the Central Station, can you make it?!”
“Yes, yes” his un-assuring Arab accent confirms. I jump in. We must have driven 30 feet before the driver states that our two-minute cab ride would cost me 40 shekel — a mere 400% market increase — an exaggerated price likely hinged on my impulsiveness I expressed at the time when requesting this ride.
“Let me out” I screamed as he counter-offers my refusal with a “35 Shekel”. “Out!” he stops and bargained a further reduced fair of another 5 Shekel. I leave the taxi and begin walking, now less hopeful that I would make my bus at all. My phone had died sometime during this chaos, I find out, as I look to devise another method of transit. I recall by memory Esther’s number and find a stranger’s phone to use. (Esther is my dependable navigator at crunching times like this.) “The bus only leaves the first station at 4:15pm” she reminds me, “you have another few minutes to make the last stop in Jerusalem!”.
4:20 pm. I jump back to the light rail station now more hesitant than ever. I count down nervously the minutes displayed for the arrival of the coming train. On what feels like the slowest train on earth — I ride two stops and start jogging down to the final bus stop. I meet the corner of the boulevard where I expect to see my stop. I glance nervously and see a line forming at the 419 — the final bus to Beit Shemesh — and gulp at the 3 lane highway, cars rushing at 50 mph in each direction, between my bus and me. I take my chance and leap to the middle divider, an unintended pedestrian platform half way to the other side. The line to the 419 diminishes, and at last one person awaits his turn to board. The traffic between me and the bus does not cease. I have only one choice! I stick out my arm in the hurling traffic and command the first of three lanes before me to stop! The car breaks suddenly and the scent of rubber burns in the air! The other two lanes slow in the commotion and I take my leap to the 419’s closing doors! I stick my hand in the bus’s door and grab the attention of the driver.
Incredibly, at 4:19 pm. I make the bus.
Lately, I realize we all ride the ebb and flow of stress like a mild carousel. Around it comes and goes. But only occasionally do we leap on to the power of adrenaline. That’s when you feel really alive.