“What happens in a taxi should stay in said taxi”: This is a motto that a friend of mine swears by. Before leaving North America, I was warned by many friends that, at any point during one’s year in Israel, one should expect to be completely overcharged for at least one insignificant, but absolutely necessary taxi ride. Today, on my very first day as a seminary student, I experienced firsthand what it feels like to be totally dependant on an obnoxious, self absorbed, greedy and irate taxi driver.
A couple of my friends and I found ourselves stranded in the dark, at the Malcha Mall, which is totally not within walking distance for a group of severely jet-lagged teenage girls. Being the relatively responsible group of girls we are, we decided to spring for a taxi, only to realize, five minutes later, that we had absolutely no idea how to catch a taxi in a foreign country. After the fiasco that was our attempt to get instructions from a variety of different people—most notably from a Chasidic family that spoke neither Hebrew nor English—we found ourselves standing in the middle of a busy underground parking lot, holding heavy bags full of school supplies, with absolutely no way to get back to our midrasha.
After waiting for what seemed like forever—but was in reality only a couple of minutes—a taxi drove by and we rushed to attempt to flag it down. The taxi driver seemed like a nice guy, giving us the impression that he would be willing to drive us back to our midrasha for a mere 20 NIS. After thanking him profusely, the four of us climbed into the taxi and were on our way.
Our fedora-ed taxi driver began our ride by announcing, “Zulu ben Gulu in da house!” and proceeding to roll every single one of the taxi’s windows down and blast rap music for the entire city to hear, while wildly flailing his arms and attempting to sing along with the lyrics. One of my friends completely lost her head, and began to dance along to the music in the backseat of the car, while the remaining three of us looked on in horror. After about five minutes of this absurdity, Zulu became bored of his antics and turned the music’s volume down to a noise level that could almost be tolerated by normal members of society.
As our taxi continued to weave in and out of traffic, the wind rushing by at an incredible speed, Zulu proceeded to go off on a tirade about his political convictions. He began by ranting about his unequivocal hatred of the government—we’re not sure which one—and followed this up by asking for our help to write a letter to President Obama about lowering the price of gas for Israeli taxis. One of my friends, attempting to make polite conversation, asked Zulu what he had against President Obama. Zulu’s reply: “Ani ohev rak et atzmi, velo acherim”—“I only like myself, and not others.” He followed this up by stating, “In English, this is called egotistic.”
A couple of insanely long minutes later, we managed to arrive, relatively unscathed, at our midrasha. Zulu then announced that he had had a change of heart—he wanted us to pay him 30 NIS, rather than the 20 that we had originally agreed on. After a bit of attempted bargaining, money changed hands, and, as Zulu drove off, he yelled a promise out the taxi’s still open window: “Next time, I no rip you off—I make you great deal!”
Right now, sitting on the roof of the midrasha and looking out over the darkened city with my new friends, I have come to the realization that life is always going to throw you curve balls. It isn’t about staying away from taking any risks, but about how you respond to the situations at hand and how past experiences shape your future actions.
Being a teenager alone in a foreign country is a very harrowing experience—there were many points today at which I wished I was back home with my family, where everything is simple and taken care of for me. It’s not like my friends and I went out acting irresponsibly. We went to the mall to buy our school supplies and arrange a cell phone plan. Today’s situation is an example of the saying, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” We had a very unique experience today, one that none of us asked for and that we did not bring upon ourselves in any way. Today taught me that certain parts of life are inevitable, and that we learn about ourselves by the ways in which we respond to these situations.
So ends my first lesson learned during my year in Israel: Make the best of everything that happens, because that’s just life. Life is too short to focus on the negatives—look for the positives and the humor in every situation because there’s always an upside to everything that happens.
Eliana Glogauer is currently studying on one of Masa Israel’s 200 programs.