Getting There is Half the Fun. Getting Home is Another Story. - Israel Story Getting There is Half the Fun. Getting Home is Another Story. - Israel Story

Getting There is Half the Fun. Getting Home is Another Story.

Joel Shupack

I was heading to a remote Kibbutz to do my first interview for Israel Story. The early morning bus ride down from Jerusalem to the Arava desert was scenic and uneventful. It was almost like an unintended highlights tour of Israel. Minutes after leaving the station, we crested a hill and were gifted a sweeping view of the Old City and the Dome of the Rock. Later we drove along the Dead Sea, past Masada, groves of date palms and Arab villages with roaming camels. Four hours seemed like an eternity so I put off actually preparing for the interview until I realized I was almost there and quickly scribbled down some notes.

My host met me at the kibbutz gate in a golf cart, and I spent a sweltering afternoon following him around, coming up with questions on the fly, the whole time wondering if I was doing this right or if I was asking all the wrong things. Is this even a story? I thought. Will anyone else find this interesting? Did I just waste four hours on a bus for nothing?

When the bus pulled up to take me back home, I noticed the driver was the same one as on the trip down: a large man in sunglasses and the requisite dark blue button-down shirt and black slacks. But as soon as I found a seat near the front and we sped away from the curb, I realized that something had changed. In the last few hours, while I was fumbling with a microphone on the kibbutz, this bus driver had somehow become an absolute maniac. The man who, hours earlier, had driven sensibly, even cautiously, was suddenly slamming the gas pedal as if to ram the cars in front of us and pumping the brakes just in time to not crush them. He leaned on his horn in erratic bursts until he was able to pass, often around blind curves. And onto the next car in his way.

What had changed since this morning? Was he rushing home to a hot date? Was there a World Cup game that he didn’t want to miss? Maybe it was blood sugar; did the man need a snack? Get this man a snack, for god’s sake!

But instead of madly rifling through their bags for snacks that would have saved us all, everyone else acted like nothing was wrong. They slept. They watched videos on their phones. They stared blankly out the windows while this runaway Mad Max driver practically drag-raced through the desert. I sat bug-eyed, holding my breath and gripping my thighs, watching through the windshield in disbelief as we got within inches of the car ahead of us, which violently backed off. All this lurching and slamming and rocking wasn’t sitting well with my stomach – full of too much kibbutz-cafeteria pasta. I decided to look anywhere but out the front window and find some higher power to start believing in.

I noticed a passenger across the aisle who was swaying back and forth. Maybe she also thought the end was near and had found a spiritual trance? Watching her seemed to calm me. Slowly, she reached into her backpack and took out what looked like a wad of plastic bags and just sat holding them for a few minutes. I craned my neck to try and see what she had. Were the bags protecting a strand of rosary beads or some ancient protective charm? She opened one of the bags like she was about to fill it with groceries. She tipped her head down into the bag and I realized that this was no trance at all. Once she started vomiting, she didn’t stop for quite some time.

I turned away, plugged in my headphones and listened back to the interview that brought me here; a pleasant voice filled my ears and I relived the day in my mind. Despite my utter lack of preparation, I had actually gotten some great tape. I was so worried about whether I was doing it right that I didn’t even notice that I was doing it. Sometimes just showing up is the most important thing. And sometimes, I thought, to the sound of steady retching from the woman with DIY barf bags, it’s also good to be prepared.

 

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