The first thing I noticed was the youngish man who stood up and said, “I’ll tell the driver.”
Tell the driver? Was he crazy? He sounded like the old woman the other day who called out “Rega!” as she made for the open door, causing me to smile. Rega, literally moment, is what an Israeli passenger calls to the bus driver to warn him not to close the door because the passenger wants to get off. Despite eighteen months of living with the light railway, Jerusalemites are still not completely used to this mode of transport. Some of them, for instance, still think they should be able to buy the ticket on the train.
But this man, it turned out, wasn’t crazy. He knocked on the glass that separated our front carriage from the driver’s compartment. When the driver turned round, the man spoke to him.
“Someone’s dropped a Rav Kav between the train and the platform. I’ll try and get it. Don’t move the train.” A Rav Kav, I should explain, is Jerusalem’s version of London’s Oyster card. You can fill it up and use it to travel on trains and buses within the city.
The man reached down, retrieved the card and handed it to the grateful old man who had dropped it. The younger man returned to his seat and the older man touched his card on the machine and sat down, too. The train doors closed and the train pulled away from the station. I glanced at my watch. Almost one o’clock. A popular time for old people to travel, I thought, looking around.
Suddenly an old man with a knitted yarmulke stood up. There is a dress code here as far as men’s headgear goes. A knitted yarmulke means orthodox. A black one means more orthodox. A black hat means ultra-orthodox. The old man with the knitted yarmulke said, “I lost my Rav Kav.” He took a pile of papers out of his pocket and started to go through them.
Another old man, with white curly hair and no yarmulke, said, “So it’s yours?”
There followed a convoluted conversation between Knitted Yarmulke and No Yarmulke, during which each tried to make sense of the other’s words. All the while Knitted Yarmulke went through the same pile of papers over and over, opening and refolding pages of newspaper and searching inside a wallet.
“Was it a Rav Kav?”
“What sort of card did you lose?”
“A card for the train.”
“A single ticket or a whole card?”
“A card – a Rav Kav.”
“Someone over there found a Rav Kav. Maybe it’s yours.”
Knitted Yarmulke went to ask. “I heard someone found a Rav Kav and I just lost one. Maybe it’s mine.”
“No,” said the lucky old man whose Rav Kav had been retrieved for him by the younger man. “I dropped my Rav Kav and this man picked it up for me. But it’s mine, I promise.”
“I believe you. I’m not accusing you.”
They parted amicably and Knitted Yarmulke returned to his seat minus a Rav Kav.
“You can get another one,” said No Yarmulke.
“I know, I’ve lost it before,” said Knitted Yarmulke. “But I’m going home now, in the other direction.”
“Right, but another time you can buy a single ticket and go to get a new Rav Kav.”
I was glad that was all finally cleared up.