The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.

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7:36pm on Thursday, 19th December, 2013:



I'm sitting in seat 18A on EasyJet flight 2086 from Ben Guriom airport to Luton. This is a quite remarkable achievement and I feel I'm due a badge or something for unlocking it.

This morning, I was taken to Jerusalem on my own by one of the organisers of GameIS. He used to live there and generously showed me around the Old City (pictures to follow). The others from the conference were arriving in the afternoon, but my flight home is at 7:25pm so unlike everyone else I couldn't stay until late. That's why I was given the celebrity treatment and taken there early.

Traffic in Jerusalem was awful, a consequence of an unusual event over the weekend: the worst storm in 100 years, which dumped perhaps 5cm of snow on the city and caused it to grind to a halt.It's good to know that England isn't the only place where this happens, although Israel has perhaps a more valid excuse. Then again, they have in the Dead Sea an ample supply of salt, so maybe not. Anyway, there were piles of snow everywhere that were still radiating their malign influence on drivers and, perhaps more importantly, taking up parking spaces.

Anyway, because of the traffic the coach from Tel Aviv didn't arrive until 3:30. We met up with everyone at a restaurant at about 4pm (lunch apparently happens late in Israel) and I said my goodbyes then waited for the taxi.

45 minutes later a taxi drove past. It wasn't the right one but it was a taxi and it was moving, so the folks from GameIS organised with the driver to take me to the airport. I needed to be there at 5:25 for my international flight. The drive normally takes 30 minutes, so that wouldn't have been a problem had it not been for the snow and the fact it was the rush hour.

As we crawled through the traffic, the driver got increasingly frustrtated. He didn't speak much English, but he knew a full set of obscene hand gestures; these he wielded to little obvious effect but to his great persomal satisfaction at random motorists who raised his ire. He lowered his window at one point so he could use both hands to remonstrate with a van driver, not obviously cogniscent of his vehicle's inability to steer on its own.

Aware that I was running late, he kept taking short cuts. This would have been fine had they been legal. Not all of them were, however, and a police officer stopped him. Any time we might have gained from making turns we weren't supposed to from lanes we shouldn't have been in was lost in the resulting altercation with the forces of law. Unsurprisingly, being rude to police officers and accusing them of corruption is no more ffective in Israel than anywhere else.

Leaving Jerusalem, the traffic was still bad. The driver summoned enough English to inform me that he wished he'd never taken the job. After a while, though, it changed from stop-start to slow-but-flowing.

It was as if a switch flicked in the driver's head. He was no longer at the controls of a taxi, but of a sports car in a movie, able to weave in carefully-choreographed fashion between vehicles which were rehearsed to partially obstruct his passage. He shot off like a rocket, alternatively overtaking and undertaking cars and trucks while ignoring motorcyrcles entirely. As if to reassure me, he said he didn't normslly drive like that; this had the opposite effect in my mind, however, as it implied he had no experience at driving crazily (well, beyond that of the normal Israeli, which to be fair does seem to be considerable).

It worked, though. We arrived at the airport at about 6pm, with only his insistance that I needed to be a terminal 3 when my boarding pass said terminal 1 causing any delay.

This left me with 55 minutes to get to the depsrture gate. Plenty of time!

Hmm. Plenty of time at an airport not geared up with military-level security and a population with a different idea of how queues work to me. Time and time again I joined a line, but when I got to near the front another line materialised from nowhere (typically led by guys in religious uniform — the big hats and coats and the side curls in their hair — of whom there were about 20 travelling together to Manchester). Twice, I was switched to a line by officials only to find myself immediately behind a family with three young children and a pushchair full of assorted toys, clothes and victuals. Once, I got to the front only for someone to be placed ahead of me who needed special treatment because she was taking a flight leaving soon — my flight, in fact. Anither time, I had a Chinese student moved in front of me at an X-ray machine, He looked to have a parachute in his backpack; whatever it was, it offended the sensibilities of the security staff and they hauled him off to confiscate it. The only luck I did have was when I got to the end of the very first queue and was asked if I had a security letter. I didn't know I needed one to leave the country (or to enter it, come to that) but I'd printed off everything I'd been sent by the GameIS organisers and one of the letters in my pile was from a government commerce minister (to whom I had been introduced while waiting for the taxi — nice chap). That had a pleasantly lubricating effect.

Having got through security, I then had to make it to the gate. The gate number was C2. The C meant terminal 3. EasyJet does make everyone go to terminal 1 to check in and clear security, but then you have to get on a bus to take you to terminal 3 when the driver deigns to leave. Well, actually it takes you to to terminal 2; you then have to race to terminal 3 because it's now 6:45 and the gate closes at 6:55.

I arrived with around 2 minutes to spare. There weren't many people there at all, so I thought it was a near-empty flight, Not bit of it, though: another 150 passengers must also have had trouble with the Jerusalem traffic and they rolled up later than the 6:55 beyond which EasyJet insists that everyone is present because they're not going to let you board if you're not. That, along with the fact that the plane was boarded only through the front door and not by seat number, meant I was able to write this before take-off.

Maybe I'll check it before I post it, though; it's hard to type on an EasyJet meals tray at the best of times, never mindwhen there's a woman sitting next to you with a broken arm.

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Copyright © 2013 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).