Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Makin' A Deal

When I travel, I like to ride a bike in whatever place I find myself.  And Jerusalem is no different.  Earlier this week in Tel Aviv, I had seen plenty of evidence of bike culture - bike rental stalls like I had seen in London and Vienna, dedicated bike lanes and bikes locked to every imaginable structure.

Here in Jerusalem, with the city existing on many, many hills and having seen people wearing T-shirts that say "I walked my feet off in Jerusalem", I was excited to see a large number of people traversing the hills and valleys on bikes.  Mountain bikes especially.  In fact, nighttime tours of the old city with its narrow cobbled lanes are held for cyclists wanting the thrill of being able to ride on the same stone - paved streets as Jesus once did.
The same stone street that Jesus walked

I had no luck finding the automated bike rental stalls that I had seen on the coast and while riding "Shank's pony" through a West Jerusalem park, a group of three youths wizzed past me on their bikes, one of them striking my plastic shopping bag full of last minute gifts and a prized olive green T-shirt with the inscription "Israel Defence Force" emblazoned on its front.

The boys surprised me by stopping and apologizing and I was pleased to find out they spoke English.  That's when the idea hit me that I could ask one of them to borrow his bike and go for a little jaunt around the park.  Independance Park to be exact.  They were sceptical and it wasn't until I left my bag of gifts with them as collateral and promised to ride within view (and only for a few minutes) and give them all the coins in my pocket for their trouble that they thought that my gifts might just be worth more than the MTB that I was going to use.
The deal makers

While they cavorted on a basketball court, I rode around its perimeter for a few minutes while they talked and joked amongst themselves.  Probably saying something like "Look at that goofy foreigner with his white legs!  or "Did you see how many sheckels he had in his hand - we got ripped off! or most likely "Hey Shlomo, why don't we just take off with this goy's stuff and let Avriham deal with the Americano and besides, the guy is so old, he'd never catch us on such a shi**y bike!".

After an experience yesterday with a pickpocket, and having trouble riding such a poorly maintained bike, I cut short my little ride and when I joined the small group, I made sure I got my bag back before handing over the bike.  Their disamy was palpable when I emptied out my pocket and showed them the meager amount of sheckels they were going to receive.  I tried completing the deal by throwing in a baseball cap and it wasn't until the one called Avriham demanded the cold can of Heineken that a deal was successfully struck.  Thank God they hadn't rifled through the bag enough to discover the rare black licorice pinwheels I planned to munch on our flight home. 

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