18 July 2008

I, Wildebeest

Wildebeest don’t think, they just run. Follow the herd is the only lesson they learn in life. I never heard of a Wildebeest that stopped and questioned the reason why they had to stampede through the Serengeti as opposed to just a gentle canter. And why should they. Go with the flow.

Like migrating wildebeest, the rumble could be heard for miles around. The rumble turned into a tumultuous groan as the convoy of heavy vehicles reached there destination. Most had Nazareth printed on the back, some Afula and a couple from surrounding Arab villages. This was the charge of the heavy brigade, the juggernauts associated with every type of construction project in Israel. They were the reason the roads remained unfinished as they crushed, pitted and warped the soft baked tarmac of our local streets. With a shriek of squeaky breaks the convoy halted, but the engines continued belching black fumes into the air.

Suddenly there was a lot of shouting, as commands were relayed down the line of vehicles. The engines fell silent; the drivers dismounted, climbed into a mini van and disappeared. Two weeks later the drivers returned, mounted their vehicles, and the herd moved out and that was that. Not even Ephraim Kishon could have envisaged such strange behavior. But of course that’s not the end of the story.

Another two weeks passed and the trucks returned, the drivers parked, dismounted, disappeared and a week later returned and vanished.

This pattern, not that I was counting, but it did turn into a bit of joke, carried on for six months.

Now, I thought to myself, what Israeli logic is behind these happenings, what cultural aspect of Israel society am I missing, what in the name of anything remotely sane is going on?

So I asked and I still, to this day, have not been able to get my head around the insanity of it all. According to one of the drivers this is the very special and secret holy formula that these truckers live their lives by: gas x kilometers x location x job x potential job x time = budget = bread. Go the furthest distance to any job, even if its not a real job, log the kilometers, the time and submit (in triplicate) forms to say you’ve been on a job, or a potential job. This information is collated by an underpaid girl from Kiriyat Malachi with a ‘couldn’t-care-less’ attitude (oh you know her, she gets around). The information is then sent to the local council (Iriya) who, based on the information, pay the outsourced construction company and set a budget based on all the work that was potentially done.

I would love to believe (deep down) that none of the above is true, and for all I know it may not be although to find a better explanation of why these trucks just roam the country, park up and then leave, is beyond me. Maybe it has something to do with climate change or the water shortage, maybe it’s the global credit crunch or food shortages, maybe it’s the war on terror or the Olympic Games. Could be any, or all.

I guess it’s not for us to reason why. And that’s the secret of living here because a true homegrown Israeli wouldn’t even bother to think about it at all. They just go with the flow.