Expatriate Owl

A politically-incorrect perspective that does not necessarily tow the party line, on various matters including but not limited to taxation, academia, government and religion.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

An Old Rule of the Road

Notwithstanding the habits of the British, one of the oldest traffic rules is to drive one's car (or wagon or chariot) on the right-hand side of the road.  As a little boy, I knew and practiced it with my tricycle even before receiving my driver's license.

The town in Israel where I live has a little network of dedicated bicycle lanes, mostly (but not all) on sidewalks off the road from the traffic.  I was riding along one of them today, going at a healthy rate of speed, and saw another bicyclist coming towards me.  I slowed down and took pains to steer towards the right side of the bike path (which is about meters wide at where I was).  The other cyclist started to steer in front of me -- i.e., towards his left.

He continued to do so, and I had to quickly shift towards my left (i.e., his right) to avoid a collision.  We did avoid the collision, but we each had to momentarily stop.

Israel is a land where many languages are spoken on the street.  In my town there are groups of speakers of English, Russian, some German, a few Ethiopians, and a growing sector of French (including many from Montreal).    Like many visitors and recent arrivals, I am still brushing up on my Hebrew (and will likely start with an organized Hebrew language course, known as an "Ulpan," at some time in the next few weeks; details are in the works).  It is not uncommon to conflate words among the various languages, and that is what I did today.

The other bicyclist seemed clueless as to the old rule to keep toward one's right.  And I did detect an attitude during our very brief encounter, which could not have lasted more than 5 seconds in toto.  And I was not in the best of moods at the moment, never mind the other issues that were at hand.  The only words spoken were (1) the other cyclist's startled "Slikha!" {Hebrew equivalent of "Excuse me!}; and my disgusted admonition to him to stay on the right hand side.  The appropriate Hebrew would have been "L'Yamin!" {To the Right}, but the first words I grabbed from my linguistic armamentarium were not Hebrew, but were some of the scarce and sparse few Russian words I know, no doubt couched in suboptimal grammar and tense:  "Na Pravo, Eedeeot!"

He turned towards me.  Without specifically intending it, I apparently had spoken in his native language.

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  • At 29 July, 2015 20:29, Blogger Aaron said…

    Nice story indeed, and glad you avoided the collision. I had a similar language encounter happen to me visiting Israel many years ago. I was walking toward a bus stop and a fellow calls out and starts speaking to me in Russian. Since I didn't look Israeli he figured I must be Russian - Luckily for him, my having a Russian Jewish girlfriend and having studied the language in school, I was able to muddle along and have a chat with him which was pretty funny at the time.


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