Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Have you ever sat on the bus in the morning on your way to work and longed to miss your stop and just keep going? Have you ever felt that your workplace, the place you spend the best hours of every day, making a living, is a prison? Have you ever wished to be free, free to not voluntarily incarcerate yourself day after day?

I get these feelings every so often, of dissatisfaction, of yearning to cut loose. How spoiled I am.

At the class I take in South Tel Aviv, once a week, with workers from a large governmental authority, I often hear stories that teach me to appreciate my "prison".

There is a guy there, very loud, very brash, and always ready to tell a vulgar joke or say cruel things to people (or laugh at them behind their backs). Not really my kind of guy. But he has an endearing side, a touching ability to speak openly about himself and his life. He does so without expressing any need to apologize or justify. It's as if he is saying this is who I am. I have nothing I am ashamed of.

One time he told us of his army service, or rather his lack of it. He was recruited as one of what was known as "Raful's boys". Lieutenant General (res.) Rafael Eitan, always referred to as Raful, IDF Chief of Staff during the Lebanon War (and ex-Knesset member. I think he was a government minister as well, a few times, but I'm too lazy to look it up right now), initiated an army program whereby boys from the wrong side of the tracks, formerly more trouble to the army than they were worth, were taken into the army, given a basic education (many were even taught to read and write), and trained in an army skill, often one that could prove useful to them in civilian life, later on. R.T. worked with some of them when he was in the army, and had warm words for their work. Anyway, our guy joined up with this program, but soon he was making problems. He was discharged after three months.

Yesterday we were discussing how some people who grew up on the same block became criminals, while others didn't, and why this was. He said it had been just a matter of luck for him. And now he was holding down a steady job in a governmental authority, while a lot of the people he grew up with were in prison. Apparently, one of his childhood buddies is an escaped convict, living on the run somewhere in Central or South America.

So here's me with my periodical feelings of discontent at my unfulfilling job; and here's this guy, grateful that he's not dealing on a street corner, dodging the cops. Now you tell me, which one of us has more sense.