It happened a year before we made aliyah. A business conference for my husband on the east coast inspired us to take a family vacation. With four children aged two to eight it was a historical pilgrimage, a sort-of farewell to America. After the Statue of Liberty, Twin Towers, Connecticut, Martha’s Vineyard, Lexington, and Concord we arrived in Boston.
Our hotel was centrally located and we were ready early the next morning to begin sightseeing. Old Ironsides was to be our first stop. Dressed as tourists and smeared with sunscreen we made our way to the bus stop. We had a long wait and once the bus arrive we boarded it eagerly. My husband handed the driver a bill large enough to cover the cost of our tickets, probably only a dime or quarter a piece. To our dismay the driver shook his head, refused the bill, and pointed to a sign.
Exact Change Only
My husband and I looked at each other in dismay. Neither of us had change. Should we get off the bus and wait for the next one? How long would that take? Having vacationed in Israel the previous year my husband had an idea.
Turning to the commuters he asked, “Does anyone have change for five dollars?”
The summer before we’d boarded buses and were amazed at the helpfulness of the other passengers. If there weren’t enough seats strangers would grab our children and put them on their laps. Teenagers would give up their places for us. No matter where we were we could always find at least one person to give us directions. We knew that Boston wasn’t Israel but we certainly weren’t prepared for the response we received.
Dead silence. People stuck their newspapers in front of their faces. Just as we were getting ready to descend a man in a business suit stood up and stuck six coins in my husband’s hand, refusing to accept the five dollars in exchange. I don’t know if it was his intention or not but he made me feel like a panhandler.
Embarrassed we slunk to our seats and sheepishly sat down. Old Ironsides was a nice outing and we managed to forget our humiliation enough to enjoy it. However, we never rode another bus until we came to Israel a year later.