Yom sheni, 22 Elul 5768.
This post is dedicated to Rabbi Elan Adler. With all due respect.
A new oleh is often on the lookout for small proofs that he is becoming Israeli. Mastering the various hand signs and sound effects is as important to the Israeli wannabe as is learning to say "Aize ba'asa!" in place of "What a bummer!"
Well. I am inching ever closer.
There is only one way to get an Egged bus driver to open the back door at your stop, if he didn't think of it on his own. The bus driver, called a "nahag," cannot be reasoned with in the ordinary American fashion one uses with service personnel. You can't hope for success by saying something like, "Excuse me, Mister Nahag. Will you please open the door?" Even if you say that in perfect Hebrew. Rather, you must cry out: "Naaaaaaaaaag!"
This is not as simple as it sounds. There are fine rules of pronunciation that, if ignored, render the term "Nahag" unrecognizable to the Israeli ear. Think tonal, as in Vietnamese. (Did you know that there are about ten different ways tonally to pronounce the word "ma" in Vietnamese, that mean everything from "mother" to "grave"? Ah, the important cultural lessons one can learn, growing up around Pike Place Market in Seattle. But I digress.)
It was really, really important for The Dearly Beloved and me to get off at Malcha Mall today. The bus driver was too busy, initially, to see our problem. He chatted pleasantly with the fifteen people entering the bus by the front door. "Nahag!" my husband said, forcefully but politely.
People throughout the bus took up our cry, as is the way among these helpful natives.
"Naaag!" Naaaag!" "NAAAG!"
As the bus began to pull away, I tried out the special, nasal bellow I had heard little old ladies use on countless buses, but had felt too demure to employ.
At last! Success! We flung our bodies out the slowly opening door, as the bus continued to pull away from the curb.
As a public service, I will try my best to describe the correct method and pronunciation, to save future olim embarrassment and traffic-related bruises.
The trick is to expel the sound, as loudly as possible, from the nasal cavity. It must sound something like this, to be really successful: