Two comments on the state of things

There’s nothing like a day off to make room in the brain for thoughts that are not work- or news-related. Eden, my four-year-old grandson whose nursery school is now on vacation, provided that much-needed break.

RIDING THE FREEDOM BUS

I must not have been on a bus for a while, or perhaps the last time I just didn’t notice. But today I got on a bus and was very pleasantly surprised to see a sticker just in front of the first row of seats that said:

“Every passenger has the right to sit anywhere on the bus he chooses (with the exception of seats marked as being for people with disabilities). Harassing a passenger regarding this matter may be a criminal offense.”

The reference, of course, was to extremists in the ultra-Orthodox community who would have women sit in the back of the bus. In an attempt to attract ultra-Orthodox clients, the bus cooperative Egged instituted segregated-seating mehadrin (super-kosher) bus lines, on which women who tried to sit anywhere but the back or whose clothing was not up to ultra-Orthodox standards of modesty were harassed, harangued, and even physically assaulted.

Israel’s High Court of Justice ruled in January 2011 that enforced separation by sex on buses or in any other place of business is a violation of the Basic Law: Human Liberty and Dignity, but allowed a year to test “voluntary separation.”

I would like to think the sticker means that women are no longer being harassed (though signs on public conveyances, like the sticker on the same bus asking politely that passengers not put their feet on the seats, usually indicate that the problem is widespread). And I didn’t see a single ultra-Orthodox (or other) woman voluntarily sit in the back of the bus if a seat was vacant in the front.

C.T. SOON, I HOPE YOU’RE IN JAIL—SOON

Like most of my compatriots, especially in these trying times, I could use a financial boost. That’s why I was interested to see that the Nigerian scam has now gone multilingual. This morning I received a garbled note from Mr. C.T. Soon, purportedly chairman of the comptrolling committee of the Singapore Bank, offering me a 40% share of 100 euro and $5 million.

The novelty in this note was that it was in Hebrew. Clearly, the con artists using the Nigerian scam have cottoned on to Google Translate. It makes me wonder why they didn’t think of it sooner, but still, I have to applaud their gumption (much as I detest their aims). I’m old enough to remember receiving handwritten Nigerian scam letters, and I used to imagine classrooms of Nigerian children practicing their penmanship by copying out these missives.

Of course, Google Translate has its limitations, especially when a person has a surname like Soon. The electronic translator can’t distinguish between that proper noun and the adverb, thus making for some entertaining gibberish.

As a fellow translator commented yesterday when I showed him a particularly hilarious “translation” into English (the Hebrew word for “mirage” rendered as “fatter Morgan”), “I guess we’ll have retired before they come up with a really good machine translator.”

So at least we won’t starve, even if Mr. Soon doesn’t make us millionaires overnight.

Text copyright 2012 by Esther Hecht. No part of the text may be used without written permission of the author.

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5 Responses to “Two comments on the state of things”

  1. David Bennett Says:

    That’s good news about the seating arrangements. I hope that it marks a far point in the U turn back to common sense.

    Your image of the Nigerian children is priceless.

  2. Tamara Colloff-Bennett Says:

    Glad to hear about the seating arrangements on the buses going back into the modern age!

    And I loved your comment about the Nigerian scam artists using Google to translate their ridiculous pitches into English. This Google translation just came up for me in Facebook since a good friend of mine is Japanese & bilingual, so she either writes in Japanese or English depending on whom she is addressing.

    David & I put some of her comments in Japanese into Google Translation, & it was hysterically incomprehensible! 🙂

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