Silly me. I forgot that all 8 days of Chanuka are school holidays, and today being day 8 and warm and sunny, a good part of Israel decided to bring the kids to Tel Aviv and let them drive all of us urbanites crazy rather than keep them cooped up on the kibbutz/farm.
So I buy my "pensioner" ticket for the equivalent of US$1.50 and the information lady informs me that the next train to the airport leaves in TWO MINUTES, at 14:29 (that's 2:29 PM to you 12-hour-clock folks). While marvelling that the information lady actually gave me some information without argument or scolding, I walk rapidly to the down escalator and discover that there is no down escalator, only an up escalator. Blood pressure slightly elevated, ignoring the gibberish coming out of the PA system announcing the imminent departure of my train, I try to walk rapidly down the stairs, and find my way blocked by a very gentle dad ushering three toddlers slowly and deliberately down the two-person-wide stairs. Toddlers concentrating on their newly-acquired stairway skills are not ready for Slow Traffic Keep To The Right rules, and neither was their dad. Not wanting to be responsible for the downfall of said toddlers (the dad was attached by two hands, so I couldn't bash into him either), I wormed my way as rapidly as I could past the blockage only to encounter a few people just hanging out on the stairs. I was wondering why they were doing that, when I reached the platform, just in time to see the caboose of my train pulling out of the station, and encountered hordes of people crowding the platform. Aha! I haven't seen so many people on a train platform since my rush-hour subway commutes in NYC. The next PA announcement was a warning to parents to keep their children away from the edge of the platform, which most of them ignored, further raising my blood pressure. I cheer up when I realize I've just understood a PA announcement in Hebrew: a major triumph!
I tried to find a quiet place to wait the 20 minutes until the next train. Silly me! Luckily, another train heading southward came soon and whisked away the majority of the very raucous children and their keepers (they were on day trips, not airport-bound).
The train ride took about 15 minutes, and when I arrived I felt I had taken a train ride to the Phoenix airport (where I've never been). It was so BIG, efficient, sleek, modern, and so not-Israeli, my eyes filled up with tears. My little baby's all grown up and globalized.
The Arrivals area is symmetric so I couldn't find a unique kiosk, ATM, money change window; you will all just have to look for me at Exit 01 if you don't see me when you emerge from Customs.
Oh, and the sports-outfit shop didn't have any fleece hats.
*In his Zionist novel, Altneuland (Old New Land, 1902), [Theodore] Herzl pictured the future Jewish state as a socialist utopia. He envisioned a new society that was to rise in the Land of Israel on a cooperative basis utilizing science and technology in the development of the Land.