Archaeofoolery, part II

Another joy-ride in Wadi Acbar

A few days ago I made the red-eyed drive down to the Jordan River valley for a couple more days of archaeological surveying. The trip was either a continuation or aftershock of the weird (I’d hate to say rotten, cause sometimes bad luck is fun) happenings of the last week.

My first adventure in ill-fortune actually took place in Eilat, where I boarded a poorly refurbished Model-T owned by the dive center. The drive to the scuba site was short, only five or ten minutes outside of town, but the van was plastered with dire warnings and seatbelt commandments. On every door panel, above every seat, and several places along the dashboard were taped huge signs reading things like “Seat-belts are the LAW”, “Unbuckled = 2000 shekel fine” and “Ok, don’t buckle up, it’s not our money”. Chuckling to myself, I hauled the ancient belt out of the seat and fiddled with the rusted buckle to get it to snap shut. Just as I was about to give up, the driver turned around and made sure to remind us (screaming) that seat-belts were required. Of course, after a few more tender caresses and a less-than gentlemanly moment of violence, the seat-belt latched and I rode the rest of the way in immutable safety. Of course, when the van arrived at the beach, the seat-belt wouldn’t unlatch and after ten minutes of heated battle (along with lots of semi-indecent attempts by everyone else in the van to get the buckle undone), we all gave up and I asked for a knife. No one had one, except for the diving guide, who pulled out a dull bayonet which he refused to hand over. After another ten minutes of near-stabbings, as the guide furiously pumped the serrated edge of the knife across my gut and the nylon weave of the seat-belt, I was liberated and vowed never to buckle up again in my life.

Strike one. The next installment of krappy karma kicked-in during our archaeological survey, when our trusty early-eightees model Jeep M-240 4×4, only slightly younger in appearance than the bronze-age artifacts we dug up, broke down in the middle of BFN Samaria. Unable to start the behemoth, we called in a couple of young security guards from the nearby settlement who had been “dismantling cars since they were in diapers.” After a messy diagnostic routine, they told us that they have no idea what’s wrong with it, but that we could probably get it going on a push-start. Lets take a break now to go over one of the most useful and magical skills in the history of automotive care, a technique which everyone should be familiar with:

How to push-start a Jeep (or other appropriate vehicle)-
I’m not sure, but I think your car must be a manual transmission. Ideally, you’ve parked on a slope which will allow your vehicle to roll ahead with minimum pushing. More likely, you’re stuck at the bottom of a ditch and there’s no way that you and your one-legged driving mate can push the truck back out. Anyway, get everybody but the driver to get behind the car and prepare to push. The driver can push from the driver side door and then hop in. Put the key in the ignition (don’t try to start the engine), unlock the steering, put the car in neutral and push till you pop a hernia. Once the vehicle is moving at a jogging pace (minimum), push in the clutch, put her in first gear, and then let off the clutch while turning the ignition. You will feel the car strain and then hopefully start. Originally, I thought only diesels could be crank-started, but this Jeep took regular unleaded, the battery was basically dead, and the trick still worked. Woo hoo! Needless to say, we spent the rest of the day parking on inclines and letting the gas-hungry charybdis idle while we worked. A few pathetic stalls made for more pushing, but we always got her going.

The third major misfortune wore a park ranger uniform and waited for us, leaning against the hood of our Jeep as we hiked back from a site with a backpack full of artifacts. Apparently, we need special permits to hike off-trail on federal park lands. The officer wrote us all up, threatened to fine us hundreds of dollars, and made us dump our archaeological finds. The whole escapade took at least an hour, since the lonely park ranger was hungry for chit-chat, even with deviant researchers like ourselves. I am now the proud owner of an Israeli criminal record.

Check out a new poem-in-progress about digging up old stuff in the desert.

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~ by jonlib on October 15, 2006.

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