Dan Goes Digital / Requiem for a Bus Ticket

That's it: the era of paper is at an end. Newspapers will continue their appearance for some time, so will books in print, though the internet is breathing down both of their necks, but the multiple-ride bus ticket printed on paper is finished.

The ticket conductor was first to go, along with the bell signaling the driver to start the bus. Now it is the turn of the paper buss pass to breathe its last. In a day or two Dan buses will no longer have paper bus passes.

This is no small matter. No more punching holes in the ticket, no more hole punchers, an end to the felling of trees.

No more different shapes of holes punched: a crescent, a star, a rhombus. Each driver will imprint his stamp on my bus ticket but only electronically. To the plethora of plastic "smart" cards in our wallets, paying for everything, knowing everything, now there is another card of the sort that knows it all, and about which big brother knows all.

The new "Multi-line" pass has a built-in chip a photograph and a name. Each person has a name and so does every bus pass. Is this not a revolution?

It still is not Europe, where you get on a bus and have no contact with the driver, and you know precisely when the bus will arrive, but it still is a little revolution.

"You get on the bus, place it this way, it makes a noise and you're in," a driver on the 25 bus line instructed an elderly man who was having trouble adjusting to the revolutionary change yesterday.

"With no problem?" asked the old man with worry in his voice. "The driver will hear the noise? And every bus will have this thing?"

The passenger could not be reassured. Several minutes later he went back to the driver with yet another question to ask. Oh, the threat of progress! The last of the paper bus passes are still for sale.

Passengers are still divided among those who do not believe in progress in buss pases and we, the iPhone, iPod, iPad generation, with the new tickets. The relatively young with the smart card, and the older ones (still) with the dumb ones.

A woman carrying bags got on the bus. During the late morning the bus, whose route runs north to south through metropolitan Tel Aviv, is full mostly with elderly and women.

The bus travels through the panoramas of my childhood which changes as it passes, and with them change the faces of the passengers. Elderly with their Filipina helpers in the "quiet north" gradually replaced by the less privileged from the south.

Nati Brinder says that I was his lecturer at the university ages ago and now he is responsible for the nearly lost debts of Bank Leumi. He too rides the bus and has a pass. The signs on the outside pass quickly, changing as we go: couches mended, glass and windows, curtains for NIS 25, NIS 10 for soup.People are standing in line for Dabush's shawarma.

Looking outside or inside, the scenes are fascinating, but once in a while I sneak a peak at my bus pass, which carries my photograph. Gone are the days that I would only agree to get on the "Tiger" bus with my parents, that Leyland bus with the little statue of a lion its hood; gone are the days of the paper bus pass and they will never return.