It was literally below freezing when we arrived at the checkpoint at 5:00 p.m. However, there were no lines, as people were walking directly through one of the three turnstiles (each at the end of the three narrow, bar-lined passages known as the “cages”) and on to the five open checking stations. Although it is customary to leave turnstile no. 3 (the left one) open when traffic through them is not being regulated, in this case only no. 1 (the right one) was open. At one point -- since out of habit some people were lining up in no. 3 and whistling for him to open its turnstile, the soldiers in the "Aquarium" pressed several buttons but failed to do so. We didn’t know whether this was because the turnstile was broken or whether the soldier had not been properly briefed in how to operate it. Consequently, we directed people entering the checkpoint to use no. 1.
This remained the case, with lines building up at the entrances to the five checking stations but people exhibiting patience and maintaining order, until about 5:40. Then a policeman appeared, set up a barrier to neutralize turnstile no. 1, but showed the soldier how to open turnstiles 2 and 3. Hence the usual three lines that proceed via the “cages” were reduced to two for the rest of the morning, but more people were let through each time the turnstiles were opened.
The Humanitarian Gates opened at 6:05 and thereafter each time a handful of people gathered before it. At one point the Civil Administration soldier in charge of the gate was approached by a woman who was either anxious about the state of her permit or had been rejected at the checking station and sent back out. In any case, after a brief conversation with her, he accompanied her and her child into the area of the checking station and soon thereafter return alone, leading us to understand that he had solved whatever issue she had brought to him. We have cited him in the past as the kind of professional and self-possessed soldier needed and appreciated at checkpoints. More power to him!
Lines still extended beyond the cages when we left the checkpoint at 7:00 a.m. However, the morning traffic jam leading to the vehicle checkpoint seemed a bit lighter than usual.