Sunday, June 29, 2008


One thing in Turkey that annoys me terribly is people's inability to queue. Sometimes the line is merely a crowded free-for-all with lots of pushing, while other times there is clearly a line and some woman just saunters to the front of it as though she's so much cleverer than everyone else. People always let this happen, which I find especially galling.

I like to think that I've not adopted these kinds of behaviors myself, but there was an incident this past Wednesday when I arrived in Portland airport after 16 hours of travelling alone with LE who was, in his defense, stunningly good for all but three hours of the flight.

We whipped through passport control, which meant, according to Murphy's Law or something, that our bags would lost or, at best, the last ones out. They were the last ones out and LE wasn't happy after the hour-long wait. Plus, another large flight landed shortly after ours, so it was very crowded. Plus, we had a lot of bags-- three large suitcases on a cart with a carseat teetering at the top.

By the time I'd hefted all our bags onto the cart, a long line had formed to get to the exit. As I was muscle-ing the cart along with one hand and the stroller with the other (pushing a stroller with one hand is unnecessarily challenging, as it tends to veer wildly from side to side for no reason), I looked at the line which snaked all the way back to passport control, surrounded on both sides with an obstacle course of suitcases, people, children, and carts that would have been challenging to navigate even without my own enormously laden and unwieldy cart and the veering stroller. It's not like I could have left one thing in order to get the other thing. Plus, at the front of the line was another line of Indians and Germans merging in because they were so much cleverer than everyone who'd joined the line at the back.

So I made a command decision. I used the Turkish principle of queuing up, pretended I was invisible and just started merging into middle of the line from where I stood. It was hardly as seamless as I might have liked, given all that I was pushing and the stroller taking off at whatever angles suited it.

And of course, because it's America, I got busted. A man asked me where I was going. "I'm going to the exit," I responded cheerfully, not looking at him as I patted LE's fussing head. "Are you going to customs?" he asked. "Yes," I replied. "There's a sign there that says 'Customs' on it." I was trying to pretend I was either very stupid or very clever. It just made him mad. "There is a line, you know. It starts back there." I then regretted that I hadn't just started yammering at him in Turkish, pretending I didn't speak English, though in retrospect, it probably would have just caused him to start saying everything louder-- he seemed like that sort of fellow. So I opted for snappishness. It was all I could do after not having slept for 24 hours. And I do expect people to at least have a modicum of sympathy for someone who's just done a trans-Atlantic flight alone with a 16-month old child. "I know. It's just that I have cart and a stroller and I really don't feel like trying to push them through all that stuff." "I have two bags too," he replied, motioning to the two small bags he was wheeling behind himself. I stared at him until he looked away. "It's hardly the same thing," I told him. He started to say something else, so I opted for sarcastic shaming. "Look, if it's so important for you to go first, please just go ahead. It'll save you lots of time." It worked. "Oh no," he said with false solicitousness,"You're already halfway in the line anyway." "Yes, I am." I said. And that was the end of it. "Some people," I said softly to LE as I patted his head, "Aren't very nice." Meaning I'd even managed to justify my own rudeness to myself as correct behavior.

So sometimes the modes of our adopted cultures come in handy. If he'd continued to make a problem, I suppose I would have had to go for the next line of Turkish defence, which is loudly declaring him to be impolite and what a shame it all is.

And I have to say, I was ever so pleased that he got pulled out for a customs search anyway. Even with that, and even though he must have been on the shuttle after mine, he was still out of the gate before I was, because that's how hard it was to push all that stuff. I noticed as he passed me that he was helping a very frail old man, which was probably why he had two bags to wheel, and I couldn't help but think what a jerk he was to make that poor old man go and stand from the back of the line.

1 comment:

siobhan said...

Lol, that's funny. Well done on making it there in one piece. Our 4 hour flight to the UK is bad enough. Have a great trip