Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Elevators, Escalators, Doorways, and An Incongruity

One thing I've always had a hard time with here is people's differing notions of how we occupy public spaces. For example, I don't think doorways and stairways are good places to sit and talk with my friends. That's because I have this crazy idea that those are places people need to use to get to other places, and if I stand in one of them looking around blankly, I'm very likely to be in someone's way and annoy them. I also think that if people keep trying to get by me and I find that annoying, I should just find somewhere else to go stand.

But that's just me.

I also was taught at a young age in places like elevators, trains, and buses that when the doors open, the people inside the thing should get out before the people outside the thing get in. It somehow makes the whole embarking/disembarking thing go so much more smoothly. But a lot of folks around Istanbul don't quite see eye to eye on with me on this one either.

Despite the obvious dicomforts, I get a kick out of riding the tram towards Sultanahmet, when it gets so breathlessly crowded you'd better start working your way towards the door two stops before yours if you're to have any chance of getting out. At each stop, there is invariably another horde of people waiting to get on and a few who want to get off. People start clucking that more people are actually going to try to occupy what little remaining air there is. But the people trying to get out have to fight this horde. And there's alwasy a self-appointed door monitor who starts shouting at the people trying to get in that they should wait for people to get off first, instead of bitching at them for being in their way. Many of them stand back respectfully while others plow on because they see no reason for simple courtesies like that when the door could close at any moment. Arguments ensue, die down, and begin again at the next stop.

It's the same on elevators.

On escalators, a surprising number of people don't know how to step on and off of them. They freak out at the worst possible moment and reel back in terror, either gumming up the works at the entrance, or causing everyone behind them to fall either up or down the stairway. I don't know how many times I've nearly been killed on an escalator by a squealing woman who got too scared to get off, or had to walk up backwards because a timid gentleman at the bottom caused the stroller behind him to tip over (oh yeah, some fools bring their strollers on escalators), and then the pandemonium... You can imagine. It's not just villagers either. I found out a couple of weekends ago my in-laws can't do escalators when both of them nearly killed LE and I in some momentary panic about the first step.

LE, by the way, is very good at escalators.

So the other day, BE and I decided we needed some technology. I wanted some cool speakers to attach to the iPhone and the laptop, and we decided it's time we got a printer, plus I needed a flash disk. So we went to Media Markt, a newish electronics superstore telling ourselves we were going to just get a flash disk.

Naturally, that didn't happen so I had to go downstairs to get a cart. Media Markt has three floors and two elevators. One goes to the main floor and the parking garage and the other goes to the main floor and the first floor where they have computer accessories and some games and a whole lot of other electronicky things that I don't know what they do. All the TVs and DVD players and stereos and stuff like that are on the main floor. Places like this are packed on the weekends with folks who've come from far and wide to take a look because they have nothing better to do and it's free to go to an electronics superstore. They're all standing in the middle of aisles getting mad at other people who might like to pass by.

Anyway, I got the cart and went to the elevator to go back up to where BE was carrying a sleeping LE, looking at games and standing near the super-cheap 3-in-1 printer/scanner/photocopier I'd found. In front of the elevator was a large family looking stumped. You see, this elevator only went up. There was one button to push. Finally, they figured it out and we got on. Inside the elevator there were two buttons: one for the floor we were on and one for the floor above. The cleverest guy of the bunch took control of the situation and started repeatedly pushing the button for the floor we were on. It wouldn't light and the doors wouldn't close and the family started getting upset, wondering out loud what on earth was wrong and was it broken? I reached around a few of them and pushed the button that made the elevator go.

The day was saved. But seriously, I couldn't help but wonder what the hell was a whole family of people who don't know how to work an elevator going to do in a warehouse-sized room of full of computer accessories and strange cords?

I got away from them before they completely blocked the area in front of the elevator so I never found out. It's probably better that way.


toastytoasty said...

I have not been to media markt but have wondered many times as I went pass on the bus why it is called media markt and not media market.

Also `darty` the chain of smaller sellers of computer stuff. Who came up with `darty`? It is obviously meant to sound English but why so dorky?
My flat is 3 minutes walk from Basari Fatih Uni student dormitory-both seperate boys and girls-lots of black kids around now.


Stranger said...

That Markt thing always bothered me too, though I guess Turkish pronunciation still produces the word market (or markıt). And Darty is just weird. It makes me think of those pointy bras from the 50s.

I've noticed a lot of Africans around too. I admire how they stride around acting oblivious to the fact the weekend shop-wanderers from Çatalca and Silivri are all staring and pointing.

toastytoasty said...

It makes me laugh how the student accomodation is called `success`

Around my little mix of kebab restaurants, supermarkets, chemists and bakers nobody seems to notice and 1 kebab shop gives a special discount to students from the Fatih accomodation.

Have you ever been to the Migros chemists-on the right as you go in. One of the chemists looks like a fashion model and wears the most outrageous nightclub gear under her white coat. Last week she strode in wearing stilleto boots, mini skirt with at least 3 hours worth of make up and preening. Beylikduzu girl such fun to watch.

Jess said...

The family in the elevator? Sometimes I feel just like that. Stopped at Starbucks the other day and pulled the door when I should have pushed. And then leaving five minutes later, pushed when I should have pulled. I do that at home too, so I guess it wasn't a language issue.

The grocery store business still drives me nuts. Parking your cart perpendicularly in the aisle and then watching me stand there, watching you... it's a little strange.

Gulay said...

I find the stroller on escalator debate interesting. When I lived in Hong Kong and other places in Europe it was standard proactice to take the troller on escaltor, its really not that hard, going up put from wheels on and lift rear wheels! Since I moved to the the US and the fear of liability and the fact that lawyers drive everything that I have noticed the "No Strollers on Escalators" which frankly is I assume because the average American struggles to tie their shoe laces if they can actually either see their feet or bend that far as their fat belly is in the way. But I digress. If you think Istanbul is bad try Hong Kong, where I have seen people physically lifted and carried back into the subway car by the hordes rushing into the car....

Gulay said...

And the Markt part is because I guess the owners want to suggest its German.......but anything is better than Wanko a chain of womens clothes stores in Hong Kong/Singapore

Stranger said...

Hee! You put an image in my mind of a bunch of fat Americans toppling over each other on the escalator because the shoelaces they were unable to tie got sucked in...

The one time I saw a stroller tip over on the escalator was before I had a kid. Someone in front of the stroller tripped because they got scared to step off the escalator, which caused a few other people to stumble and walk up backwards, which tipped the stroller (it's awfully difficult to walk upstairs backwards with a stroller). The baby fell out and was caught by someone about to get on the escalator in the other direction. So I was always nervous about it. People who freak out on escalators + infants in strollers = Battleship Potemkin-esque disaster.

Wanko it pretty good. Better than the restaurant near my house called Titiz. If the Media Markt people were trying to suggest German-ness, what were the Wanko people trying to suggest?

toastytoasty said...

Why do the bufeler always have the same names. Korkmaz bufe 5

Vicky, Bursa said...

In Bursa, we have a relatively new super duper shopping centre called Korupark and it s a delight. However, it's apparently the 4th largest shopping centre in turkey/Europe/possibly the universe and they have two lifts. Two lifts which are always full of able bodied people without strollers. there is an 'each man/woman/pretty young gaggle of girls for oneself' attitude, and, I kid you not, we've had to wait 10 mins to get from one floor to another.

Also at Korupark, I saw the most horredous actu of stupidity involving an escalator down to the car park. A (large) family had been to Kipa and done their weekly shop and obviously decided that they couldn't be arsed to carry the bags to the car, so took the escalator. Of course, the full sized shopping trolley tipped over, flinging the toddler inside it out onto the still moving escalator. Everyone started tutting and I wasn't sure if it was due to sympathy for the family's plight, or out of shock that they could try something so stupid. Idiots.

Stranger said...


I definitely hated elevators and strollers. Here is pretty bad because the elevators are always so crowded with kids going up and down instead of going to school, and, as you say, no one would think of relinquishing their spot to a stroller. By the end of our stroller days, I was pretty good at using the stairs.

It's not just Turkey of course. In San Francisco in a department store FULL of escalators, I waited 10 minutes for the elevator which kept being packed with tourists who stared at me and didn't get out. I finally told some to get off and suggested they use the escalator which was RIGHT BEHIND ME. One floor up, another flustered looking stroller mom was waiting, and still everyone just stared at her without offering to get off so I appointed myself elevator monitor and told a few to get out. Hmph.

In the Frankfurt airport, I nearly missed a flight because airport staff kept pushing me back to let people with wheelchairs on. For some reason there were several loads of wheelchairs. Normally I wouldn't object to this, except after like 10 minutes I started to object (if what Gülay says is true, they must have just been thinking I was very stupid for not taking the escalator). And if I didn't have all the bags and stuff in addition to the stroller I would have just taken the stairs. Finally one of the wheelchair people yelled at the airport person to let me on.

Aunt Sis said...

The elevator story made me laugh out loud. You're so good.

Stranger said...

Thanks Aunt Sis. It was funny when it happened, though I felt kind of mean after writing it...