Tuesday, April 19, 2011
The Story of the Taxi Driver Who Treated Me Like A Normal Person
I don't know what made me remember this because it happened a few years ago, but there was this one time an Istanbul taxi driver treated me like a normal person.
This is not to say most taxi drivers are rude or cheeky or whatever. Most of them are nice. Especially since my Turkish has gotten a little bit better, and certainly since I got married, most guys I deal with seem to go out of their way to be perfect gentlemen. It hasn't gone unappreciated. When I first came here, I might as well have been wearing a neon sign that read, "Hi, I'm game!" or "Hi, my money tree harvest has been especially bountiful." But no more. Part of this is to do with not living in Bakırköy anymore, which is a thing in and of itself. Part of it also must be the status shift, the dulling of my Fresh New Yabancı glow, the precipitous glide towards my 40s, and since now I'm usually travelling with an adorable and bilingual little boy, my worst problem with taxi drivers is the occasional surly one.
Still, the interactions with taxi drivers have often felt scripted. It's kind of like I'm a Lady of some sort. The kind who isn't rude to the help, but who knows exactly where the line is between being polite and being friendly. Sometimes I'm the pragmatic enforcer of the line, while other times the driver is. It's weird.
I kind of like hearing their views on life and the universe and everything, and I even find their questions interesting. Taxi drivers can be just about anyone, from anyplace in Turkey or a surrounding country, and from any walk of life. A lot of them have lived all over the place, you'd be surprised. At times, I even enjoy the challenge of deciphering a thick regional accent. Nonetheless, a foreign woman ought to to remain, let's say, guarded with taxi drivers because sometimes the line between, "I'm being friendly" and "Pull over so we can have sex" is a lot finer than one might assume.
All of these things contribute to interactions with taxi drivers feeling less than "normal," whatever normal is though I can still say for sure what "normal" isn't.
So one winter night several years back in the days before LE, I went to the mall to get a giant remote control truck for BE's birthday. I was wearing this huge down coat I have, cut in about the most unflattering way you can imagine (I often hear the word Lundegaard in my mind when I'm wearing it, especially when I wear the hood), but it's the warmest coat ever and it's kind of like leaving the house wearing your nice, warm bed.
Anyway, I hailed a taxi and hoisted the massive box into the back with me and off we went. The driver was a little younger than me, and chatty, and I was feeling ever so pleased he hadn't made a fuss jumping out of the taxi to pick up the box for me. I mean, it's nice they do that but it also makes me feel silly and useless. We chatted about this and that, like normal people do, and it was all well within my vocabulary range to talk about why I'd come here, and whether America is nicer than Turkey or the other way around, and since those were the Bush years I was able to get my surefire laugh with my well-practiced lines about what a murderous idiot Bush was. The taxi driver was addressing me with "sen," and even used a few swear words here and there, all natural like normal people people swear. Since I wasn't getting even the slightest "ick" vibe from him, I just started thinking he must be very young and cosmopolitan to treat a foreign woman like a normal person.
When we got to my house, BE had just arrived home and was in the parking lot. I said, "Oh, there's my husband."
The taxi driver stopped talking and looked absolutely mortified. My hackles immediately went up, thinking I'd misread something horribly.
He jumped out of the cab and made a big fuss getting the box out for me. "I'm so sorry," he said. "I thought you were a man!"
Posted by Stranger at 11:24 PM