|You can tell from the outside that nothing good will happen in here.|
|Does this cancel out somehow?|
But when I was sucking at life I made fun of both the muhtar and SSK and you know what? It has become necessary to go to both of those places. LE's school needs some bit of paper from the muhtar, and this goddamned SSK aktivasiyon business turns out to be real and has to be sorted out in person. So maybe there's something to this overwhelming Turkish belief that our thoughts and words have the power to draw the universe's attention to you, and bring down a load of shit on you if it's about bad things. I'm pretty sure this belief accounts for the lack of public education about earthquake safety and why no one does anything about these shit buildings that keep going up.
Anyway, the muhtar was painless, once I found it. There was a really nice receptionist who looked us up in her computer and discovered we weren't registered. Since the steps required to do that are in my husband's hands, I washed my own hands of the muhtar and LE and I went on our merry way.
As for SSK, it's became some sort of Holy Grail of a thing I got bent on, nay, called upon to Deal With.
Don't ask me why SSK needs to be activated. I pay them money and they do their thing and I thought we were getting along fine until I actually tried to use it a couple of weeks ago. I'm fairly certain this whole aktivasiyon business is just a wee scheme to create work for the good folks down at SSK. I mentioned it to some friends and they were all, "Your school is the one who should to deal with that," so I marched myself down to Human Resources only to be told I have to do it myself. I was told nicely, in any case, which always pleases me in the face of any bad news. They rolled their eyes and started asking each other, "Did you have to do this aktivasiyon thing?" and some said yes and some said no, making me think the random fist of Turkish bureaucracy came crashing down on some people but not on others. And they told me where I have to go to do it, which, as it turns out, is right near a tramway stop so I just thought, "Fuck it. I'm tired of sucking at life, and I'm going to go on down there and activate the hell out of my SSK."
Here's one thing about my life in Turkey. Before I got married, I either a) didn't deal with anything, or b) dealt with it, but it was so horrifyingly problematic I swore never to deal with it again, or c) got a Turkish person to come along with me to tell me what I needed to do. The school where I first worked even had some guys who would come along with us to deal with stuff. We called them the little men, because not one of them was over 5' 3". These guys were security guards or cleaners or something, just the all-around fellows who worked at the school and sometimes cleaned stuff or fixed stuff. Seyfettin Bey was the best of them. He was always kind to us, he wore a charming cap and vest, and he could kick bureaucratic ass like no one's business.
|I don't like the look of it.|
On a bad day you'd get Creepy Salih or Handy Kemal.
|Pink is for girls!|
Then I got married and BE dealt with everything so I was completely off the hook, which is just one reason why my Turkish is so piss poor after almost 10 years here. It's ended up that I'm completely lame at doing anything grown-up here. BE, while quite good at dealing with things that need dealing with is not, shall we say, on the ball about taking care of things and sometimes I want things to get taken care of before next year.
Fast forward to now. I packed up LE, telling him we had to go to one of the worst, most boring places on Earth, worse than the bank even, but that afterwards we'd go somewhere super-cool. He wasn't too keen, having decided his day was was going to be spent watching A Nightmare Before Christmas over and over. He's really into the opening song, and as a result it's been the only earworm I've had for days now. Watching LE dance to it or burst into song from time to time is totally worth it, though, so I'm not really against repeated viewings of this particular film.
But once LE found out all the forms of transportation we'd be enjoying, he warmed up to the idea. Minibus-metro-funicular-tram sounds pretty fucking good when you're four. When we arrived at our desired location an hour and a half later, LE was completely convinced it was all a wonderful adventure. His favorite part was the little red and green lights on the metro sign telling you which stops you've been to. He also likes the signs telling you which things are forbidden, and the metro doors have two-- one telling you not to lean on the doors (lots of naughty people doing that too, by the way) and another with a crossed out hand which I took to mean you shouldn't try to pull the doors open with your hand. LE really wanted to know whose hand it was.
|Guess when the numbers slowed down.|
|Really, it was the best place to wait.|
|The three things that saved us.|
Just then, things in the SSK office started going insanely contrary to my expectations. A security guard walked in and started throwing candy around. No, seriously. That actually happened. It's like he could read LE's constant, intense, thrumming "I want candy" brainwave. He made sure LE got extra candy. I gave LE one and saved the rest for emergencies, as I'm wont to do.
So after the car had been broken and repaired a few times, LE moved on to his iPhone games. He found some games in there I didn't even know I have that were pretty fun, but he totally wouldn't share. So that kind of sucked.
Eventually, we had to pee. The security guards directed us to the elevator to get to the toilets upstairs. The elevators only held three people, though, and there were like twelve waiting, so much to LE's tremendous disappointment, we used the stairs. It was one flight so we handled it okay. Upstairs, there were some offices but nothing that looked like a toilet. We wandered around and LE spotted a toilet-y looking place. We went in slowly and suddenly a man materialized saying, "This is the men's room!"
|Saw really scared me, because it's real.|
Back behind the SSK windows was a dank-smelling, closed-up array of businesses I wished were still open-- a bakery, an Internet cafe, and a drycleaner, among other things. If only I could have smashed all those other errands into my SSK visit! But apparently the Turkish economy had other ideas.
|I mock your sucky institutions!|
Eventually, our number came up. The woman in the office behind the little hole in the window I had to bend down to talk into was looking me up before I even explained our boring problem. She was being really nice, which threw me for a loop. I passed her my phone, where I had my official yabancı number written. That's a number BE came home with and gave me one day, and I was never sure why, but it's really long and it seemed easier just to hand her the phone than to attempt shouting the number through the little hole. She had a smiling and joyful face.
But all she could find was some stuff that ended in 2008. I had no idea what that was all about, because of all the money SSK is getting out of my paycheck every month.
"So?"I asked? "What do I have to do?"
"So?" she said happily, "What do you have to do?"
If Sesame Street had an episode called, "A Visit To SSK," this woman would have been the star. She was that lovely and cheerful, seriously.
|The world has a lot to learn from Sesame Street, but the SSK lady already learned it.|
"I don't know," I said. "Where is my money going?"
"Look, I'll show you!" and she cheerfully waved me around to the office door to come on in to the sanctified SSK office so I could see her computer. She showed me where I left my old school to have LE, and where my SSK payments had stopped.
"Interesting," I said.
|Who could be happy after a day's work here?|
And there on her computer was all the money the government has been taking from me. Turns out I have two SSK accounts. Turns out my school went and set up another one for me without asking if I already had one. Turns out the whole computer revolution in government offices has somehow failed in terms of the whole cross- referencing thing, because you'd think my old account would have come up when they were trying to make the new one.
"Terbiyesizlik yapmayın!" she was saying cheerfully to him as we collected our papers.
Seriously, where ever this woman finds her source of joy and patience, I need me some of that.
|"Gray-faced bureaucrat" on Google images gives us Wayne Newton|
"Madam, if you'd just stop speaking so I can.... yes madam, if you'd just... yes, madam, I understand your name was written as Çetin but it should be Çelik... Madam, if you would just stop speaking now so I can... Look, it's not a problem (tap tap tap on the computer), I've just changed your name to Çelik... Please, madam, stop talking..." I could hear the woman on the phone screeching from where we were standing.
I didn't envy that fellow's job at all. And I realized that perhaps the SSK thing has become decidedly less horrible than it has been in the past, despite everyone's expectations. The gray-faced man sorted out his problem and waved us off to a younger woman over yonder, another Sesame Street cheerful person who wrote out all my SSK numbers on a sheet of paper, totally unfazed by what I feared would be a most confounding problem. "It will take about 2 months to join the accounts. Check the website then, and make sure it's okay."
"Will I have to activate it again?" I wondered.
She looked relieved that I knew what the Internet was. "Most probably!" she said, with a smile.
And with that, we got the fuck out of there.
The Romans lost, by the way, because it was about fucking time the Romans lost. Snooty pricks.
Our trip to the SSK ended up being a fine day after all, which is about 1,000 times more than I ever expected. So without being overly optimistic, it's possible that I just kicked life in the ass a little bit...