Tuesday, February 19, 2008


It's been snowing here in the 'bul. A furious flurry shower last Wednesday prompted administrators to cancel school for the day (of course, by 11:15 the sun was shining). We got the call that school was going to close at 7:55 a.m. School starts at 9:00. Anyone who comes by bus usually leaves around, oh, 8:00. As I quickly scanned my first of two Emergency Phone Chains, I realized the person I had to call lives nearby and drives her kids as I do. We leave around 8:35. Another friend, however, lives further away and her kids go by bus. I made the executive decision to call her so her kids wouldn't get on the bus, only to be brought home 40 minutes later.

My friend, a new parent to the school and also an American, gasped in mock horror upon answering, "Are you calling me out of order? Are you breaking THE EMERGENCY PHONE CHAIN?!" Yes, I admit it, I broke the Emergency Phone Chain. Deviant, troublemaker, rabble-rouser. No wonder kids today have no respect for authority! Just look at the examples that are being set at home! Do you think they have support groups for people like me?

On the very same day, I realized that we were out of just about any food that would a)allow me to make a decent breakfast or lunch at home, and b)make for a more bearable day at home with 2 children. Since Matt usually goes to work a bit later to avoid the legendary Istanbul traffic, I quickly threw on a pair of jeans and ran to the local market to avoid making the trip with 2 bored children which is about as fun for me as pulling my toenails out one at a time.

I see a sweet parking spot near the front door, and begin maneuvering in. Plenty of room, the only obstacle is a small sign for the compound across the street warning patrons not to block the driveway. No problem, I have left plenty of room. Plenty of room if the sign wasn't tipped over on its side, sharp pointy metal corner ready to graze any unsuspecting cars. I tap against said sharp pointy metal corner and inspect the miniscule damage before shopping. Eh, it's hardly noticable. I continue on my merry way.

When I get home, I mention this insignificant little event to Matt, who takes a look. We'll have to get that fixed, he warns, and because of where it is they will probably have to replace the entire back half of the car (ok maybe he said rear bumper, when it comes to cars I am truly clueless). I go out to see what he is talking about and see that the tiny insignificant scratch seems to have grown since I left the store. "You'll need a police report"--the phrase that strikes fear in the heart of many. It's true, our lease (and most insurance here) stipulates that no matter who is at fault, you can't move your cars and you definately need a police report. And since we lease our cars, if we don't get said report we have to pay, no matter who is at fault.

I call my British friend who is married to a Turk and studying to be a lawyer while at the same time working at her husband's law firm (Geez, what a slacker). Well, the thing is, she says, you can't get a police report once you've left the scene. "What can I do?," I implore. And then, she certainly doesn't tell me to go back to the scene of the accident and park the car again and call the police. Noooooo. Still in my PJ top, no bra and jeans, I bundle the kids in the car, throw some crayons, notebooks, and reading material at them, and pray that the parking spot is still empty. Of course, just as I am driving up, someone parks there. I mutter a stream of obscenities under my breath and drive around for a bit. I ignore the children's rapid-fire questioning: where are we going? what are we doing? why do you keep driving around? and promise chocolate bars once we get to the store.

Finally, my spot is free! I park again (it is the same spot after all. it's not REALLY that immoral. It's not as if I faked the accident somewhere where it didn't even happen. Please!) and "bump" the same sign. I call the Jandarma and after 6 or 7 more calls in increasingly frustrated Turkish, finally get someone to agree to come. The penance for my crime? Have to endure a Laurel and Hardy-type conversation between the Jandarma, the local military police, and the Polis, Istanbul's finest. It's kind of complicated, but while in Istanbul you call the Jandarma for certain problems and the Polis for others, out by us in the hinterlands it's all Jandarma all the time. After what seeemed like endless conversations like this:

Jandarma office: "Call the Polis"
Polis office 1: "Call the Jandarma"
Jandarma office: "Call the Polis"
Me: "I did call the Polis"
Polis office 2: "Call the Jandarma"
Me: "I did call the Jandarma"

someone finally showed up. I think the bitter cold, half-rain, half-snow showers may have had something to do with their reluctance. 40 minutes, 2 chocolate bars, 2 drinks, 3 episodes of me hissing "just stay quiet until we get home!" and as much Turkish as I can muster, I am on my way with the golden ticket, aka a Polis report.

No worries about me suddenly switching to a life of crime. I'm clearly not cut out for it.


Jan said...

I've fallen into your blog via Deb Westlake's.
This is great and I shall call again ASAP..

Debra said...

Wow Jan and Jen - the world is soo tiny! We should definitely start an online creative writing class!! I know Jan.. you are trying to write more, teach less..

This is a terrible experience Jennifer! Poor you - and I see you a lot and never knew. How does that happen??