Driven Crazy, Part Two
driver, faking cheerfulness, privacy

Driven Crazy, Part Two

Looking back at blogs from my early weeks in Turkey, I notice that one of my early posts was titled Driven Crazy. In it I fretted about having my humble, daily errands becoming the focus of another human being. Now, after two and half years, it’s time to comment on how having a driver has played out.

With the exception of cleaning ladies, most people in the States don’t hire household help. But that’s not the case in many other countries. In Costa Rica, where we lived for several years, it was common to have a full-time, live-in maid. The idea of having a stranger living in my home made me uncomfortable, and so instead I hired friends’ maids for occasional dusting and sweeping. We missed out on one benefit, however: a live-in, native-Spanish-speaker would have provided superb language exposure for Angela and Greg.

Even before I moved to Turkey, I was warned, “You can drive in Istanbul, but you can’t park.” Emphasis on the you; a professional driver would be able to find parking spaces. Soon after arriving, however, I met a gregarious expatriate from the Dominican Republic. “Don’t hire a driver,” she advised. “It will make you feel stupid.” She went on to say that such a person would know where we shopped and what we bought, and we wouldn’t have any privacy. For her, navigating Istanbul’s streets was merely something to get used to. “Every day for the first month, I got lost. But after that, it was fine.”

Getting around on my own appealed to me. In both Sana’a and in San Jose, I drove hilly, congested urban terrain, navigating without the benefit of street signs. But my husband had already hired Umit, a dapper Turk in his mid-thirties, to take him to work and back. Umit would have ample free time in the middle of the day, so I decided to accept his services. I could perhaps change my mind later and buy my own vehicle. And perhaps the experience would have some hidden benefits.

                                                                          Photo Karen Smith

At first it was strange to get into a car and settle myself in the back seat, driver in front. Unaccustomed to being the boss, my directions to Umit came out like questions. That made me feel childish, but his constant darting around the car to open and close my door made me feel like an old lady. The Turkish term for driver: șofer (chauffeur) and my realization that when talking to others, Umit referred to me as “Miss Susan,” added a formality that bordered on absurd.

I began to think of the whole thing as some kind of strange, expatriate drama. My role? The wife of a well-paid businessman, living in a posh apartment and tooling around town in a new BMW. How to gain the audience’s sympathy? That quickly became clear: by avoiding grumpiness and any expressions of irritation or petulance. And here I will confess: I can be moody, even when I’m not trying to adjust to a different culture.

So each day I tried to act cheerful. I put on an enthusiastic smile even when I felt lonely, homesick, or deep in culture shock. I tried to speak only in positive terms about what I was experiencing  (Turks love this because they still don’t think their country measures up in the West.) And I asked Umit questions about himself. After doing this for a few weeks, I realized that during none of those days had I actually remained in a bad mood

Umit began to suggest places to visit, and recommend restaurants he thought we’d like. He went out of his way to help us navigate on weekends, when we explored the city and countryside on our own. Despite our initial language barrier, he offered a great deal of advice and wisdom about the Turkish culture. And on occasion he even asked me for motherly advice.

Umit suggested taking our first visitor to Pierre Loti, a French-inspired coffee garden high above the Golden Horn.
Umit  introduced Angela and Greg to durums, spicy kofte wraps.

Before long, Umit and I discovered some similarities. We are both word people, who try to speak precisely and enjoy learning other languages. Umit was intent on improving his English, but I didn’t initially realize that our conversations were having any effect on him. I almost wept when, after weeks of being ferried around to various shops and feeling quite useless, he commented, “You have helped me so much.”

I also had language goals, and Umit was the most obvious person to turn to with Turkish questions. I can’t count the number of times we spent looking up various Turkish and English words, me paging through a pocket dictionary and he punching keys on his smart phone.

Umit took me to a traditional Boza bar to enjoy a fermented Turkish drink along with leblebi, roasted chickpeas.
Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, writes that when we focus on ourselves, our problems loom large. But when we turn our attention to others, we increase our capacity for connection. Was it possible that having someone wait on me—and for me—was actually increasing my empathy?

While I have met some wonderful people here, both Turkish and expatriate, I count Umit as one of my best friends in Turkey. It will be hard to say goodbye, but I’m sure that gmail and Facebook will help us keep in touch. And fine-tune our language skills.

Although I won’t need someone to drive me around, or help me park in Minneapolis, I remain prone to worry and impatience. I need to find some kind of mental trick or role I can slip into that will help keep my spirits aloft and make my days in the Upper Midwest as pleasant as they have been in Asia Minor. Ideas welcome!

9 thoughts on “Driven Crazy, Part Two

  1. A person essentially help to make seriously articles I would state. This is the very first time I frequented your website page and thus far? I surprised with the research you made to create this particular publish incredible. Wonderful job!

  2. Hi! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any issues with hackers? My last blog (wordpress) was hacked and I ended up losing many months of hard work due to no back up. Do you have any solutions to prevent hackers?

  3. WELCOME TO SCRUBSCE® Radiology CE / X-ray Continuing Education SCRUBS CONTINUING EDUCATION® MISSION: PROVIDE HIGH-QUALITY, LOW-COST RADIOLOGY CE / XRAY CONTINUING EDUCATION TO IMAGING PROFESSIONALS ASRT approved ARRT Category A and A+ Credit Hours All Scrubs CE radiologic continuing education courses accepted by NMTCB and ARDMS and meet CE requirements Radiology CE Courses

  4. Keine Angst vor dem Kellerkind – es will bloß spielen. Hier seid ihr richtig, wenn ihr auf der Suche nach brandaktuellen News aus der Gaming-Szene seid: Neuankündigungen, Updates, DLCs und jede Menge Gerüchte. Half Life 3? Eine neue WOW-Erweiterung? Neue Indie-Games? Wir sind dabei! Dabei versuchen wir nicht, ein bestimmtes Genre abzudecken, sondern konzentrieren uns ausschließlich auf Veröffentlichungen, die uns – und vermutlich auch noch ein paar anderen Leuten – Laune machen.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *