Sunday, January 31, 2010


I usually don't drive in Istanbul. Koray almost always drives because he is an Istanbullu (he is from Istanbul) and he is good at maneuvering the "flow" of Istanbul traffic. In fact, flow is the appropriate word, as Istanbul traffic moves like water in a stream, or like sand across a desert; all of the available spaces are meant to be filled quickly, regardless of much else.

When I was in the states twice this fall looking after dad, I realized that I too had become somewhat of an Istanbul driver. I had difficulty with the rigidity of the traffic, the lack of flow. I also had a hard time with the sharpness of brake lights. People were actually coming to a stop when the red lights beamed on, and I often found myself slamming on the brakes whilst my heart jumped into my throat. I was honked at more than once as I casually made a lane change, forgetting about the rule that you must see both headlights in your rear view mirror, or something to that effect. When my dad and I were driving over the pass on Thanksgiving morning, with Snoqualmie in all is snowy beauty, I remembered seeing all of the state troopers, and cars slowing when they caught sight of them, that you need to obey the speed limit and that the police are not people to take lightly; they will pull you over and give you a ticket, and you can't feign yabanci (foreigner) to get out of it.

Also on my trip back home this fall, I did a lot of driving solo, at least a hour a day. I relished in the fact that I could listen to whatever music I wanted to, free of negotiations with A and O over which song to listen to or if we should listen to Skippy John Jones or Thomas the Train audiobooks instead. I could, and did, listen to one or two albums repeatedly in the time I was there. One album was Arabic Groove by Putumayo and the other Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King by The Dave Mathews Band. That music has forever sealed into my memory the feeling of freedom in driving alone, of being back home in all of its autumnal glory, and my dad's illness. While this fall was difficult, it rekindled my love for driving solo- it allows you to think. Because driving is so easy back on the west coast, I was able to process the difficult days I spent with dad, watching him succumb to his illness, clutching fiercely to his fiery sense of independence. As I drove and listened to music, I was able to be strong for another day. And when dad was with me on the drive to Yakima, two and half hours through mountains which softened into farm land, we were able to talk about important things, that sometimes weren't really important as such, but now that he is gone, they have become cherished moments, thus important. It was also the first time since I was sixteen that I was driving and my dad was in the passenger seat.

There were some fun moments in driving when I was home. When Kari, Tara and I got up early one morning to head over to Pike Place to hit the market and get a cup of Joe at the original Starbucks, it was like old times again. Listening to The Dave Mathews Band, we chatted and laughed, and mused over how we, for the first time in our lives, felt the aging in our 30+ bodies, and resigned to the fact that it is all down hill from here. We also reminisced over the car accident the three of us were in, in the very same city and highway, only with 18 years between us and that day. Luckily, nobody was hurt. We learned our lesson, and it gave us something to laugh about now that we are "mature adults" who know when, and when not, to make a u-turn.

Since I have been back in Istanbul, my second home, I haven't driven solo, but since Koray has been in London, A and O and I have been hitting the road. Here, I have to be alert and aware of the cars around me, constantly checking my rear view mirror whilst in the fast lane for the ever present speedy driver, going over 140 kms an hour, flicking his lights indicating for me to get over, and fast. I have driven on Istanbul highways enough now to know that the problem isn't so much with the fast or slow lanes, it is with the middle lane. Middle lane drivers in Istanbul don't know their role in the scheme of a three lane highway, and they mess up the flow. I can deal with cars merging into my lane, because I know if I veer over, like a large stone thrown into a brook, the other cars will stream right around me, but those middle lane drivers, who should be in the slow lane, throw off the rhythm. But it is OK, as A and O and I are happy to take more time to get to places. And while I reveled this fall in listening to my own music, going where I wanted to with multiple stops because I didn't have to have a strategic plan to wrestle two boys in and out of car seats and hustle them safely to a destination, listening to Omer hit the high notes on the T the T theme song, and hearing Ali giggle at Skippy John Jones and his ojos, is pretty special in itself.

I am lucky that I am able to experience both.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Annie! I love your blog!! It's such a fun way to keep up with your goings on. Your kids are stinkin' hilarious. I totally agree with your musings on driving in the States. I get impatient with all the rule following; I'm so over RULES. I'm gonna put your URL in my blogroll, fyi. Have fun blogging!!