Cleaning Up In Istanbul

Posted from Dogubeyazit….be back soon

I am a simple guy and it takes my meandering musings time to mesh. Since I need to work harder than most to ponder life, I need a place that allows me to do just that. My hangout is a little café on the corner here in Istanbul, called Cemre Kebap (frequent readers will remember this little eatery from earlier postings).
It seems that I spend a lot of my spare time in that little café because they now reserve a table for me and somehow it has become my official office…it has even found its way onto my business cards: Office Located In: Cemre Kebap, Corner Table, Istanbul.
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I hold office hours on most Thursdays and the occasional Tuesday, the owners of the café seem to have some influence in our little village and often arrange, without my foreknowledge, appointments with those in the community they think I should meet. I never know how my day is going to turn out. Over the past few months I have met with decorated Generals, orphaned teens, Imams, crazies, and even a sitting member of the Turkish Parliament and a former Ambassador.
This day I had been given a reprieve from the usual parade of characters and notables, and had spent several delightful hours dwelling on pithy perceptions when Ann and the kids arrived, thus calling an end to an arduous day of contemplations.
Now that my office was officially closed, the two brothers that owned the café gathered around our table to chat. In the course of our conversation we mentioned that we were in the market for a washer and dryer. Fikret, the younger brother, walked across the street to a local appliance shop and brought back a catalog for us to peruse.

This was followed by the owner of the appliance shop appearing on the sidewalk next to our terrace table and the offer to browse in his store. We accepted and headed across the narrow street to the shop. It was small, about 15’X 25′, and was packed with an amazing, but limited, array of electronic appliances. televisions, water coolers, coffee pots, Kebap grills, refrigerators and more…it seemed to have only one or two units of any specific product.
We were looking at the washers when I noticed that we were attracting a party of onlookers. Fikret had accompanied us, as had our crew and one of the delivery boys from the café. Now, the owners of the businesses on either side of the appliance shop had appeared with several of their employees trailing behind.
As they crowded around us we felt ourselves being pressed closer and closer to the washer until I was no longer able to look at it…my only view was from above, and of the top of the machine.
Prior to this gathering of the masses I had actually had a moment or two to inspect the washer and was interested enough to ask “Bu Ne Kadar….how much is it”? …this was met by a ripple of excited chatter as the news trickled out to the street that the foreigners were actually considering a major purchase.
If there had been any camels nearby they certainly would have been less than pleased because this question of price seemed to be the “final straw”….they now came in droves. Our little café emptied of its customers, cooks, and waiters and all moved across the street to try and find a place to watch the show.
They stood on water bottles outside the showroom windows and sat on appliances inside, one boy even jumped on the desk by the register to see clearly. They came with their drinks in their hands and still chewing their dinner. No one was left out and everyone seemed to find a place, either in the shop, or crowded at the door and windows to see the proceedings.
The owner’s first response to my question of price was met with such a loud howl from the crowd that I never heard it. He offered another and then another price only to be shouted down again and again. At last he tendered another number that was met with a murmur of approval. He entered the price into a calculator and slowly placed the calculator in our hands. All eyes were on us as I first looked at the numbers, then to Ann, and then to the waiting horde…”Yes”, I said and a shout of joy went up and down the street. The owner sighed, wiped his forehead with the back of his hand and held it out to shake and seal the deal.
On our walk home we passed the rows and shops that line our village streets and heard the story of the “Amerikan’s purchase” being told and retold. We heard later that we had honored this village by buying an appliance and implying our intention to settle among them. In these days of global discord…it is interesting how simple a compliment can be.
Have I fallen under the spell of Asia? Perhaps. Are my opinions jaundiced by my companions and the culture of Istanbul? Probably. But the view from where I sit is fair. So, for the time being, my office will be open on Thursdays and the occasional Tuesday. If you miss me, order the Çop Şıs and a pitcher of Ayran, I’ll be along.

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