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BLIND SPOT > How to drive in Istanbul

BELGİN AKALTAN

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If the traffic does not drive you mad at the first glance in Istanbul, then you may find a few simple survival tips useful while attempting to drive within the boundries of logic. DAILY NEWS photo

If the traffic does not drive you mad at the first glance in Istanbul, then you may find a few simple survival tips useful while attempting to drive within the boundries of logic. DAILY NEWS photo

There is a peculiar way of driving in Turkey, especially in Istanbul, that resembles no other city. This is such a broad topic that it may be a good idea to start from simple aspects.

First, you need to have some extra skills to be able to drive in Istanbul. Ordinary driving skills are just not enough for this giant chaos, you need to be able to sense and predict correctly, and be something of a telepathic.

Red lights: Don’t count on them. While you are approaching traffic lights you need to check around and try to make eye contact with other drivers approaching from other directions. Once you have caught their eye, then you should be able to tell from their eyes whether or not he or she is the kind of driver who would stop at red lights. Then you should act accordingly. If it looks as if he or she will stop, then you are safe. Just proceed. If the look does not mean anything, or says “what are red lights?” then you should just wait for them to pass, do not make a move until the road is clear of all of them…

When the green light is on, again wait and check around. You have to make sure that traffic in the other directions has stopped. But you have to make this check very quickly so that the driver behind you (and his wife sitting in the passenger seat next to him) does not start blowing his horn. It just so happens that wives of drivers are angrier than the driver himself. This is a proven and lived experience: Avoid the driver’s wife all together if you can.

If the driver is female and has a husband or boyfriend sitting next to her – well, that does not happen. It is always the man driving and the associated woman sitting at the right passenger seat. Or, it is a female driver driving alone. If it is the rare case that the woman is driving and a guy over 18 is sitting next to her. I really do not know the dynamics of such a couple.

In my life, it has only happened a few times that I’m driving and my husband is sitting in the passenger seat. I tell you, it is not pleasant. In that kind of a situation, I lose all my driving skills - as if I have any - when I know he is looking on. Once I picked him up from the bus and just unconsciously kept driving for a while. When he said to me, “You know, I didn’t know you were such a good driver,” right at that moment, I was going to hit a car. Never again. I now immediately hand over the keys as soon as he is in sight.

Honks: If the guy – it is always a guy – behind you honks, just don’t pay attention. Do not turn around and try to communicate or gesture that you are sorry. The person honking at you in the split second after the light has turned green is not a person. Simply do not try to communicate with him. Move on. Act as if he does not exist. That is what he is used to. He is honking loudly that way with rude gestures because he has always been treated as if he does not exist. Comfort him with what he is accustomed to.

If the situation gets worse and your pretending that he does not exist doesn’t work, (since you are reading this piece, it means you speak English), then act as if you don’t speak Turkish and that you understand nothing from his words. That would calm him. He should be used to that also.

Try to keep a straight face even if you understand his words. It is difficult, I know. When he says he wants to have sexual contact with your mother, it is impossible to act as if you don’t hear it. But try it. It is the second best form of non-communication. Act as if you simply do not understand…

Actually, you can do that most of the time while you’re in Turkey.

November/03/2012

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