Something that has always baffled me about public transportation is a city’s desire to pretend that nightlife doesn’t happen. Boston is famous among the young crowd for its idiotic night schedule, rarely a subway running after 1 am. Istanbul outdoes Boston in both population, 15 to roughly 3 million, and senselessness with the last bus typically leaving at 11:30pm, throwing you on the mercy of the taxi drivers.
Taxis in Turkey receive a mixed review from me. They can be some of the nicest men I have had the pleasure to speak with but they can also be some of the most horrible, deceptive individuals in the city. Being a Turk, you still, at times, must do battle with a taxi driver to insist he doesn’t take you for a joy ride around the city, but being a yabancı, a foreigner, you must go into the situation with your guns blazing.
I was sick a few weeks ago. I went to a soccer game unprepared for the weather and the wait outdoors, waking the next morning to find my body abandoned by my immune system. I had become Petri dish of disease. After suffering a fever and serious abdomen pain for a day and a half, I finally gave in and made a trip to the hospital.
Mentally and physically defeated, I was in no mood to battle with a driver. The kind man spoke to me about soccer, trying hard to win me over to the Beşiktaş camp. He was genuinely interested in my job and praised my Turkish. He even offered me an orange to help boost my immune system. When we arrived at the hospital (he had taken the most direct route) he made sure to show me the meter, saying it should not cost more than this when I returned home later. He helped me into the emergency room and in parting he incessently repeated the kind Turkish phrase, “Geçmiş olsun, geçmiş olsun”, “Get well, get well”.
Later in the week I was again forced by lateness and icy weather to take a taxi, and with only a 20TL note in my pocket (for a 13TL-15TL ride), I jumped in telling him where to take me. He began griping that there would be traffic on the route, suggesting an alternative I knew well. The experienced taxi-rider would have said no to this suggestion (there is no traffic at 12:30am) but I gave in since I knew where he was taking me. He began going the way he had described, but soon veered off onto a highway, a highway. I snapped at him, asking where he was going. Surprised he attempted to tell me he was heading to my destination. I fired back that he was lying, seeing a sign for my village pointing in the opposite direction.
After battling in my pidgin Turkish he seemed to give in, heading back in the right direction. When we arrived at my place, I found the rate to be 25TL, five more than I had and ten more than I should have to pay. I yelled at him, telling him his actions were çok ayıp, very shameful. After finally handing over my 20TL, I jumped out of the car. Luckily my vocabulary doesn’t include most curse words, though I’m sure he used a few as I exited the taxi and entered my apartment. I called him an English-language expletive to relieve my own anger and slammed the door.
If ever a case for Turkish public transportation, the crooked Turkish taxi driver is one.