Stuck in Reverse

A good business always makes the customer feel like the most important person on Earth… until they get your money, of course. There was the representative from the Turkish car company standing at those airport partitions as we left the baggage pickup area with his little sign marked ‘Perras Family.’ Five pedestrian days in Istanbul were in the rear-view mirror and the next sixteen would be spent touring Turkey in a horseless carriage.
Before we picked up our stalwart steed the inevitable paperwork had to be completed. My passport and driver’s license were spread out on the table as Brenda checked over the calculations of all forthcoming fees. I love to make jokes and remind her as to how true she is to the ah, stereotypical Scottish frugality. My best take on the subject is when we walk into any vacant chamber and I’m able to trot out the old Rodney Dangerfield line, “It’s as empty in here as a Scottish pay toilet.” But I’m always forced to admit that her attention to detail is always saving us a few dollars, even if it is shaving a few years off my life.
Reminisces of poor dead Rodney were brought to a discreet halt when a glance at my driver’s license startled me into the realization that I had brought along the one that had expired on April 28, 2014. I remembered all my cards being spread out on the dining room table: health, debit, driver’s license, etc. and I must have handled this routine chore in my usual slapdash, pellmell, offhand manner. Our rental agent was now reaching for my driver’s license as he continued with the paperwork. I gulped.
He finished with his recording of the relevant information and handed me back my expired card without a word. This was my kind of country. I came to realize how this inattention to spurious details and bureaucratic regulations would extend to the highways and byways as well. Unsignalled lane changes were the norm, blinkers were an annoyance not to be bothered with and signs posting speed limits were as rare as American tourists in Iraq. Three passengers on a scooter and a crowd of kids in the back of a pickup truck were normal. As an aging, grumpy libertarian living in overly-regulated Ottawa, Ontario I had found my Nirvana. I would be driving for the next sixteen days without a valid driver’s license. But such inattention to detail also meant that the rental car’s gas gage needle was on empty. We asked directions to the nearest gas station, loaded up our bags and were on our way before there was any re-examination of driver’s licenses.
Or before we had really understood the directions, as it turned out. After going twice the distance we thought had been indicated we decided to cut our losses, stop and turn around. Which involved putting the vehicle into reverse.
Your correspondent has a few weaknesses to which I will reluctantly admit, even if it’s never to my wife. One of my areas of pride, however is my driving. I’ve been driving a tractor since I was seven years old on my uncle’s farm; I’ve driven all over North America and Europe. I’ve driven gear shifts for forty two years: four on the floor, three in the tree (which I haven’t seen much since I drove a landscaping truck in the seventies)… I love ’em all.
But I couldn’t find reverse. Neither could Brenda, to my extreme relief. I tried pulling and tugging the gearshift in every direction known to man, while using every curse word I had ever heard. None of them worked. Brenda, to her credit, was ready to find a more practical solution. “I’ll go back to the rental agency and ask them where it is,” was her sensible suggestion. Admitting defeat, I had to agree. It was at least a kilometre back.
She hadn’t been gone five minutes when a friendly Turk who must have been enjoying the shenanigans approached the car and in seconds had located the small ring that had to be pulled up in order to move into reverse. Case solved, and as I happily shifted into reverse I told Rachelle to watch out for her mother, while I paid attention to overloaded scooters and non-signalling Turks.
Both of the latter were everywhere, but of Brenda there was no sign. She had disappeared into the ether just as mysteriously as a spirit on that Jennifer Love-Hewitt series ‘The Ghost Whisperer.’ I thought back to our disagreement about the scissors on the day’s flight and wondered, did I suddenly gain mystical powers ?
It was on our third circuit that Rachelle and I finally found Brenda standing in the middle of a crowd of sympathetic Turks, anxiously awaiting our appearance. It wasn’t the first time, nor would it be the last, when we were overwhelmed by the Turkish helpful hospitality . A man and his teenaged daughter jumped into the car to show the dimwitted Canadians the exact location of that cursed gas station and after the fill-up, invited us to their home for supper.
Twilight was settling in, however, and so we settled on just receiving directions to Goeme, the beginning of the Cappadoccia cave country. As Robert Frost would put it if he was travelling with his wife and daughter, “We had miles to go before we slept…”
The desert-like countryside was beautiful as we drove through the twilight. Hopefully we wouldn’t be wandering through it for the next forty years.

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