“Look,” I said to my wife Brenda. “I’ll tell the story about almost losing you in the middle of Turkey. Except I won’t blame you. I’ll use a self-deprecating sense of humour.”
“What ??” was her retort. “There’s nothing self-deprecating about it. You messed up! You’ll have to tell the truth – for once!”
Anyway… here it is. The truth according to me. Brenda will never know. She never reads my stuff anyway. “Why would I?” is all she says.
We flew from Istanbul to Kayseri, which was once called Caesarea. A great flight, except that there was a mild spat just before we boarded because I absent-mindedly went through the carry-on line with some contraband stuff, which was, well, taken from us. It’s not what you’re thinking. But it ticked off my wife and she let me hear about it. She’s not a shy woman. And no one can piss you off more than your wife.
She’ll pay for that, was all I thought.
Landing in Kayseri, all was well. On the surface. Just before entering the car rental office we were going over our documents. I had brought the wrong driver’s license. This one was expired.
“You idiot. How could you do that??” was what she said. I expected worse and decided to nonchalant it. “No problem. The guy will never notice.”
This time I was right. We sailed through the paperwork with flying colours. I was only worried about being stopped by the police sometime during the next sixteen days while we were driving through Turkey. The Turkish police may be more on the ball than this guy. Scenes from that seventies movie, Midnight Express, about two Americans in a Turkish prison, flashed through my mind’s eye. Yikes !
The rental guy was handing over the keys. “The car is standard shift-on the floor. Any problem?”
I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. I learned how to drive a standard back in 1972. Before that I had been driving tractors on my uncle’s farm. I even had driven a standard ‘three-in-the-tree’ gearshift landscaping truck in the 1970s and had almost burnt out the clutch my first time driving through Toronto.
I didn’t mention that.
“Okay, that’s it,” I said, jumping up. “It’s getting late and it’ll take a while to get to Gorem.” I’d had enough of going over documents. Not to mention that we have to stay ahead of those Turkish police, I thought to myself.
The car was loaded up but we didn’t get much more than a mile before we had to stop and park. We needed something at the store. Finding parking wasn’t a problem and we were soon in and out of the store. Ready to roll-at last ! Except that I couldn’t find reverse on the gear shift. I pulled it this way and that, tried every conceivable position on every standard I’d ever driven. Nothing.
“Let me try it.” Brenda could be a little bit impatient with what she saw as my inadequacies. To my satisfaction, she was no more successful. “You’ll have to get out and get back to the rental agency before it closes,” I said. “This whole trip was your bright idea-remember?” I was still more than a little ticked off. “We’ll be right here-obviously.”
Maybe because she suspected that I wouldn’t be able to retrace our steps she agreed. I figured that she could be there, get the reverse-shifting instructions and be back in fifteen minutes. Twenty at the most. Rachelle, our daughter and the only one of our three children accompanying us on the trip, and I, would play the waiting game.
What we didn’t know was that our distress had not gone unnoticed. A kindly Turkish male approached the car and soon the problem was solved. I had to push the gear straight down from the neutral position before reverse was implemented. As I thanked our saviour I silently cursed myself out- and my wife.
“Okay,” I said to Rachelle. “Your mother’s been gone long enough. We’ll go and find her. How hard can it be ?”
We circled the town for the next hour-and-a-half. Did I get off-track ? To tell you you the truth, the sense-of-direction gods have never smiled kindly in my direction. “Maybe your mother has gone native and we can’t recognize her beneath her burqa,” I suggested to Rachelle. No response. Actually, I had seen more head-coverings in Ottawa’s Heron Street Mall than I had seen so far in Turkey.
A fool and his wife may go their separate ways for awhile, but some deity with a sense of humour always brings them back. We spotted a teary-eyed woman among a sympathetic crowd of Turks, all waiting for the return of a wayward husband. In fact, a man with his two daughters invited us into their apartment for their fast-breaking Ramadan supper as the sun descended. That was more than we deserved, but we still had a long drive ahead of us through the dark to reach the hotel we had reserved near the Cappadocian caves. We still regret not taking the Turkish family up on their kind invitation.
I really didn’t mean to lose my wife and put her through a couple of stressful hours.
But she did deserve it !