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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

TURKEY RECAP: TRAFFIC TERROR

While in Istanbul, we didn't ever drive a car, and that's a good thing. But we spent a lot of our time inside motor vehicles other people were driving, be they taxis, buses, or Christina's Volvo.

I'm a person who loves a thrill ride. I've traveled all over to ride great roller coasters, and I even bungee jumped once. But Istanbul traffic? That's a bit too much.

I have seen things... things I can't even describe. But here are some of the things I have the language to describe.

I have seen people walking in between lanes on a busy freeway (they were trying to sell things).

I have seen buses literally brush back pedestrians with their side view mirrors.

I have seen a front-loader tractor pass a Volkswagen on a curve while going uphill.

Indeed, it is something of a minor miracle that the entire population doesn't die in car wrecks every day. As a novice, I wasn't prepared even to look at it through a windshield. I would try to carry on a normal conversation with Christina, and it would go a little something like this...

"So Nate and Will are almost talking, but not quite. They do this cute thing where they ON YOUR RIGHT, ON YOUR RIGHT!!! Oh, never mind. So anyway, they'll climb up on the couch and WE'RE IN ONCOMING TRAFFIC!!! THE CARS ARE COMING RIGHT TOWARDS US!!! I DON'T WANT TO DIE!!!! PLEASE DON'T LET ME DIE HERE!!!!"

As it turns out, everything was ok. But I really did need to take blood pressure medication if I wanted to get inside a car.

And just staying off the roads wasn't a guarantee you wouldn't be confronted by cars.

I was honked at while walking down the sidewalk by a driver who decided the sidewalk was his road.

I saw another driver honk at a pedestrian who was crossing the trolley tracks... at the trolley station... but the driver was using the tracks as his own private road.

I was brushed back by a bus and several speeding cars as I walked down a pedestrian path in Istanbul's public park.

But after a while, I did become a slightly more aggressive pedestrian. While once I scurried across the street like a squirrel trying not to get squashed under the tires of a passing bus (or using an native as a human shield), on my last day I crossed the street with confidence and pride. When a bus turned left and got inches away from me and honked, I didn't even flinch. I just looked the driver with a steely cold look that said, "deal with it." That's how cool I was (or stupid, I can't remember which).

Attempts to document the truly insane traffic didn't materialize. When things were really hairy, I was more busy offering up last prayers to any god I could think of. But I was able to shoot a few 30 second videos of us driving around in a more quiet part of town. So this is nutty, but it's a country drive compared to what the rest of the city holds.


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