and sometimes veer off the road because the driver is drunk....
08.03.2007 0 °F
During my 4.5 month stay in Turkey, I spent a significant portion of my time on the bus. By the end of May, 10 hours on the bus was a cake walk. By that point I had survived so many strange and interesting experiences that pretty much nothing was going to phase me. Turkish buses truly are cultural experiences....if you want to know Turkey, take an overnight bus somewhere. Probably 90% of the “funny stories” I have regarding Turkey at least indirectly involve a bus ride. So there are the very general aspects of a Turkish bus, like the permeating, saturating stench of B.O that overpowers you.....especially when it is hot. Then there are is the inevitable female to male ratio.....almost all males, except for myself and my friends, and the few men who dared to bring their covered-women wives along with them....... For the most part there were only men on the bus......and I think by now, we all know how Nicole feels about Turkish men (see earlier blogs). Now these sausage fests on wheels are especially interesting at night....when homeboys are all snoring. And these fools are no more inclined to brush their teeth than they are to apply deodorant.....so yeah, more interesting smells to deal with. At least I never had to sit next to any of these neanderthals......why not you ask? Oh because in Turkey men and women do not sit next to each other unless they are married. However, I almost always sat in front of and behind Turkish males. Trying to sleep was a real struggle when you can barely breathe and you might as well be sleeping in a pigsty. Usually by 5am I was so damn tired that I finally would be able to sleep for about 1-2 hours. So there is a broad painting of the glory that is the Turkish bus, now lets reminisce on some particularly memorable experiences.
Like I mentioned earlier, it was very difficult for me to sleep on these buses. I brought a prescription of Ambien with me to Turkey, and decided to pop one of them to get through a particularly long ride....14 hours to be precise. I was sitting next to my dear friend, Anders, and warned him that I was going to take a sleeping pill so I would get some rest/ kill some time. I have no memory of the following incident happening......I only know about it from Anders telling me the next day. Apparently at some point in the night, the bus went over a bump, and I went flying off the seat....and onto the ground. From what I am told, I made a pretty loud noise, because I also woke up Karin, who was sitting in front of me. I have zero recollection of this, but find it absolutely hilarious nonetheless........so much for the Ambien. That particular bus ride turned out to be quite memorable for another incident. Like I said it was a 14 hour ride, 13.5 hours into it, our bus gets pulled over. We were entering Kurdish territory and security was high, we thought this was routine procedure. However, after standing outside of the bus for an hour wondering what the hell is going on, we finally get some answers.....our bus driver is drunk!! 13.5 hours into a 14 hour bus ride, our driver is removed for being inebriated.....great. The bus drivers on these buses are anything but vigilant or sagacious....clearly.
Aside from the drunk driver, there were plenty of other drivers who were....hmmm......multi-taskers? There was the one guy who had a cup of milk in his lap the whole drive....at least i am really hoping it was milk, and not anything shady like a white russian...or Raki (Turkish liquor, known as ‘tigers milk’ because it is white, and very high proof). This guy also had his cell phone to his ear more or less the entire drive. Then there was the other driver who was totally sweet, but took his eyes off the road one too many times for comfort. He kept turning around and offering Courtney and I pieces of his lokum (Turkish delights). Courtney and I pretty much came to the conclusion that sitting directly behind the driver was the worst possible place to sit, because you notice all the shady and unsafe activities taking place. That is precisely where we were sitting when we nearly crossed the center divider into oncoming traffic....my heart skipped about 6 beats. Or the time when I was sitting directly behind the driver, and everyone else around me was asleep. The driver and I were the only two people on the bus that noticed when we ran over a bird the size of a Pterodactyl . That was also awesome/ memorable. And then there was the time when the bus driver missed the freeway exit. So what does he do? He puts the bus into reverse.......on the freeway.....for a good 1/4 mile, to get back to the missed exit. Thank you for that!
In general, Turkish buses do not really adhere to any rules or regulations.....or really any structure at all. There are no crazy such ideas as ‘bus stops,’ or ‘speed limits,’ maximum capacities, or restrictions on ‘carry ons,’ etc. The so-called ‘bus stop’ could really be anywhere....the side of the freeway, a ditch, the middle of the road on the freeway. You literally can be standing in any of these places and flag a bus down.....and it will stop. As for carry-on items....we once saw a man bring his plow onto the bus, which seemed to be just tamam (ok) with everyone aboard! Zuhair, Courtney, and I were exchanging ‘what-the-fuuuuck’ glances, and try real hard not to laugh at the absolute absurdity of the situation. The policy for maximum capacity seemed to be ‘the more the merrier.’ It was quite common to see dolmuses (mini buses) that were so packed with people, that their back ends were scraping along the road....and that was pretty tamam too as far as I could tell.
Like I have already explained pretty much anything and everything is tamam on a Turkish bus....which is why I saved my favorite story for last. My good friend Zuhair and I decide we are going to visit the border town of Edirne, which is a good 10 hours away from Ankara. We take an overnight bus of course, thinking ‘this is mid May, we are pros at this by now.’ Not so fast. Zuhair and I take our seats, preparing for the breezy bus ride ahead of us, when in walks a Turkish soldier....hand-cuffed to a convict.....and another soldier.....holding a massive machine gun. Zuhair and I notice this occuring at the same moment, and look at each other like ‘wtfffffing-f!!” Three is company decides to sit directly behind Zuhair and I.......and our peace of mind goes flying out the window. We immediately begin texting all of our friends and letting them know that we may never see them again....and to please tell our parents that we love them. Fortunately we did survive that trip, we were much too scared to fall asleep....but we did walk off that bus alive, albeit quite tired and dumbfounded, but nonetheless alive and well. Now honestly though, who transports criminals on public buses?!! That is not tamam! Get that fool on some jail bird mobile with bars on the windows and other convicted felon comrades....not civilians! Gd Turkey, is a biraz (small) amount of common sense too much to ask for sometimes?
Now I could probably write another 2 pages on the glory of the Turkish bus system, but I think this little sampling of experiences will suffice for now. Despite the absolute anarchy and laissez faire philosophy, the Turkish buses did get us around. They afforded us the opportunity to travel all around the beautiful country of Turkey.....cheaply and easily.....and provided us with çok (many) funny stories to travel home with.