Admittedly, we hadn’t slept, had been traveling for more than 24 hours, and were jet-lagged (have I mentioned the ingenious two-year-old the next seat over on the plane who demonstrated that the call button could be pushed any time–and many times–of the night?). That surely led us to miss many nuances, but our introduction to İstanbul trafik was nevertheless superb.
We took a taxi from the airport and felt a fresh appreciation for the signs urging people “Don’t be a traffic monster!”
It helped that this was during rush hour with a heavy rain, and growing dark.
Our driver was quite friendly, eager to teach us Turkish. He used gestures, often with both hands, and frequently turned to the back seat to make sure we understood. I would have felt uncomfortable driving at the speed he did, even on a deserted road. Of course, with the heavy traffic he could attain this speed only in spurts, frequently coming to a complete stop, honking, and searching for a lane change that could allow the greatest resumption of speed.
There were other features: My window was open a crack, so the friendly driver had to reach into the back seat to make sure there wasn’t a rain leak. That was while he was following the next vehicle with, generously speaking, a ten foot gap. We ran a couple of red lights and made some impressive cutoffs of other drivers. The driver didn’t have to view all of this, since he was often referring to the paper map showing the way to our hotel.
One question came up a couple of times: Aside from legalities, if you run headlong into someone going the wrong way on a one way street , is that better or worse than doing so when you’re the one going the wrong way?
It soon became clear that my only option was to close my eyes. That worked for a while until I recognized the unmistakeable international register of cell phone talk, in this case, the driver’s. But why should I worry about that with everything else that was going on? I managed to relax a little, and so did the driver.
Then he turned on the car television.