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28 October 2008

Driving in Izmir!!

My first experience of driving in Izmir was a great experience for me because I was told that there were no rules on the Turkish roads. My first day I got in to my automatic car and started the engine. It was weird for me because i had never driven an automatic and was used to the stick shift (gear stick). Also there was a change in driving position for me. In the UK we drive on the right in Turkey on the left. The automatic gear changing and the hot melting tarmac on the roads made the adventure more exciting.

The car purred as I pulled away from the kerb. There were no cars to be seen on this lonely residential street. As I entered the main 'B' road i was joined by more of my Honda's friends, the Suzuki swift, the Toyota Corolla and of course the Sahin (Turkish classic car). All of the cars were purring the same friendly purr and everything was fine. I hadn't noticed that there were not any rules at this stage. It was shortly afterwards I was to find myself no longer in the lonely backstreets of Izmir but in the mean streets of Izmir.

The first i caught sight of this madness was when a dolmuş (shared taxi) squeezed past me at the speed of sound. I saw a white blob in my rear window. First, I thought this may had been a little present that a seagull with diarrhoea could have left behind. As the blog got bigger I realised this thing was moving. On closer inspection through the rear view mirror it started to take shape. I then realised there was a dolmus behind me trying to break the world land speed record. I could vaguely make out the four scared passengers inside gripping at their seats for dear life. Their brows sweating as if they were lost and dying in the centre of the Saharan desert. The dolmuş was quickly approaching and maybe at a speed of 100km/hr which is fast on a 'B' road. Just before he reached my back bumper, he took a steep swerve to the left hand side, so fast that the paint was nearly sucked off my car by the vacuum he left behind in his vapour trail. As he passed me, I looked to my left and the passengers inside of his car looked to their right. For what seemed like two minutes but what was actually only a split second we looked at each other in a state of disbelief. The passengers thinking they would be dead shortly and I thinking that I would be maimed in the ensuing crash in to their car after they overtook me and hit the speeding oncoming bus in front of them. I was doing just slightly over the speed limit, so, I wasn't driving slow, but the driver of the dolmus decided to take offence. In the split second whilst I and his passengers had been gripped by the stoppage of time and the fear of impending death, the dolmuş driver had managed to roll down his window extend a 'fuck you' middle finger and at the same time call me "eşek herif", which I think means "donkey head". Immediately after he had cursed me and fingered my gaze he then took a swift right hand turn back in to lane slightly avoiding the oncoming bus as the passengers breathed a sigh of relief.

At this point I was obviously pissed off, but then I was amazed. The bus driver that had been coming towards us in the opposite direction screeched to a halt and rolled down his window and from his window extended a similar and long middle 'fuck you' finger (maybe the dolmuş driver's brother) and shouted furiously "Hadi Bey! Bok Herif!", which i think meant, "come on get a move on shithead!" The strange thing was he wasn't aiming his finger at the maniac dolmuş driver in front of me. He was aiming all 250% of his fury at me. Why? Because I was driving calmly and to the road conditions which I from then on in realised I shouldn't do.

The thing they don't tell you in the guide books about Turkey is that there are rules for driving but don't read them and definitely don't take note of them.

If a car beeps you at a red light then fuck it! PASS!

If a car tries to pass you on a hairpin bend, then fuck them up, make them go down the bank.

If a bus driver gets right up your ass, fuck him up, put your handbrake on slightly and making sure your brake lights are lit so the bus has to swerve a little.

If you have an angry white van driver jumping out of his van ready to pummel your ass, pre-empt the twat and you get out first show him the finger and say, "sıktı git maymun kafası!" and then obviously start running!! Ouch!!

If some old lady is crossing a pedestrian crossing, make sure you do not stop. Also make sure that you manage to just clip her wooden leg, making sure to dislodge it from it's placement. Maybe even get it wedged in the bumper as a trophy piece. If you get more than two you can start a tally chart like the ones on the sides of old world war one bombers.

And one last thing for good measure. If you ride a bicycle or a motorbike make sure you always zigzag all over the road so the motorists behind you have to beep their horns and shout constant abuse at you.

So as you can see there are rules! Basically be a bad ass driver, take no prisoners only casualties. Make sure your stopping distances are way beyond the obstacles, swear at everybody constantly, and finally take a large object that you can hit people with in case it gets nasty, your mother-in-law will do if you can't find a piece of rubber hose.

On a more serious point, I don't do any of the above. I am a kind and courteous driver. I know where all the other drivers are on the road at all times and try to be a good driver. Now, the difference between a good driver and a bad driver in Turkey is death. But don't feel too safe because you drive like a saint because the oncoming overloaded bus or the half asleep overworked truck driver will probably get you instead. Not only do you have to look in the rear view mirror but also to the front of you, the opposite side of the road. You become a kind of private detective trying to figure out who the killer will be, not who it was. Road death tolls are high in Turkey so be careful, try if possible not to drive on Bayrams (Turkish religious holidays) and you'll lessen your possibility of being listed on the road death toll casualties list.

Drive carefully!! Or not as the case may be!!


Izmir-2-blogger said...

I didn't even mention pedestrians but oh my word!
The pedestrians don't have any idea of how to cross a road and when they do and nearly get run over they give you a look of death.
Obviously, it is the driver's fault. The pedestrian looks as if they are being cautious and checking the road's suitability for crossing, but they then jump out in front of you when you are only 2 metres away from them. They stare at you once (a long stare) as you jam on the brakes and then they walk extremely slowly even though they know that death could have been close. I don't believe the fight or flight syndrome exists in Turkey.
If I was in there position and caught in the headlights of the car, I know i would run hop and leap myself to safety. Oh no, but not these hard nut pedestrians.

Long live hard nut pedestrians!! Please be careful, won't you, it's like a jungle out there!!



early morning said...

Living abroad.........
Hey, was laughing my socks off as I read your piece on driving in Turkey from October, I live in NZ and your writing is very witty and cheered me up bigtime. Thankfully being an ex-pat from UK, in NZ we drive on the same side of the road as Britain, still there are mad drivers here also, they think nothing of running up the inside or outside of you, anywhere at anytime. They also have 3 lanes on some normal roads which seem like a motorway only you can't go over 40 miles an hr. The roads are also really wide giving you a false sense of space until the bus/lorry decides to waver out of their lane! There is a strange rule,when you are turning left into a junction, if no one is travelling past you in the same direction, and there is someone approaching to turn right into the same junction, even though you are free to go, you have to let them go first, even if it means the arse of your car is still stuck out of the corner, ready to be clipped by someone who thinks you will be outa the way quicker than you actually will be!
Being couteous seems a good way to get your arse end of your car bashed. Most cars in NZ have bumps on them. Mine was in a car park for half an hr and some kind person bumped the back of my car as I was in the bank, arranging my car insurance! typical. Yet the car parks are huge with plenty of space! Trouble is in our area there are lots of elderly folks who perhaps should go to the optical suppliers to update their specs! Thanx for reading....