Leave no space
This morning as I waited in the Immigration line, I relearned, for the umpteenth time, an essential lesson for living in Turkey: leave no space. For whatever reason, Turks have a natural repulsion to order. You won’t find them neatly standing in a line. Instead, where there’s an obvious checkpoint, they will rush it and every man will subtly push to the front.
As a strong proponent of social obedience in the areas of traffic and queuing, I take secret pleasure when a system is in place to force Turks into a proper queue. Usually this is done by forming queues where only 1 person can comfortably stand across, and usually occurs at more modern places, like western hotels and airports.
Even though Ankara’s airport is a pretty small, not-busy airport, everybody is still in a rush. Wile waiting to pass through immigration today I was behind a guy with a nervous tick and a weird roller bag that kept hitting my feet every time he shuffled his feet. So, the next time the line shuffled forward, I left a little space between the bag and me to protect my feet. The guy behind me saw the open space and slipped right ahead of me, which of course involved actually jostling me – way beyond a violation of my personal space (a concept non-existent in Turkey, by the way). Since we probably had about two more minutes to wait and plenty of time to make the flight, I didn’t really care. Obviously, I thought, this guy is in a big hurry, and I had my iTunes and headphones to keep me entertained while waiting for another person to get through.
But then I felt like somebody was rubbing up against me, again. I half-turned, and realized that the line-cutter’s wife now also felt entitled to cut too, because she should be with her husband in line. For some reason, the best Turkish rolls off my tongue when I’m fighting queue-cheats – maybe I should spend more time queuing. So, I confronted this lady in Turkish. She acted incredibly offended that I would dare to challenge her line-cutting. It’s just one more person – what’s my problem? But I held my ground, and eventually her husband (properly shamed) joined her, behind me, in their rightful place in the queue.
I had the last laugh while answering the Immigration Officer’s questions about my unique “soldier residence status” and life in the American Navy as long-windedly as possible. I’ve never shared so many sea stories at the border before and don’t regret a minute of it. After all, I need to practice my Turkish every chance I get. I should be thanking those line-cutters for giving me an extra chance today!