The Smallest Kindness Redeems
One Incredibly Nice Gesture Saves the Entire Nation of Turkey From Unfair Critical Attack
It had been a long day already. A drive that Google maps had said would take six hours in total was already at hour six and we were barely half way to our destination. We had left the geothermal pools of the calcium carbonate mountain Pamukkale in Turkey that morning and I was very irritated. The afternoon before we had a fairly disturbing hotel experience which was scary enough to cause us to leave the hotel immediately after check in and to not return for checkout. The place we found as a replacement was only slightly better and I felt discriminated against and uneasy there as well. Overall the past day and a half had been full of mini-frustrations, mostly due to my own ignorance of the Turkish language. A lack of quality sleep was aggravating the situation badly. I was in a foul mood and was lashing out at even the smallest of perceived injustices. In truth nothing bad had happened, we were never in even the slightest of jeopardy, and nobody had said or done anything of real significance in any way negative to us since we had entered the country two days prior. However, to me it felt as if the whole country was against me. I was being targeted as an American and treated poorly as a result.
It was against this backdrop that we pulled off the highway at some place I can’t remember the name of, in the middle of somewhere I don’t recall, Turkey to eat lunch. It was partially outside and we seated ourselves as no one came out to greet us as we approached. We sat for a few minutes waiting and drew only a few puzzled stares from the locals so we decided to get up and head inside. After a confusing ten minutes or so of frustrating back and forth with what we assumed were restaurant staff we “placed our order” and headed back out to sit down. My traveling companion Kat’s command of the Turkish language was much better than my own, but she was still a novice and had been frustrated by the encounter as well. We sat glumly waiting for our food, the identity of which was a complete mystery. Finally a waiter approached and we tried our best to order drinks, coke and water, but even that proved impossible and the waiter became frustrated as well. He slunk away unhappily and my mood darkened a bit more.
My anger was building as I relived a litany of perceived slights over the past three days. I had the slashing attack piece I intended to write all planned out in my head at that very moment. As I sat and stewed the very same waiter who had struggled so mightily to communicate with us just a few minutes earlier returned. This time he was holding a phone into which he appeared to be talking softly in Turkish (on a side note one thing I can tell you about the Turkish language is that everyone speaking it does so softly. It is a nation of low talkers — Seinfeld reference, look it up. Moreover, nobody finishes what they are saying before turning and walking away. Final words are often heard at a higher pitch as the sound is Dopler shifted by the distance of separation between yourself and the rapidly disappearing speaker). He handed it to Kat. She looked as confused as I felt but took the phone and said “Hello?” Within seconds a big smile lit up her face and it became clear what he had done. “His friend who speaks English.” she said to me pointing at the phone, and then continued to explain what we wanted to eat and drink. When she was done with our order she handed the phone back to the waiter who nodded and smiled at us as his friend explained what it was we wanted. In the end the food was only so so, and we finished it quickly as we were anxious to get back on the road but I could not stop thinking about what the waiter had done for us.
In the grand scheme of life the universe and everything it really wasn’t that big of a deal. Dude made a phone call to a friend from work, so what? On the other hand, how incredibly kind was that act? He could have just said fuck it. He was never going to see us again and we were never going to see him, and yet he still went that extra mile to help us. On top of that I had little doubt he knew we were Americans. The bumbling idiot in a foreign land trait is usually a dead give away.
The unjustified hit piece full of cheap shots went into the deleted section of my brain and I wrote this instead. Thanks brother.