Grand Bizarre #7: Snowed In
by J.A. McCarroll
February 1: 9 52 A.M.
According to wikipedia, Istanbul has been settled since at least 660 B.C.E. Presumably, each year since then has had a winter, which should, in theory, have prepared the populace for snow. This doesn?t seem to be the case, as from my fogged up windows, all I can see are people totally losing their cool. My hill is covered in skid marks from falling business men, local shopkeepers are looking up and actually shaking their fists at the sky, and the paper reports grounding of international flights. Currently, there is around three inches of snow on the ground, or as we say in New York, ?a flurry.?
My response to this weather is a distillation of folksy American wisdom and know-how. I went to the grocery store to get supplies for the upcoming snowpocalypse. I got soy sauce, nutella, avocados, and the cheap ?German? beer that is made in Greece. My mother, who lives in a part of the United States that is routinely punished by snow, ice, and drunk-boating accidents, always advises having booze in the house for a snowstorm. I assume that it is to keep warm, which might be necessary; weather of all types here seem to lead to power outages and I don?t have central heating. Beer is a lot cheaper than a radiator.
February 1: 10 08 A.M.
My feelings of superiority over the locals last halfway through making coffee, when it becomes clear that my shopping spree last night failed to account for any essentials, such as milk, eggs, or bread.
Eggs are nothing but a poor-man?s avocados, and beer is basically liquid bread, so I?m covered with those two, but the lack of milk is a real problem. Another bit of folksy American wisdom I subscribe to is that black coffee in the morning will give you ulcers. It is, of course, utterly impossible for me to do anything without coffee.
I consider changing out of my pajamas and lucky yellow Moroccan slippers, but assume that a display devil-may-care attitude in the face of a minor snow storm will really impress the neighbors.
February 1: 10 11 A.M.
As can be expected from slippers from a desert country, my lucky yellow footwear have failed me. I?m splayed out like a broken angel on the ground with the snow soaking through my pajama pants. I?d like to blame this on hidden ?black ice,? but in fact, it was the regular kind. I didn?t see it because I was thinking of something cute to say in Turkish to express the snowiness.
The old lady who lives at the foot of my building comes out to help me up. ?çok karlı,? I say, trying to salvage my dignity. She nods and agrees that, yes, there is a lot of snow. ?Your Turkish is very good,? she lies as I brush snow off myself. ?It is very cold,? I inform her, to another polite nod. ?Be careful,? I warn, as she shakes her wool-scarved head at the snow and shuffles back into her apartment, which seems a lot warmer than mine. Despite her compliments, it occurs to me that she probably doesn?t think I?m very smart.
February 1: 10 12 A.M.
?Çok karlı,? I say to the surly bakkal by my house. He nods in agreement and then points at my slippers, which he suggests might be a problem. My feet are beginning to turn red and get numb. So far I haven?t really upheld the self-reliant American stereotype.
I mispronounce the word for ?milk? twice.
February 1: 11 23 A.M.
With breakfast over and my feet warmed to a tolerable level, I begin to notice something unusual about my apartment. Normally at this time of day, it is relatively empty, as even the retirees and housewives that make up the bulk of the building go and socialize outside, do shopping, or sit in front of the local mosque and glare at people. I, of course, don?t really do any of those things, preferring to stay inside and write stories about genies, so I very rarely hear any disturbances.
Today, however, the building is awash in shouts, doors opening and closing, and other various noises that indicate that I am not alone. I suppose the snow, ice, and the inherent brittleness of old person hips has kept the rest of the building inside.
I decide I can?t work with all these distractions. I?m cold so I open up a beer. Today?s looking like a snow day.
February 1: 12 27 P.M.
According to yahoo answers, drinking by yourself before noon is probably a sign of being an alcoholic. Sadly, there doesn?t seem to be any hard data on what feeling like a wimp after being unable to finish one beer before noon means. Luckily, I?ve discovered a new way to entertain myself in lieu of actually working.
I?m currently in my bathroom with the lights out, with my ear pressed to the vent to the building?s central air duct. Although decidedly less atmospheric than an overturned cereal bowl on the living room floor, the acoustics are great. From this vantage spot, I can hear noises from all of the other flats in the building, a fun fact I learned last November when I thought my bathroom might be haunted.
Two floors above me are my neighbors with their yippy dog. Directly next to me is the guy I have dubbed ?the murderer,? who always runs power tools after midnight. While these two present interesting case studies in their own right, I?m after bigger fish. I?m after Osman.
February 1: 1 00 P.M.
Osman is my least favorite person in the city, which is no mean feat considering how quickly I make enemies. For the past three months, he has been complaining about my lifestyle nearly non-stop to my landlord, even going so far as to suggest that I was stealing electricity, despite my inability to even correctly get mail delivered. This smear campaign has resulted in complaints shouted through his door to any turkish person who visits me, crippling noise-related anxiety, and one threatening visit from my landlord, where the word ?polis? was mentioned six times, although I am not sure the exact context.
Given this clear evidence that Osman is psychotically obsessed with me, my original goal in listening was to hear him say my name in evil tones and then to call all my friends and complain about him violating my privacy. Instead, I am listening to a very entertaining fight between him and his wife, both of whom are shrieking comically. Instead of listening for my name, I find myself perched on the edge of the toilet waiting to hear ?idiot,? ?cheater,? or best of all, ?divorce,? all of which I looked up in my dictionary.
February 1: 1 30 P.M.
There?s a sound of masculine weeping from downstairs, which surprisingly, doesn?t make me feel all that good. In response to guilt attack, I clean the bathroom. I liked Osman a lot more before, when I could hate him unconditionally.
February 2: 11 18 A.M.
Even though we got more snow over the night and I still have plenty of soy sauce, beer, and avocados, I decide to go out for a walk. As I walk by the second floor landing, I encounter Osman, wrapping a scarf around his neck. His eyes are red-rimmed and puffy, and his normally waxed mustache is bushy and be-crumbed.
?Good morning,? I say to him, for perhaps the first time. His piggish eyes contract suspiciously. ?Good morning,? he replies.
Luckily, my language barrier prevents me from having to have any reconciliatory interactions. Instead, I nod my head and tell him to ?be careful.? I give him just the slightest tip of my hat and continue, ?it?s very snowy.?