“Fear of the Law” has prevented me from writing freely this past year. Since I wasn’t raised here, I don’t fully understand how things work. But I do know that many people have been prosecuted for “insulting Turkishness” under the Turkish criminal code. I’m not afraid to say that I am afraid of that. I have also reined in my thoughts for fear of insulting friends and embarassing my family. Today, I’m feeling a bit more ballsy. I don’t know why. I just am. So today I have a few things to share about recent annoyances.
Vodafon – one of the kings of cell phones here – is really p’ing me off! Everyone has always had problems with their cell phone providers. But Vodafon is quickly moving to the top of my list. There are several things they do that make changing plans almost completely impossible. This was evident when we tried to add an international plan when I traveled to Germany. It was a no go. We couldn’t work it out. But recently, it’s gotten worse. My husband decided he didn’t need 500 minutes for 35TL, so he switched to 250 minutes for 20TL. It seemed to make sense at the time, until the bill came. Vodafon doesn’t tell you this up front, but they don’t allow switching of plans at mid-month. Instead of paying part of the 35 and part of the 20 according to how many days of the month he had each plan, Vodafon charged him 55TL! He called to complain, and that’s when he was informed of the penalty for changing plans. In my book, that’s just a load of crap! Let’s just call it THEFT!
The recent treatment of the Eczane (pharmacy) by the powers that be is no better. Last Spring, the decision to add new bar codes on pharmaceuticals was implemented. From what I have read, it seemed like a good idea. It was a new method to track the drugs. Temporary unique square barcodes, that can store more information, were added to all boxes that were manufactured before the law – basically a sticker. On December 31st, without prior warning, the eczanes were told that the system would no longer accept these new temporary barcodes. These drugs could only be sold to customers who did not use government insurance. At least one eczane employee I spoke with says that customers with government insurance comprise almost 100% of his business. His alternative? Let the meds rot on his shelves – until they expire and lose all of the money he poured into it. Pharmacists to not make much money, as they often do in the States. They are simply Mom and Pop shops. This was a good idea gone bad. Ain’t that a bite in the . . .
Little White Lies – these are a part of life. But I’ve never seen it become a part of daily life, as it is here in Turkey. I understand that people just assume I am a liar, since I am a lawyer. But a great criminal law professor, John Wherry, once said that as a lawyer, we have nothing to sell. We don’t have a product. What we sell is ourselves. If we tell one little white lie and get caught, then we will always be seen as a liar. If you are selling yourself and you are a liar, business will die. In Turkey, one is forced to lie on a regular basis, in order to get simple things done. For example, people often buy used cars and leave them titled in the prior owner’s name because taxes on car sales are outrageously high. It’s just accepted as the thing to do. It is just one small example, but you get the drift. If you think the U.S. tax plan allows the rich to get richer, come pay a visit to Turkey. The poor man gets slammed!
Diplomats are King. If I hear one more time that so-and-so works for this or that govenrment branch, or is the son of so-and-so from [insert any high-level office], I’m going to start randomly hurling golfballs. I will likely swallow them whole to give the full regurgitating effect. It’s as if many people here wake up every day to Kelis’ hit single, “My milkshake is better than yours.” And that’s just gross. I was recently told by a fellow expat that if I ever have an important Turkish guest to my home, do not serve onions. Well, if you know me, you know that onions will be the first thing on my menu if I ever get that opportunity. I did make a lovely side dish of creamed onions for Thanksgiving. I served it to many professors from METU, including the head of one of the departments. Sure, he wasn’t aristocracy, but he has an important job that is held in high esteem here. He cleaned his plate. No leftover onions! As a young peron, many saw me as a braggard. One day, I returned to my college dorm room to find a little sign posted to my desk. It read, “It is nice to be important, but it is more important to be nice.” That saying woke me up and changed my life. Diplomats are not God. Not in my house anyway!