writer, warrior, whack-a-doodle

Just Say No

Just Say No

September 9, 2011
Posted in: Best-Of | Reading Time: 4 minutes

What are you looking for," asked the Turkish stranger on the street.
"We're looking for the Church of Chora," we replied.
"Let me show you our carpets," he said.
"Why? Do you have a magic one to take us there?"

Everyone and his brother has a carpet store in Istanbul. And it's an acquired skill to avoid being sold a rug in Istanbul. If you buy anything from a Turk, he will sell you a rug. If you're buying earings, he will sell you a rug. If you're buying  M&Ms, he will sell you a rug. You have to practically scream "NO" at him and run away as fast as you can to avoid be sucked into his web of slick sales lines and offers of apple tea.

Walking through the streets of Istanbul, I mentioned to Mr. Wild Dingo that our house in California was seriously in need of rugs for the foyer, parlor and other rooms, and maybe we should get one here. But he adamantly resisted  because of the complexity buying and bartering for a quality rug.

"Mrs. Wild Dingo," he said,  "you need to know what you're doing when you buy a Turkish or Persian rug. You need to understand what they're worth based on materials and how they're woven." I have to admit, I was a bit relieved to hear that answer because I really didn't have all my home specs available to buy one on a whim and be certain it would work. Afterall, some of our more personal stores in California often let us "try before we buy" purchases like that. I didn't push it.

So on our first day, I hired a private tour guide to guide us through the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque. Sherif was a fabulous historian with details that would certainly surpass your basic audio guide tours. Plus he had special privileges that got us to the front of the long queues. That alone made it worth it.

At the end of our first day we headed out of the Blue Mosque toward the Grand Bazaar. To make conversation, Sherif casually asked, "Are you interested in rugs?" But you know, he's Turkish. And he has a thick accent. And damn it, I swear he asked if we were interested in DRUGS.

Needless to say, I’m flabbergasted. But then I thought: we're not in Switzerland anymore, Toto. This is Istanbul, a city of 15 MILLION people. And it's crazy, vibrant, exotic and chaotic. Maybe, just maybe, they are a bit more unreserved about drugs. As I was trying to process the shock and grasp the rationale of how a muslim-based society could be so uninhibited, I managed to stammer out the answer, "NO!"

Mr. Wild Dingo followed up as well. "No," he said in a surprisingly casual tone, "I don't know enough about them and I'm too cheap to buy any." Which, hello, that answer totally fits a question about drugs.

To emphasize it even further, I added, "My last experience was ten years ago in Amsterdam in the smoking bars and it was a nightmare!"

Suddenly it got very quiet. Naturally anyone talking about rugs would be confused at this point. So when I saw both Mr. Wild Dingo and Sherif look at me with "What the F*ck?" faces, I thought I should clarify and dug my hole even further.

"I took one puff,* and it totally made my heart race so I freaked out and ran out of the bar."

"Um, so how did this conversation suddenly turn to talking about drugs," asked Mr. Wild Dingo. To which Sherif also wanted to know the answer.

Damn it! Where the hell is a pile of sand to stick your head when you need one?  All I can say is that I'm glad my answer was "no." Can you imagine if I was like "Hells yeah!" and then later asking "What the F*ck are we doin' at a rug store?"

After our long stay in Istanbul, I have to say I'm sure glad nobody actually offered us drugs. Because when it comes to rugs, apparently to the Turks, our repeated "no" sounded more like "maybe, show me some rugs." As we educated ourselves on quality and pricing, we slowly succumbed to their intoxicating sales tactics and gorgeous designs. In the end, it was Mr. Wild Dingo who caved to peer pressure--not me, Internet, I swear--and bought not one, not two, but three rugs.

Nancy Reagan would be so disappointed.


*I did not inhale. For the record. Just in case I run for president of anything.

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14 comments on “Just Say No”

  1. OMG, I'm dying with envy over here, I would SO LOVE to see the Hagia Sophia & the Blue Mosque! I have l've been fascinated by those buildings for years! (just to clarify, my MA is in Art History, and I used to make design/make custom tile for a living.) Serious, serious envy going on today. : )

    Oh yeah - I should mention- great post! I haven't lol that hard in front of the computer for a long time! The rugs must be beautiful, even without drugs. But the ultimate question is - are they tasty?

  2. If Loki goes crazy on those rugs..You may want to do a drug test on them to see if anything else was shipped with them.
    Do not "inhale" the rugs when they get to you. Then we will have to change your presidential statements.
    Coming from Turkey, they must be beautiful rugs. The quality should be remarkable if Mr. WD did his homework correct.

  3. Your just as hilarious as ever and entertaining Julie. Love your blogs. What are you doing in Turkey? How long have you been there and where are you staying? Love to hear about that.


  4. What Travelmarx said. Bet Mr. WD was planning to buy rugs all along 🙂 They're bound to fit somewhere. Did you carry them back to Ch with you, or have them shipped straight to CA? We're assuming the languid lady does not come with the rugs. She is just selling rugs, right?

    You DO NOT want to buy or use drugs in Turkey! Didn't you see that Midnight Express movie, or was that before your time? Talk about scared straight when travelling in Turkey. If you think the Swiss are humorless on some topics, they're nothing compared to the Turks on illegal drugs.

    Jed & Abby

  5. Hmmm... we just tried to leave a comment and it vanished after we hit submit. Did you get it?

    Jed & Abby

  6. Hehehe. Drugs, rugs, whatever, right? Both can either make everything look beautiful or make you wish you had kept your money in your wallet.

    Mango Momma

  7. So glad to hear it wasn't drugs
    But just a store full of snug rugs.
    To tug them home you had to lug
    Was Mr. WD smug to lug snug rugs?

  8. HAHAHAHAHA! *ahem* HAHAHAHAHAHA! Okay, seriously. I'm better now. HAH!

    Okay. Seriously? You went to Turkey planning to NOT buy rugs (or drugs, for that matter... however, we used to know a guy in Jeddah who sold both - apparently it was the best hashish in the souq)?!? Seriously? I'm glad that SOMEONE had the good sense to buy a few. Trust me. Not only are they good for the floors, but you can hide bodies in them (oooh.... mention that and Cleopatra to Mr. WD in the same sentence and see what his response is... He'll probably think you've been studying your Roman history and be all impressed...). If you had asked me (which, of course, you didn't), I could tell you that you can never have too many runners (you can't), and no one can afford the room-sized ones (unless you're living overseas and all the money looks like Monopoly money, at what point you can afford anything, because it's just Monopoly money). Bottom line, you really can't afford the ones that are too big for any room in your house, so whatever you bought is going to work just fine.

    Unless you bought drugs, at what point you're on your own. I plead the 5th on that one. 🙂

    -Dr. Liz, who is waiting patiently for photos of the Blue Mosque (you were able to sneak some in, right?)

  9. OMG!! This post is hilarious. I love your disclaimer at the end of the post. I'm hard of hearing so I totally understand how you felt. 🙂 One time my husband was telling a story and I thought he said his "groundhog". I was so confused until he finally clarified he was talking about his "grandpa". Haha. It was hilarious.

  10. I know this is an old post but I just found your blog a week ago and I had started reading from since you got Loki. I felt compelled to comment because this post was so funny. Love your blog btw, and your dogs. And your photos. You really are funny (hehe in many ways. Bye now... still got lots to read. =)

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