The Tyranny of Choice

Stories from the road: Istanbul

Kelly Tatham

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Not even 20 hours into my 10 day trip to Istanbul, I twist my ankle. Airport. Hostel. Sleepless night. Breakfast. Sunscreen. Bam. Down she goes.

Marching confidently out of one of the most touristic parts of town, en route to a neighbourhood where secondhand clothing has been promised, (because somehow I ended up in Turkey without a headscarf — a mandatory item for women in religious spaces — and I refuse to spend over half a day’s budget on a scarf at one of the tourist shops closest to the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia), my right foot catches the edge of a sidewalk and buckles underneath me. I topple over.

A local man rushes to my side, urging me not to move just yet, as a second man watches nearby then strides over as soon as he sees me struggling to maintain composure. The two of them hover close as I sit on the curb in pain, collecting myself and assessing the situation. While there is no mangled or buckled pavement to blame — the gap between the sidewalk and the road can’t be more than two inches — I can already tell that I won’t be walking anywhere fast, anytime soon.

The second man offers his hand and I let him guide me up and into his restaurant just a few paces from where I’ve tumbled. It is a small, open air, hole-in-the-wall sports bar with neon signs and football (soccer) flags covering every inch of the ceiling and walls. The space is, appropriately and of course, garnished with one and only one patron — an older fellow with a gruff beard, drinking pre-noon beers and chain smoking.

As I process the gleaming colours and the tantalizing allure of cigarette smoke, the man who helped me inside, presumably the owner of this place, directs me to sit down. I comply and as I do, he thrusts a glass bottle in front of me. It takes me a moment to understand — it’s sanitizer, because I fell on the street. I open my palms and accept the offering. He nods and then asks if he can make me a coffee or tea.

I consider. “Coffee,” I reply.

“With milk? Americano?”

“Oh. Um. Whatever you think is best.”

He pauses, if only slightly, and then disappears behind an espresso machine. I unzip my boot and cradle my swelling foot in my hands. This is…

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Kelly Tatham

Fugitive. Systemsthinker. Saving the world is easier than we think. There is no world // kellytatham.com