by Beatrix Ost

4 May 2015

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Surprises are the most normal thing

The Uber X arrives. I open the door.

Beatrix, I identify myself. Are you Idris? I show him his own face on my iPhone. He lets out a deep sigh.

When he makes a slight right turn into the flow of the empty street, more sighs follow. Every couple of minutes, another sigh.

After a while I ask him: Will your day soon be over? No. Started. Heavy accent. Sigh.

Where are you from? I ask.

Turkey. Sigh.

You are? He turns fully back to me, his grave, round face preoccupied with everything.

I am German.

Germany good. Friendly. Many Turkish people.

Yes, I say. He drives on. His sighs seem to come from deep within. I feel like distracting him: Where do you live?

I live Queens. When drive the bridge, I stress. Too much stress driving. He turns all the way round to me again, in full motion.

Isn’t being an Uber driver a good job? You can make your own time. This opens the floodgates.

Oh, no, no, no. So much stress. I get ticket for standing, getting sandwich. Get ticket for going toilet. Where go toilet? I ask police. He not know. Not here, he say. I pay tickets, no income. Where can driver go toilet? Huh?

He turns around to me again. I shake my head.

Stress, so much. Must go to toilet more. I ask, nobody know.

By now we are in the thickest of West Side Highway traffic jams, accompanied by his sighs. Stress, too much, he says, maneuvering behind the slowest-moving snake.

Just back from Turkey. Vacation. You don’t believe. I was in hospital, five weeks. Five weeks!

A full turn back to me, leaving his motor vehicle to its own devices.  

I was in coma. Three week. On beach, with family. I not feel good. In hospital I am a dead man. When I wake, my wife speaks Turkish. I not know her. She must! Nobody of family speak English. She must! She is teacher. She can write into Turkish language. Learn in three week.

She must be so intelligent, I say politely. Does she have a job? No job. Stress is terrible to me.

Perhaps you should look into another job.

I was working in bakery. Too much stress. Get up five o’clock. Go to work. Boss already there, baking. Do this, do that. Idris, clean big bucket. Idris, learn faster. Make bread. Make dough. I not know so much stress in America.

Yes, but good work here too. Good opportunity. My English starts to shrink, contrary to the rising dough he had to produce. He is in a rage about stress.

On both sides of us the cars move swiftly. Only we are in slow mode. Why don’t you take a right, to get into the moving line?

Hmmm? He turns around. Just go right. It moves! I say.

Stress, stress, he sighs. Maybe I move to new city. New York too much stress. No toilet for drivers. You get ticket.

Yes, move to Ohio. (I hear myself, with no idea where it is coming from.) Just far away. That I know. There is much less stress.

He fully turns to me, his features enlightened. Oh, lady, you tell me. 

Please watch where you’re driving.

Oh, so good advice! he continues, now with his face to the traffic, his eyes in the mirror, so he can see me. I am getting anxious. At this pace, when will I ever arrive?

Feeling his enthusiasm, I say: You are the man for the vegetable business. A stand. You know? You don’t have to move. People come to you.

In Ohio. A vegetable stand. Like one in Turkey. So good. My wife can work. I supervise.

Well, she should be in her own profession.

Yes, yes, right. She can teach, and be at vegetable stand. Like help out when I have to go toilet.

He is now driving fast, faster than the other cars. After we pass through a vehicular sickroom he has discovered a new land, the land of honey.

No stress in Ohio. I can buy house. Not expensive. Have vegetable stand. My wife has work. He starts to sing a Turkish song: Uskudara gideriken aldida bir yagmur ...

The piers slide by in slow motion. New Jersey’s intricate skyline cutouts against the pink sky of rush hour. The melancholy Hudson dips in and out of sight, in between events: a plane; a ship on display, catching the light from tourist illumination; bicyclists on the green banks.

Maybe private secretary for Turkish business, my wife. Import/export, in Ohio. Germany, many Turkish living in Germany, very happy.

He does another full swivel. I hold on to my seatbelt. 

Yes, yes. Here too much stress. In Ohio no stress. German people good people, no stress.

I can only blink at the skyline of Lower Manhattan, my destination. But I am afraid to take my eyes away for a second. I can picture myself being wrenched into a carambolage of major proportions, larger than the one we just passed, and missing my chance to press against the glass, all because my driver has veered off into a new life of which I am the founder, the visionary of his America.

I don’t know about that, I mumble exhaustedly. You should just live in a smaller city. Sometimes change is good.

Yes, thank you, Ohio is good. I work with shoemaker, so much stress. Woman wants shoe right quick.

He turns off the West Side Highway into Canal. We are so close that I feel my whole body leaning forward to shorten this trip, helping with my posture, as when a mother opens her mouth to spoon-feed her child.

I open the door while the car is still rolling. Goodbye, I say into his grinning face. Ohio is a state.

A moment of surprise flits over his already entered future life. Oh, nice. No city. No stress. Katibimin setresi uzun ...

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