The One-Eyed Driver

The dolmuş driver scans the wet road with his one good eye; the other is milky like the cream in the center of a saucer. If this affects his depth perception, there’s nothing about his driving to give any indication. I’m squished in the front seat of the van on my way back from teaching at a private school. Beside me is another passenger sitting comfortably but sighing heavily, probably due to the heavy traffic. The driver is talking to himself or maybe he’s talking to me. He laughs about something and picks up his CB radio, most likely to inform the other dolmuş drivers that the Friday traffic is backed up on their normal route today and he’s decided to take an alternate route.

A dolmuş is sort of like a bus that rear ended a taxi, got stuck to it, and couldn’t decide what it was anymore. They’re yellow vans that usually follow specific routes. The price varies depending on where you want to get dropped off. My commute costs a buck twenty-five each way. In the morning, when traffic is calm it takes about ten to twenty minutes to get to school. Today, it’s going to take an hour. It doesn’t matter how long the trip takes, the dolmuş driver gets paid the same. This is why dolmuş drivers are some of the most aggressive drivers that I’ve ever encountered.

He points the nose of the van into one lane, fighting for dominance on a brake or be broken highway as the line of cars behind us light up the road with red tail lights and honk their angry horns. The driver whips back into the other lane at the last second to avoid a bus pulling up to a stop. He jams the wheel back to the right, cutting off an ambulance and then darts onto a bus-only lane. He risks everyone’s lives to get in front of one or two cars, maybe shaving off a few minutes from the total trip. His brakes squeel, he honks at every moving thing, mean mugs other drivers all the while laughing to himself like a maniac. He checks the rear view just as often as he checks his phone. He looks over to me and says something in Turkish. I laugh and nod my head even though I don’t understand a word of it. When a crazy person is at the wheel, there’s nothing left to do but laugh and enjoy the lurching, break neck ride. Someone in the back asks to get out. I don’t blame them. He crosses four lanes and stops an entire lane of traffic. The passenger jumps out at the same time that a family of four jumps leaps through the doors. They barely make it in before the driver is already back up to full speed. We’re getting close to Taksim through the back alleys of Tarlabaşı. The van struggles to get up a hill and the usual flock of pedestrians litters the road. The driver lays on the horn, drops down a gear, and revs the engine up to the red line, barely missing a nimble-footed old lady who miraculously leaps out of the way just in time. We approach my stop. I ask the driver to pull over.

“Görüşürüz,” I say. It means “see you later.”

“Insha’Allah (god willing),” he replies.

It had taken almost an hour to get to Taksim. The driver would only make about eight bucks for the entire trip. I pulled a few more lira from my pocket to give him as a tip but before I could get the coins out he was already speeding off, honking, laughing, and stealing every inch he could steal from anyone who happened to be driving on his roads.

– Nathan

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