I just made it to India, but am waiting on my bike. I’m having some serious motorcycle withdrawals and have almost considered renting one of these…
I spent two days with the guys at the cargo area of the Istanbul airport. When I showed up on the first day, I was met at the office by a guy who informed me that he’d be my translator. His English was pretty poor, but I couldn’t complain…it was definitely better than my Turkish, and despite having lots of issues communicating, everything got done. The biggest issue was on my second day there, which was the day everything needed to get wrapped up, as my flight to Mumbai left at 3:30pm. We all agreed to meet at 10am the second day, customs would take about one hour, which would give me plenty of time to make my flight, while still accounting for any delays. I show up at 9:30, drink a couple cups of tea. Mr. Translator shows up a little before 10, and we start chatting about my trip. By 10:30, I mention that we should probably get the paperwork going. He says that everyone will be going for lunch at 12, and will be gone until 1:00 or 1:30, so we should be able to start in the afternoon and get things wrapped up before they close at 5:00.
He responded to my facial expression, a combination of panic and frustration, with a look of confusion. As clearly as urgently as I could, I let him know I’m leaving this afternoon, and the paperwork needs to be done by noon, as we talked about yesterday. Finally realizing my schedule, he cracked the whip on the guys in the office…tea cups were set down and they sat up in their chairs. One guys immediately got on the phone, another on the computer. In a few minutes three of us were running out of the office with various pieces of paperwork…going from one customs office to another, collecting various stamps and signatures. During any pause, someone working in to loading area would notice the helmet hanging from my backpack and had to come ask if I was the “motorbike guy.” It was a little bit entertaining, but mostly I was just worried about getting everything finished on time.
Everything was wrapped up by 12:30, and Mr. Translator offered to give me a ride to the international terminal. Perfect…it would’ve been a long walk with all my bags, and I was feeling too stubborn (or probably cheap, after just paying my shipping bill) to take a cab. As we pull up, he informs me that “now I should pay him for his services.”
“As your translator.”
“You don’t work for the shipping company?” I say, a bit confused.
“No, I’m the translator, so you still have to pay me.”
“Why didn’t you tell me this yesterday, instead of doing your best to make it seem that you worked for the shippers?” Now I’m more frustrated than confused.
The excuses started coming out, but mostly he just kept saying how I owe him some (he never gave any hint to what amount he expected) money…and my feelings went from frustrated to pissed off.
I had a small amount of lira in my wallet, and to be honest, I would have been happy to pay someone more than what I had for a few hours of translation service. But first off, I would’ve found someone who had a much better grasp of English, and second, I would’ve liked to know that they were expecting payment, rather than making it seem as though they worked for the company I was already forking over a LOT of money to.
“Well, this is all the cash I’ve got” as I reluctantly handed over the last of my lira.
“You could pay me in dollars as well” he responded, clearly not catching on to my tone of voice, which was starting to escalate beyond pissed.
At this point, I reached a state that most people have not seen…I think that anyone who knows me well would probably say I’m generally pretty calm…but not today. I spewed out a few choice words, which in hindsight maybe wasn’t my proudest moment, then awkwardly and silently collected my bags from the back seat, which seemed to take forever (gathering up 3 bags totaling 65+ kg can’t really be done in a hurry). All the while, he’s angry and staring me down after I just told him his method of doing business is total bullshit.
So, for anyone out there that might find themselves in a similar situation, I recommend discussing beforehand to figure out who works for who and who is expecting money at the end of the process.