Fast Food, Hot Led: or How to Score a Free Cherry Limeade

Posted on May 10, 2011

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My evening class had finished, and I descended our five flights of spiral marble stairs with a pug safely tucked under my arm. Buddhist monks used to store pugs under their robes as portable heaters during meditations. Perhaps this is a reason for the ancient breed’s longevity. A pug is easily tucked.

A drawback to pugs is that they will attempt to eat anything on the street that isn’t nailed down. I must have made a curious sight at 11pm, yanking a tiny creature every two steps and saying “Now remember, we talked about this.” Like every night, my dog and I made the pilgrimage to a small median which was the closest patch of grass to our old apartment. Lale darted, and I snatched her away just in time. She came very close to eating a delicious bloody napkin.

Wait a second…I took a look around and noticed blood splatter and a group of guys huddled around someone clutching his nose. My first thought was that their must have been a football match that I didn’t know about. I decided to head back and walked by the Pide Sun, a Turkish cheesy bread bakery. They stay open late as their main business is late night house deliveries. However, the glass door to the establishment was shattered. The aproned cook stood with his hands on his hips in irritation knowing he would have to stay there all night because they didn’t have a protective metal door to lower unlike most of the other establishments.

What could have gone wrong at the Pide Sun? You order bread with cheese, they bake it, a couple of lira exchanges hands and you go along your way. They police arrived and began to mosey about the business of sorting it all out. What I found most intriguing of all was that the men involved in the kerfuffle bothered to wait around for the police! You’ve already shattered the door, it would seem to me that you could only lose by explaining to the cops why it was necessary for you to do so. They must have felt they had a strong case.

A couple months later, I moved to a different section of town but was passing by the Pide Sun again.  Three of my friends were burgled recently, so I was looking for a security system for my apartment. Somewhat ironically, at that moment, I was directly across from the Pide Sun when I noticed two very large men walking to the tiny median. They had just come from a hardware shop. One of the men calmly stooped down and picked up a large clump of dirt. Then, he hurled it across the street and over my head. There was a loud sound of shattering glass. The men paused for just a moment then slowly walked off seeming satisfied with what had just transpired. The owner of the hardware shop appeared in the door, put his hands on his hips, and that was it. No yelling, no retaliation. Most surprising to me, he didn’t bring out his gun! Didn’t he have a gun?

I began to think about what other things one could do in this city without repercussions. The fact that this was the first thought to cross my mind might hint at the need for some moral improvements on my part. Still, it’s an interesting question: What would you do, if you knew that after doing it, you could just vanish into the 16 million or so people that live here?

The reaction or lack of reaction from the shop owners was also baffling to me. They put their hands on their hips in frustration. That was it! Where was their outrage and their ever-ready firearm for these kinds of occasions.

The reason could be simple enough. It is harder to own a firearm in Turkey than the United States. You can compare firearm regulations at this wonderfully helpful site: http://www.gunpolicy.org/firearms/region/turkey#gun_owner_licensing. The regulation of guns in the United States is categorized as “permissive” whereas Turkey is “restrictive.” In Turkey, ” Applicants for a gun owner’s licence are required to prove genuine reason to possess a firearm, for example, hunting, target shooting, collection, personal protection, security.” In the USofA, citizens “are not required to prove genuine reason to possess a firearm.” Basically, it is just a bigger hassle in to get a legal gun in Turkey.

However, this doesn’t explain the lack of rage. Why did these two situations not spiral excitingly out of control. I can give another example of being let down this way.

Two years back I was eating rice and beans at the Pilav Station which is by far the best rice and beans place in town. The young men who own it are super friendly and also own a Playstation cafe which they cross-promote with the restaurant’s name. Pilav is the Turkish word for rice, and Pilav Station is a play on the way Turks pronounce Playstation.

It was a bright summer day and people were happily shoving dry-beans and rice into their smiling faces. I noticed a man sitting at a table near the street only because he was wearing MC Hammer pants, which of course makes everyone who wears them look awesome. A large van pulled up alongside  the restaurant. Its path was blocked by another car for some reason or another. The van honked, and honked, and honked some more. It was getting ridiculous. The van was maybe inches away from the outdoor tables and the horn was really painful to the ears of all of us. Suddenly, it was ‘Hammer time.’ Turkish MC Hammer, speaking for everyone, yelled something at the driver. That’s when things took a turn for the worse.

The windowless van’s sliding door opened and out stepped no less than five monsters. Imagine the sinking feeling in Turkish MC Hammer’s stomach at the sight of five very muscled and very angry men walking  up to his table. At that moment all the able bodied men in the Pilav Station bravely stood up. Chests were bumping all over the place. As I brought the next scrumptious bite of rice and beans to my mouth, I thought about what a shame it was this horrible mismatch had to take place and that I would probably run out of rice before the whole thing was over.

Just when it seemed the opening punch was going to be thrown, women advanced from all directions. Some were very old, some were young, and some were covered, but none of them hesitated. Fingers wagging, they inserted themselves between them men with a righteous authority. Shamed and confused, the men retreated back into the van and others back to their tables. Just like that, crises averted.

If you would like to dine at the Pilav Sation, here is a link to their Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Pilav-Station/144451712259752

Again, I saw anger fail to spill over into any tangible violence. I don’t aim to paint a picture with a broad brush. I don’t even mean to imply that Turkish people are less angry or violent than Americans.  I just think these experiences were odd and very interesting.

I saw an article on Slate.com a few days ago about violence at fast food establishments: http://www.slate.com/id/2292302/. Christopher Beam called it “McRage.” Apparently, there has been a startling up-tick in acts of brutality and rage at fast-food chains. So much so, that McDonald’s released this statement: “There’s no room for violence under the Golden Arches.”

Setting aside for a moment how absolutely hilarious this quote is, it raises some interesting questions about our capacity for anger and violence.  Its a fascinating article, I highly recommend reading it.

It made me recall an experience my wife and I had at a Sonic while living in Birmingham, Alabama. For those of you who don’t know (non-Americans), Sonic is the spectacular fast food restaurant where you never have to leave your car and workers sometimes wear roller-skates.   : http://www.sonicdrivein.com/home.jsp;jsessionid=285AE12A17252C7C188CA5A7ECA51738.sonic-prod

Sonic has a very special place in my heart. When Cari and I went to get our marriage licence in a very small town in Georgia, they needed $56.64 in exact change. We went to the Sonic and bought two cherry limeades for some coinage. The probate judge saw us with the Sonic drinks and gave us two Sonic coupons as a wedding present.

Anyhoo, it was a late night in Birmingham, and Cari and I just finished our shift at the restaurant we both worked at. Tired and hungry, we made a late trip to Sonic. There weren’t many cars there that night. A waiter (not in roller-skates) brought an order over to the two couples in the car near us. While we were waiting for our order, a man came out of the Sonic to talk to them. The white Sonic employee began shouting at the black customers in the car. He was yelling something about how they had definitely not ordered an apple limeade but a cherry limeade and no, this one wasn’t going to be free.

Things intensified and the car backed out and began to leave the parking lot. The Sonic worker followed the car and furiously shouted, “That’s right! Get out of my Sonic!” Or something to that effect (give or take a few expletives). However, he got carried away and screamed “I’m not a bitch, you’re a bitch!” (I guess the customer isn’t always right at Sonic.) That’s when the car stopped and a very large man in a striped shirt bounced out. He took a step and a half then my heart stopped beating. I didn’t breath and I didn’t move. It felt like time stopped. I didn’t turn around, all I could think about was Cari.

I was staring at a shiny pistol in the shaky hands of a man in a stupid purple t-shirt. The big black man froze just feet away. There was a shaky gun just a parking space away from my truck with my wife inside.

Everyone was frozen. The only things moving were the extended arms of the frightened gunman.

“He pulled a GUN on me!?” the large man said in a high voice with disbelief. Then the second hand ticked, and time started again.

He backed into the car and they sped off. The pistol followed them around the corner. The man put the gun back into his pants and reentered the Sonic.

I turned to my wife and asked if we should leave, or wait for the gunman to bring us our two extra-large limeades.

We sped off in my truck realizing we didn’t know the number for the police. We made it to the Krystal’s and drove up to the drive-through window. We asked the worker if she knew the Birmingham police number, but she didn’t either. That’s when we saw a cop car and told him what had happened.

We pulled back into the Sonic. The police officer questioned the gunman. Feeling safe with the police present we resumed waiting for our order. Then the gunman brought the cherry limeades out to us. He apologized for what happened and assured us that these customers were really annoying and kept changing their order and stuff.

I nodded my head in very firm agreement. Anything to get this man away from my truck, maybe we shouldn’t have come back. My heart sank when I heard Cari angrily ask him why he felt the need to pull a gun on those customers!

She is trying to get us killed I thought. He explained that it was a dangerous neighborhood and he knew these folks were going to be trouble. “Do you think you could talk to the cop and tell him what you saw?” he asked. “Oh, yeah. And the limeades are on me.”

The police officer came over and we gave our account. We told how we were outraged that this Sonic owner endangered everyone over an argument that he started. The officer, acknowledged the stupidity of the situation, but said it was all technically legal. It was his property and he had a right to have a gun.

And that my friends is how you score a free limeade back in the States!

If you would like to drink a cherry limeade in the safety of your own home, here is a wonderful recipe from Famous Tasty Recipes: http://recipes.calputer.com/sonic-cherry-limeade-recipe.html 

Cherry Limeade ™

12 ounces Sprite (1 can)
3 lime wedges (1/8 of a lime each)
1/4 cup cherry juice (Libby’s Juicy Juice is best)

1. Fill a 16-ounce glass 2/3 full with ice.

2. Pour Sprite over the ice.

3. Add the juice of three lime wedges and drop them into the drink.

4. Add the cherry juice and serve with a straw.

Makes 1 16-ounce drink (medium size).


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Posted in: Istanbul, Me