Friday, June 27, 2008

Missing the boat

So the highlight of the conference was the Saturday night dinner cruise on the Bosporus.

Be in the lobby at 6:45 sharp, the organizers told us. If they told us once, they told us 20 times. I was dressed, ready, doing emails to kill off some time before 6:45 when I looked up and the clock in my room said 6:45. I raced to the elevator where another conference attending was getting in. Simultaneously we both said, "Oh good, I'm not the last one."

We didn't see our group in the lobby. We didn't see them outside the hotel. We didn't see them in any of the buses up and down the street we checked. "Uh-oh," we said, again almost simultaneously. they had been serious about that "sharp" business. The door man didn't speak much English and the only word of Turkish I know is walnut (one of the women in the group has a bad allergy so she asked if there were walnuts in every dish that arrived at our tables. Somehow we managed to convey in pantomime our question -- where was the group going to the port? and Somehow he managed to convey back that they'd just left. He suggested we run up the hill from the hotel and try to intercept the bus which would have to make a long loop around the block because of one-way streets and would be passing by any second. Now, had he done better charades, or we'd been quicker on the uptake our run up the hill might not have been in vain.

We waited about 10 minutes, then ran back to the hotel where I'd left my cell phone and tried calling some of our colleagues who'd left us behind. The cell phone was making no connections. This was a conference about better cooperation between cops and journalists and we realized we could prove what could be done when practitioners of both fields just try. We estimated we had a 1 in 10 chance of success.
So we got the doorman to write out where the bus driver was headed and then got a hotel clerk with better English to explain how the tram system works, then ran up the hill again and asked passersby where to buy tokens for the tram and where to catch the right one. We got the wrong tram which was packed with sweaty people hanging onto overhead straps --for an aroma different from the Spice Bazaar -- but it was going the right way. We had passengers on the tram who knew English totally involved in our plight trying to show us where our cruise boat just had to be and how we could get there, and best of all, we got them to speak to the bus driver in Turkish over my cell phone. The bus was caught in traffic and we might make it after all.

We transferred trams and got to the BP station the hotel clerk told us was right near the dock and there -- miraculously -- the bus from the hotel with our friends was just pulling up to unload.

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