Monday, June 22, 2009
The signal of the Vinyl Bag
When you buy a rug in Istanbul, it is folded and stuffed into a cheap vinyl gym bag or zip up shopping bag for easy transport.
The bag also turns you easily into a mark.
"Congratulations on your new rug, sir," Drew was greeted by a man immediately upon setting foot outside the carpet shop. He was carrying, of course, that give-away bag.
"Can I help you to spend some more money," another shop keeper pegged him.
"I have rugs you'll like too," another tried.
We decided we should bring the rugs -- or more accurately the bag attracting al this annoying attention -- back to the hotel before venturing further. Outside the door of our Rast Hotel the carpet-seller with the shop across the street mocked shock at the sight of the tell-tale vinyl bag. He'd accosted us every time we'd walked into or out of the hotel, saying, just look, No? Maybe next time. Now he sounded hurt: "Oh, so you bought from someone else. You didn't trust me!"
People talk at you wherever you walk in Istanbul, trying to get you into their restaurant or shop or gallery. But it's not like, say, Zanzibar, where you feel accosted or under attack. They are polite even when being persistent, "Sir, sir, can I talk to you for a minute, please?" "Can I just show you one thing?"
As you walk away you can frequently hear them muttering under their breath which made us wonder exactly what they were saying. Certainly nothing flattering.