Day 1 of 32 – Boring Travel Logistics and A Kidnapping

9 Nov

Before I left home my mom (or Alma, as some people prefer to call her) asked me to send her a detailed, written copy of my travel itinerary. I asked her why and she said it was because she wanted to know where to “start looking” in the event I go missing (her words not mine). Now I’m not planning on disappearing or anything like that but I will admit I did spend a couple of hours on the flight over musing about how she would go about searching for me if I did.

Her approach would be quite different from mine. I would start with the digital traces – Facebook updates, blog posts, geo-tagged images, and the like. But while she knows how to use a computer, my mom is from an era where one had to press comically hard just to operate a keyboard. Which back then would have been attached to a typewriter. A manual typewriter that didn’t even use electricity. Probably the first thing she would do after discovering I was missing is jump on the next flight to IST and start her search in-country, on the ground, old school.

Her investigation would begin slowly at first, tracking down and interviewing any people I might have had contact with – the flight crew of AC810, the employees working the the information desk at IST Terminal 1 arrivals, my AirBnB landlord, and any of my friends in the city. She would of course have to recruit some local sources from the criminal underworld. This would be accomplished by her hiring a grizzled, low-rent, private detective named Tolga to help her navigate Istanbul’s seamy underbelly.

When interviewing any potential witnesses she would show them a hardcopy of this image (the most recent selfie from my FB feed) which would have to be accompanied by a disclaimer that my appearance could have changed - it is Movember after all.

When interviewing any potential witnesses she would show them a hardcopy of this image (my most recent selfie available) which would have to be accompanied by a disclaimer saying that my appearance could have changed – it is Movember after all.

We would eventually find out that Tolga, a disgraced former police officer, was kicked off the force a few years earlier and that he refuses to reveal why, his gaze shifting down and to the right every time the subject is brought up. My mom would have some reservations about hiring him because she remembers seeing the YouTube videos of the Taksim protesters being whaled on by all those cops in riot gear (none of whom were disciplined) and she would just assume that he must have done something extra crazy to get himself fired.

So even with the detective’s help it would have taken a while to piece together all the information about my first few days in Istanbul, but eventually my mom would get a break in the case after receiving a ransom note via one of Tolga’s sources. The note (written entirely out of letters cut from old newspaper headlines) would demand payment of money in exchange for my safe return setting into motion a cat-and-mouse game of Hostage Negotiation.

And I have to say that I think it’s a good thing that securing my release would be the responsibility of my mother (and if not her, someone who shares an emotional bond with me). This bond is important because the government employees who normally run these things get paid no matter what happens to me, while someone with whom I share an emotional connection will go that extra unpaid mile to get me home safe.

I worked in government for many years with many great and competent people. But the environment tends to be one that is adverse to risk, and successfully negotiating a ransom this complicated will require risk taking, creative thinking, improvisationing, and extra mile going. It’s unfortunate but the incentives just aren’t there for the government guy. The person I have an emotional connection with – that’s the person in whose hands I want to place my life. My preference is for someone with experience negotiating million dollar business deals and who has access to a good copy editor (to reduce the likelihood of the deal being soured by a spelling error).

Anyway, it remains to be seen how this all ends. The only thing I can say right now is that we find out that Tolga was fired from the police for disobeying a direct order to turn the gravel sprayer he was manning on a group of non-violent protesters and that he ends up teaching Alma several valuable life lessons about the unreliability of social and cultural stereotypes.

Day 1 to 24 Istanbul (Turkey)
Day 25 Luxembourg City (Luxembourg)
Day 26 to 30 Paris (France Republic)
Day 31 Istanbul (Turkey)
Day 32 Back in Canada

Gravel sprayer T35 in happier times.

Gravel sprayer T35 in happier times.

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