Day 7 of 31 – Do you like the Carpet? No, I prefer the ballet.

14 Nov

This part of the world is famous for their carpets. And I’m not talking about the beautiful, rarely-vacuumed, plush, dark green, wall-to-wall carpet that adorned my room for so many years. You know, the carpet that my cousin Erin and Lotta loved (re: hated) so much.

I’m talking about the handmade (by whom? not sure, probably children) Persian and Kurdish and Turkish rugs that every traveler to the Orient *has* to bring back home with them – otherwise, how will your friends know you visited somewhere if they can’t walk all over the evidence every time they enter your home?

The lady at the airport in Ottawa said I had to bring one back even though I expressly told her I was not going to. I said the same thing here in Turkey but the sales guy would have none of it. And I do have to say they’ve got a pretty effective system.

The first guy who engages me on the street speaks perfect english and has an incredible knowledge of my home country. He’s the one that draws me in. This whole trip I’ve been doing the “I’m from Canada’s capital” bit and the *only* one to get the right answer is this carpet guy. At the front of his store there is a picture of him with former caretaker Prime Minister Paul Martin. On his phone, a picture of him with Jean Charest.

or the Surplusinator as I like to call him. Does Paul Martin know his likeness is being used to sell carpets in Turkey? Would he be surprised? What’s his cut? The sales guy won’t say.

or the Surplusinator as I like to call him. Does Paul Martin know his likeness is being used to sell carpets in Turkey? Would he be surprised? What’s his cut? The sales guy won’t say.

He then hands me off to the carpet expert. They bring me into a nice room with an open space. They offer me tea imported from Armenia. Then, after showing me a couple of samples, the expert informs me that this is just the showroom, if I want to see the real good stuff, then we have to go to the warehouse (a three minute walk).

I finish my Armenian tea and we head off through the Grand Bazar’s labyrinth of shops to some Cheneyesque undisclosed location. I’m a bit wary of the whole situation, following some stranger I just met to his “warehouse”.

During this trip I’ve been adhering to a strict WiFi-only policy but I find myself debating whether or not to break it and post a waypoint so my mom can know where to start looking if this is a kidnapping. We enter a courtyard and I instantly know that this scene in the film version of this story will be a crowd-pleaser. Next to the warehouse entrance I see this:

It means “diamonds”

It means “diamonds”

As I enter the room I quickly look for other exits and check for any locks on the main door. The survey results are not promising: zero of the former and three of the latter. I quickly devise an escape plan in the event things go south – try and take out the big guy, then deal with the little one. Defeating an abduction anytime after T = 0 is really difficult – so you have to act fast.

I then realize that if I’m going to be this paranoid I probably shouldn’t have drank that delicious tea. They could have easily slipped a forget-me-now in there and I’d be down for the count.

This train of thought pulls me back into reality and I do a quick evaluation of the whole situation: they just want to sell me a carpet. I know this because they have the full endorsement of a respected former Canadian Prime Minister. It’s highly unlikely that he would lend his name to a Turkish carpet business that kidnaps people for ransom.

So one of the problems of shopping in Turkey is that there are no prices but each clerk insists he’s going to give you the best price. Problem is, you have no frame of reference.

One guy tried to tell me that I could sell this $4000 carpet in the States for $10,000. As I was leaving his store he offered me a 50% discount. It makes no sense.

One guy tried to tell me that I could sell this $4000 carpet in the States for $10,000. As I was leaving his store he offered me a 50% discount. It makes no sense.

So I’m dressed like a hobo and I tell the guy straight up that I have no money. I tell him I’m not buying anything. But still he tries to sell me one. He throws down some really nice looking carpets. He keeps asking me to make an offer. I refuse. He asks what my lower bound is. I tell him fifty CAD. He’s not impressed. I then try to explain how we should reject the basic assumption of civilization, especially the importance of material possessions.

Tyler's words coming out of my mouth.

Tyler’s words coming out of my mouth.

We sit there for a few minutes in silence each waiting for the other to say something. I win this battle of the carpets when he realizes I’m not going to budge.

He stands suddenly and I tense up – for a brief moment I think the kidnapping is back on. But instead he shows me the door. Unlocked. Free for me to pass through.

As I walk past my mom’s diamond shop, I think, “I should go shopping for one of those scarfs I see everywhere – there’s no way it could be as crazy as the carpet experience, right?”

Wrong. So wrong.

To be continued…

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