Life in Istanbul has more highs and lows than life in Alanya. I returned to the city early on a Saturday morning, just over two weeks ago. Makbul, the lifesaver who managed my apartment was there to greet me and help me unpack when I arrived home at 8:30 am.
I was enjoying the comfort and charm of my apartment the following Sunday afternoon, when I heard voices in the hall followed shortly by a knock on my door. I wasn’t expecting anyone, and I opened the door to what seemed like a bunch of men who appeared not to know where they meant to go or who they wanted to see. I was annoyed at having been disturbed and acted accordingly when I greeted them.
“Who lives above you?” they asked. I told them that the unit above me was unoccupied. They also wanted to know who lived on the ground floor and in the basement. I explained to them that there was a vacant apartment in the basement, and on the ground floor lived a man and his mother. Then they wanted to know who lived in my apartment. Nosy bunch.
“Why?” I asked, now feeling cautious in addition to irritated.
“We’re the police!” (They were loud.) One of them shoved a badge into my face. “Where’s your passport? What’s your name? Who lives here? Where do you work?” They fired questions at me.
Ever the insubordinate, I asked them why they wanted to know.
“There’s been a complaint,” one of them said. “Where’s your passport?”
“Who complained? I don’t know where my passport is.”
“What about your rental contract? Stop talking,” one of them shouted. “Show us something. You don’t have a passport. Kaçaksın!” (“You’re illegal!) One of the officers, the one with the creepy Turkish/porno star mustache, was a total jackass.
“Well, I wasn’t expecting you. I’ll have to find it.” I closed the door in their faces, just in time to hear one of them say, “Don’t close the door.” Whatever.
I was acting defiantly, but it was definitely unnerving to have them there, particularly because I may or may not have been guilty of another infraction or two, the evidence of which I quickly handled as they waited in the dim hallway. In my frenzy, I could only find my residency permit and a photocopy of my passport. My passport and rental agreement were of course both in the house, but I couldn’t remember where I’d stored them, and I wanted these men off of my threshold as soon as possible, so I suggested we take a jaunt up the hill to the real estate agent who’d set me up in the place. It turns out he was good for more than just pressuring me to sign papers and lying about the property–he vouched for me. Apparently, one of my lovely neighbors had alleged to the police that someone in my building had been using the place as a pension for guests. (Ok, so maybe I had had a select few guests during the time I was in Alanya in exchange for a bit of monetary compensation. So what?) The real estate agent explained to the police that I had been living there for several months and was indeed a legitimate resident of the building.
Satisfied that I was telling the truth, they finally had me sign some papers and went on their way.
Imagine, though, if they’d come just two days earlier? They’d have met the Dutch couple that had headed out just 36 hours before!
After I’d settled back into my apartment and caught my breath, some tax officers came to finish up their part of the investigation. As I spoke to them in front of my building, a man leaning against a car nearby stared at us, openly intrusive.
“Is he with you?” I asked the tax officers.
“No, don’t worry about him.”
As the meddlesome man continued to stare, I asked, “Can I help you, you curious bastard?” (I didn’t actually call him that.)
“If you want to know why it concerns me,” he said, approaching me with a look of loathing, “I’m the one who made the complaint!”
I smirked inwardly. Not this time, dear neighbor.