I told y’all about my upcoming trip to Haiti. I’m still stinkin’ excited. I’ve even downloaded audio lessons so I can learn a few phrases. I actually just want to learn the phrase “Help, I’m stuck in the bathroom!” There’s a very very very good reason for this. When I had been in Turkey only 2 weeks (and prior to the start of language classes), we went across town to a Chinese restaurant for a friend’s birthday. I ate, I drank, and then I had to visit the little girls’ room. (Or kucuk kizlarin odasi if you want to be Turkish about it…. except that they never call it that….) Well, after I took care of business, I tried to leave the bathroom. But the door was stuck. STUCK. It wasn’t locked. It wasn’t blocked. It was just stuck. Of course I had left my phone at the table, so I couldn’t call anyone. And at that point I only knew how to say hello, one, two, three, chicken shish kebab, rice. (You can tell what I ate for the first two weeks there…..) Well, none of those words would help me to get unstuck. So, I started banging on the door.
I heard people laughing on the other side of the door, and I heard the waitstaff walking around, but no one was helping me. So, I started to yell: “Help! I’m stuck! I’m stuck and I don’t know the Turkish word for help! Help!” They did nothing.
At the time I didn’t know that this was very unusual for Turkish culture. In the years that followed, I found the people to generally be hospitable and kind and gracious and willing to help a person obviously stuck in a bathroom. Apparently these Turks were just having a REALLY bad day.
Finally I just got quiet & waited. I knew someone would eventually either have to use the bathroom or come see why I was still in the bathroom. Sure enough, Raylo came and knocked on the door. “Are you ok? Are you sick?” he asked. “Nope. I’m stuck. And the people hear me, but they keep laughing at me,” I replied. Well, he got one of our bilingual friends to ask them to open the door. “Oh, I guess it’s broken,” was their response.
That night, as we were leaving the Chinese restaurant, I asked my bilingual friend how to say help. The Turkish word is spelled imdat, but is pronounced M-dot. From then on, if I thought there might be a need for it, I imagined a dot with an M in it.
I propose that this becomes the new international symbol for “Help! I’m stuck in a bathroom!”
Whew. That trauma is obviously still fresh with me. So, I plan on knowing how to say hello, how to count a few numbers, and most importantly, how to say “Help! I’m stuck in the bathroom!” before I enter a different country ever again.