A Good Traffic Joke From a Great Humorist and a Bit of Nostalgia

Ferry-boats and traffic in IstanbulFerry-boats in the Bosphorous (left) by Kıvanç and traffic on one of Istanbul’s freeways (right) by Roderick Maclean on flickr

Aziz Nesin was a wonderful and prolific Turkish writer, humorist and social/political commentator. I just read a 1992 interview with him where the talks about transportation in Istanbul, the old ferryboats and trams, their specific traditions and his dislike of the motor-car.

He talks about the old Istanbul ferry-boats, where the passengers knew each other and formed a special community. Every passenger had a seat. “Don’t sit there,” someone would say, “That’s Mr. Hasan’s seat.”

“But today’s Thursday,” the other would answer, “Mr. Hasan doesn’t go down to town today.”

And then there was the extraordinary world of the trams…

Aziz Nesin says when they first started making cars in Turkey he thought “What are they making cars for, who’s going to buy them?” He himself continued to use buses throughout his life despite his success and fame. Eventually he resigned to a farmhouse outside of Istanbul to live in the school/home he founded for homeless children.

Here is a joke from that interview, which I thought was pretty great:

A man jumps into a taxi, he’s in a great hurry, but the road’s jammed with traffic. “Hey!” he shouts to the driver, “Can’t you go a bit faster?” The driver looks back at him out of the corner of his eye. “Of course we can go faster,” he says, “But what are we going to do about the car?”

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