Of foxes and fur shops: Karagöz negates Ataturk’s brilliant negociating lesson


Ataturk Mosaic

A mosaic image of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk himself – clearly in military macho stance – not negotiating car prices (Image via Wikipedia)

When I last left you, M. and I were sitting in a frigid car dealership in the process of buying a new car.  M. was in the throes of channeling his great Uncle M., the silent and deadly Montenegran refugee who killed 36 people (body count has gone up, you may note) while protecting the family during the journey to Istanbul during the Balkan Wars at the turn of the 20th century.  M. did major battle that evening under the green-orange light of fluorescent cost efficiency – and while he agreed that in the end, the salesman usually gets the better of you – we did do some damage in our favor that day.

Before we had walked into the dealership that day, we had done our homework, googled the heck out of Hondas, and prepared ourselves for battle.  It was during this google-thon on duelling laptops, that the shadow puppets put on a fashion show.  It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen that before – the last time they hit the fashionista button was during their first trip to our Provincetown place (you can read about that here).  However, there we were, trying to be serious adults about making good decisions about gas mileage and safety features, and those damned puppets were parading across the piano window in – uniform…and not just any uniforms – WWI Turkish uniforms such as the one Ataturk is wearing in the mosaic image placed to the left of these words….covered in drapes of fox-fur.

As if reading what I was seeing in the puppet fashion show, M. piped up.  “OK, I will do the negotiation – I will put on my uniform!”  Pleased with himself, M. did a twirl that was halfway Karagöz and halfway the Fonz from the old Happy Days television show, his fingers pointed in the air much as John Travolta might have in a super-dancy moment in Saturday Night Fever.  “Are you channeling your disco days, canım?” I asked, my eyebrows akimbo with wry skepticism. At this point, the puppets all hopped down off of the piano window and away from the waning light splayed out around the colored glass, and onto the floor around M. where they formed a circle of back-and-forth dancing a la the 1970s at their best.  “Go M! Go M! Go M!” they chanted, knowing he could not hear them in anything but a subliminal way.

M. was feeling feisty – perhaps picking up the verve-ridden atmosphere the puppets were spinning around him invisibly – “you know, Ataturk left a negotiation once when he was displeased with the demands.  He asked to be excused for 5 minutes.  He came back, this time decked out in full military gear – and the message was clear.  They’d have to go to war to get that from him. And so, dear Liz, that’s what I am going to do today, put on my uniform!”

I wasn’t sure how I felt about M. embracing Ataturk’s vim and vigor for negotiation, this is, you see, the Ataturk who famously told his soldiers the following at the battle of Gelibolu (Gallipoli, a bonding topic for M. and I early in our relationship) “I am not ordering you to fight, I am ordering you to die!”

The puppets didn’t care, though, the ROARED their delight at this proclamation and set to sewing an invisible uniform onto M.’s massive frame – which was, of course, invisible to all but me.  They just barely finished the final details as we walked out of the door – I’m telling you, they were faster than a swarm of pyrrhanas when it came to sewing that thing together.  I had no idea there was so much olive drab fabric lurking in this house.

So you know the end of the story – we did well in the negotiation.  What of the puppets, you may ask? How did they help in the negotiation?  Uncharacteristically, they were pretty silent during the whole negotiation – watching the words tumble from the salesman’s mouth with increasing anxiety – and looking back and forth to M., as if watching a tennis match.

Kenne, the Queen of Manners and the Maintenance of Ladylike Behavior, was for once, very pleased with me.  I was, you see, shutting my mouth and letting the man do all the work.  Esma the hippie puppet is arguing that it was work not to open my mouth – and much like housewifery – that is work as well.  It is yin to his yang and all that jazz.  Mostly, the puppets just wanted to see what would happen.

As for Karagöz, well, the puppets had in their inimitable knowing-ness roped him up. Karagöz, that impish loudmouth, is known for making scenes that are sometimes counterproductive.  Rope and a bandage in his mouth were employed with care so that he would not create a stir during the process.  Every once in a while, I would hear muffled cries and attempts to do a back flip out of the slithery pocket lining of my black cashmere coat where he was marooned. Clearly, Karagöz was desperate to tell me something.

As we stood up to leave the “options salesman” about $900 lighter in the wallet vicinity (e.g. Lojack in case the car is stolen and rubberized floor mats to protect from beach sand and spring mud, but not much else), Karagöz finally broke free of his bonds.  Clambering up through the hole in my jacket pocket, he ignored the fight of the slippery lining and poked his head out just as I removed my hand to shake the salesman’s hand as M. began muttering under his breath – “so much for our savings…it begins to erode!  It’s inevitable.”

Trying to ignore him, my brain couldn’t resist the effort to interpret his murmured mumbles from the bandana he couldn’t quite un-tie.  It was covering his mouth, and this made him hoppy jumpy with rage.  A bit like hot peppers dancing on an oily skillet over a roaring fire when a bit of water has been left on them inadvertently.  It’s hot stuff flying everywhere.

“Foxes…..fur” Karagöz squeezed out – the words getting muffled along the way made him more frustrated.  I didn’t realize that shadow puppets could blush, but creeping crimson berries spotted themselves across his face and amongst the salt-and-pepper badge of his beard.  “FOXES! FUR!” Karagöz tried again, to no avail.  Why, I wondered, is Karagöz talking about a fox?  Spitting out the words in between sucking in air through the bandana, Karagöz finally got the message across – although it was in Turkish.  “Tilkinin dönüp dolaşıp geleceği yer kürkçü dükkanıdır!”

Not catching it all, I finally stuck him back in my pocket so I could loosen his bandana so I had a fighting chance of understanding what he was so adamant about sharing.  After almost bending my fingernail backwards with one-handed effort of untying that knot, it finally loosened – and Karagöz was able to yell at his loudest “A fox goes anywhere he wishes but he ends up his journey in a fur store!”  It’s true, there is always an inevitable end that deflates the poofy pride of starched up negotiating uniforms, but it was fun while it lasted!