About three years ago, I found out that my entire life up to that point had been a lie. It turned out that my parents had kept a vital piece of information from me regarding my identity. It was the very marker from which I identified myself with society...the monogram with which I sealed all correspondence to the governor...the...the reason everybody made fun of me in Elementary school...this piece of information was regarding my first name. No... my parents did not do this out of spite nor bitter anger...no no...they did this because they just couldn't be bothered to tell me the truth! And what is the truth you might ask...well I'll tell you...Karim was my birth name, not Kerim...k-A-r-i-m and oh the anguish that ensued after this news had reached me, the horror...THE HORROR!!
Well...maybe I'm being a little melodramatic, but it's true, my mom is French Canadian, so of course she didn't know how to spell Kerim after God knows how many hours of labor and hearing my dad shriek the name after finding out I was a boy (I have two older sisters). When they asked her to register my name, she wrote k-A-r-i-m instead of k-E-r-i-m. I have no idea why my parents never fixed the mistake, but there I was, 22 years later, at the registry trying to explain why my official registered name was different than my given and used name. Here's the funny thing, all throughout my life, we never ran into any problems. All the kids at school had to give a photocopy of their birth certificate to the school board when registering for school, but nobody noticed that the name on the birth certificate was different that the one on the application. They had a hard enough time trying to figure out which gender a name like Kerim goes with or which one was first, Kerim or Genc. Soccer, boy scouts, swimming, my PASSPORT registration! None of them noticed. So my parents thought, why change it if it isn't a problem, I mean even his tax returns have Kerim on it. Well, eventually I had had enough so I went to the registry and two days and fifty bucks later, my name was officially Kerim. Karim was dead...or so I thought... You see, since my dad is Turkish I'm also registered as a citizen in Turkey...but as guess who? Karim, only this time, my passport, citizenship card and army records (yes, I have obligations to someday do my army services in Turkey) are all using Karim. I decided that while in Turkey, I'll fix the mistake buy simply going to the registry and explaining the situation...it was easy in Calagary, just a couple of mouse clicks, so it should be easy in Trabzon right... Well, my brother in law Yakup took me to the registry to see what we need to do and when I saw them pull out a huge, arcane looking, leather bound log book of all of the names registered under our family name going back about five generations I knew that we were going to be dealing with a lot more than a few mouse clicks and fifty bucks. The thing with Turkish bureaucracy that I quickly found out is that it is very uncharted and thick so unless you know somebody in the system, you will be wandering through stark cold government buildings for a very long and lonely trip through purgatory. Luckily, Yakup knew someone that knew people in City hall. Turgay Bülbül is the brother of a friend of Yakups that just passed the Turkish equivalent of the Barr exam and had just joined a small law firm. He agreed to help so I followed him around in the sweltering midday heat for a couple of hours going from office to office in various empty looking government buildings getting seemingly endless and random signatures on various official looking forms and envelopes. So now, the process of changing that damned letter in my name has started, our lawyer friend is working on the case...if I'm lucky, I might hear back from them in a month or so.
Guess what?!! I got another traffic ticket!! Man, I'm the international man of traffic violations. I was taking my aunt to a clinic next to our village to get some blood work done and on the way back, I got stuck behind a slower moving truck. So, being the responsible driver I am, I only passed it when it was safe and when we were on a straight stretch of road where I could see all of the oncoming traffic. After passing, a cop stepped out onto the road and signaled me to pull over. I was in shock because this was the first time I'd ever seen a local cop actually doing some police work other that sitting in the squad car puffing on a cigarette and looking interminably bored. Turns out, passing another vehicle when the dividing line is solid is illegal. Who knew? Watching every other driver in Turkey, I thought that traffic laws were more of a suggestion than actual laws. I'd never seen anybody ever pulled over for any sort of traffic violation in Turkey in my life! The grumpy and tired looking cop in a grumpy and tired uniform started writing up the ticket when my aunt chimed in, "My brother is a police officer in Istanbul so hopefully he knows somebody over here that can get our fine reduced." Then the cops face crumpled up with an annoyed and pissed off look. "Oh s&%#!" I thought, "Good one auntie, now we're gonna get it." He looked as if he was going to berate and lecture us on the virtues of the law and how everybody must obey no matter whom they are. But this is Turkey. The cop was pissed that my aunt hadn't told him about her brother earlier because he knew him and would have let us go if he knew that she was his sister. Now he HAD to give us a ticket because he'd already started writing it out, but the clutch was tat he hadn't written down the amount of the fine, which was going to be ninety bucks, so he gave me the lowest fine possible, forty five bucks. Over here they say that in order to get by in life you need to know four people, a judge, a lawyer, a doctor and a cop. This statement is getting truer and truer for me as time goes on.