( Note: Today’s post is written from one of the greatest storytellers I know…my friend Robert. Tuesdays are dedicated to travel this summer & his post hits the mark. Enjoy the midget & his motorcycle.)
Several years ago on a bus in the middle of Turkey I met a man who liked to talk. I was living overseas at the time and had just finished a week’s vacation on the Mediterranean where I mostly just sat in the sand eating lamb shanks and staring at the water. As a natural introvert, sitting in sand and staring at water was crucial for my sanity.
The man across the aisle was telling me a story in Turkish. I smiled and nodded, catching only snippets of what he said, but still managed to piece together a sad story of a wife who had recently passed away, leaving him to raise his little boy alone. The boy sat beside him on the bus, reading a children’s book. I tried my best to offer my sympathies but ended up sounding like a Neanderthal at a funeral home.
“Me sorry for loss. Life be hard sometimes.”
Regardless of my linguistic limitations, however, we soon became fast friends. That’s how things go down in Turkey. You can make a friend in 4.2 seconds in the middle of nowhere with little more than a muttered greeting. Before you know it you’re at their home reclining on pillows, drinking tea and eating baklava.
Nine hours later the bus arrived at Istanbul, pulled into a station crowded with travelers and cut its engine.
“Do you need a ride?” my friend asked as we exited the bus. I’d assumed to take a taxi across town to my apartment.
“Are you sure?” I asked. “It’s not too much trouble?”
“No problem!” he insisted, then raised two fisted hands while making a vroom-vroom sound. Perhaps it was bus ride fatigue, but my brain failed to compute what he had just pantomimed. It wasn’t until I actually saw the motorcycle that I realized what was about to happen.
Three passengers, plus luggage, to be balanced upon a teetering, two-wheeled machine, in rush hour Istanbul traffic no less.
Did I mention he was a midget?
The guy was just a hair taller than his little boy. I stared in slack-jawed wonder as he hefted our baggage onto a thin metal wrack behind the seat, strapped them down with a frayed bungee chord, then lifted his son to straddle the gas tank before climbing up himself. His feet didn’t even touch the ground.
I glanced about to see if anyone was watching. “Are you sure about this?” I asked.
“Come on!” he beckoned, strapping on a full sized helmet that made him look exactly like a Turkish bobble head doll. The irony that neither his son nor I was offered the same cranial protection was beyond my ability to express. There seemed no way out. No escape. I wanted to run for my life but couldn’t bring myself to refuse his hospitality.
In the end I took a deep breath, exhaled a prayer, and climbed on behind them like a Sasquatch with arms wrapped tight around both midget and son.
After several wobbling tries my friend managed to kick-start the engine, revved it hard, then popped the clutch with a lurch to send us barreling forward. We swerved right, then left, then right again before gaining enough speed to stabilize. Into the meat grinder of Istanbul traffic we went, weaving between cars, dashing across lanes.
I squinted my eyes shut and screamed the loudest and most desperate prayer of my life.
I was going to die.
As we zoomed across the Bosphorus Strait bridge, water gleaming sapphire blue a hundred feet below, another motorcycle drew up alongside us. It was a crotch rocket driven by a guy clad in black leather and helmet. He took one look at our merry band then shook his finger at us in disgust before darting forward and out of sight.
At that moment, terrified as I was, I couldn’t help but smile, then snicker, then laugh out loud. For I was likely the only person on the planet riding a motorcycle behind a midget and a little boy.
What if I’d stayed home that day? Maybe watched some good shows on the tube? Would I be writing this story now, after all these years? So often in my life I am tempted to settle for the highway of the predictable. But I don’t recall a single time I’ve looked back and said to myself, “Wow, wasn’t that such an amazing time of average?”
I lived in Turkey to start a church, but along the way I met a midget with a motorcycle, and I lived to tell the tale.
What stories are you living at the moment? I promise they’re there, if you’ll just step out your door.
Robert is a father of three and husband of one. When he is not reading, writing, cooking, eating, or walking in the woods, he enjoys telling stories about his awkward adventures on planet earth. To partake of said adventures, join him at www.fullerstories.com .