Flash Folly

I have always been a skeptic of flash floods. How can a flood come in a flash and take you by surprise? It rains. Then rains some more. Eventually Mother Earth becomes saturated, refuses to absorb any more of the clear (or murky) stuff, and water levels rise. This is a process, one that affords plenty of time to (a) take note, (b) dash to the local equivalent of 7-Eleven for a good supply of Maltesers, Peanut Butter M ‘n Ms, Ben and Jerry’s Cookie Dough ice cream, Doritos and Diet Coke, and (c) hunker down with a good read.

Apparently, there is a logic behind the term ‘flash’ strategically placed before the word ‘flood.’ And, according to Wikipedia, “What makes flash floods most dangerous is their sudden nature and fast-moving water.” You’ve got that right, Wiki. And, after Friday night, I am a believer.

This weekend we are hosting two students from Kiev who are here participating in a volleyball tournament. The boys arrived Thursday night and spent all Friday playing their hearts out in umpteen different games. They haven’t had a chance to relax, much less experience some of Istanbul’s rich culture. So, by the time they dragged themselves back to our house Friday early evening, we had the perfect cultural outlet for them: Istinye Park Mall and cinema complex. A teenager’s equivalent of the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia.

The bus returning the boys to our neighborhood was delayed, so we had to rush to make the show. Not paying any attention to the rain (no need to as we have an indoor parking garage, as does the mall), I grabbed the boys, the keys to my Toyota Corolla, and off we went. We live on top of a hill. The mall is also at the top of a hill. Unfortunately, are house and the mall are on two different hills. And the only way I know how to get to the mall from our house is to go down our hill and up the mall’s hill. Not a good route as it turned out.

Heading down our hill, the first indication that this was not a typical rainy day was the huge, jagged streak of lightning that cracked down in front of us. Literally, there was barely any difference in timing between the lightning strike and its thunder. Not a good sign as those of us from thunderstorm regions of the world know. However, being a Midwesterner seasoned in storms and feeling cocky about my ability to look the, surely, tamer Istanbul-type lightning in the face and say ‘ahhh, shucks, is that all you got?’ I drove on.

As we descended the hill, I did notice that there was a rush of water streaming around us. Being relatively new to Istanbul and very green about the city’s rainy season, I assumed the water would empty into the sea. Which was a correct assumption. After, that is, the water creates deep, swirling pools of cruddy water and debris. Because the water cannot be absorbed, dispersed, eliminated quickly enough.

Hmmm. I think that is the definition of a flash flood.

Which was what we encountered when we hit the bottom of the hill. A sea of bubbling, frothing water and a line of cars trying to creep their way through it. Some cars had stalled and were scattered here and there, lumps of metal obstacles for the non-stalled cars. As if navigating the swirling cesspool wasn’t challenging enough.

I did what any reasonable person would do: Put the pedal to the metal and blew by the other cars, cars with overly cautious drivers who would surely become the next victims of the currents. I am sure I pissed off many drivers but, hey, it wasn’t the time to worry about road etiquette. There was no way I was going to let my little Toy stall in those murky waters or let the boys miss their well-deserved, non-dubbed IMAX Avengers feature.

My sharp decision backed by my keen driving skills (i.e. short-sighed stupidity backed by white-knuckled panic) paid off, and I cleared the torrential road-turned-river and made my way to slightly higher ground (where the water was only half-a-foot deep). Whew. I breathed a sigh of relief.

(The boys, by the way, were sitting in the back, ooh-ing and ahh-ing in awe the entire time I was navigating our way through the rapids, probably due less to the prowess of my driving than the colorful language that was spewing from my mouth. One thing I was cursing was that I had left my husband’s SUV at home. I am sure the impromptu language lesson added a few useful expressions to the boys’ English vocabulary.)

Just when I thought we had cleared the biggest hurdle, I heard / felt a grounding noise. I couldn’t move my car forward. Something was wedged under my car. I put the car in park, blocking the street (but what could I do? the car wasn’t budging). I went out in the pouring rain, water racing around me, instantly drenching my jeans. I stuck my hand in the deep water to feel what was under the car, belatedly remembering that I had on my good leather jacket.

Prioritizing apparel first, I threw my jacket into the dry interior of the car and went back to the issue at hand. Whatever was under my car was big, heavy and not going anywhere based on my absolute inability to nudge it even a tiny bit.

Remember my last post about the kindness of Turks?

On the side of the road, there was a man in a suit walking with an umbrella (smart guy; I am sure he left his car parked safely somewhere). He saw my predicament and motioned me to get back into the car. He then directed me to reverse (ahh, good idea!), and he pushed the block of cement (as it turns out) out from under my car. He then directed me how to drive to avoid the block and a foot drop-off where the road had washed away. My hero. With a heartfelt teşekkürler, off we sped to the mall.

I was a bit concerned that my Toyota might have suffered some lasting damage, but, luckily, that was not the case. The kids made it in time for the show. I learned the higher altitude route between our house and the mall.

And when I picked the kids up after the movie? I took the SUV.

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