The great leap forward.
Ah, but in Turkey, you're always going to be proved wrong, aren't you, and sometimes these days it can be in surprisingly good ways. The police officer handed me an application form. Yes, really -- an actual application form with spaces to inscribe your name, your father's name, your mother's name, etc.
Until last week there was still the little problem of what to do if your name was inconsiderate enough to contain the forbidden (because Kurdish) letters q, w and x. Now, though, even that should no longer be an issue, the authorities having finally caved into the reality that those letters appear even on the Turkish version of the standard QWERTY keyboard.
But this was the second time recently that I've been given an actual application form, so obviously this is now the "in thing." For those of you who're wondering why this should be such a big deal, it's because, until recently, every encounter with anything official always required the laborious writing of a dilekce (petition), a longhand version of an application form which even some Turks struggled with (hence the signs you still sometimes see offering the services of somebody who will write your dilekce for you in return for payment).
I well remember one of my more bamboozling experiences in a Turkish language class, when a teacher attempted to teach those of us who were still struggling with how to say our addresses correctly how to write a dilekce. It didn't help that most of the class didn't even know what a dilekce was, since in those days most expats managed to string out their stays in Turkey for very long periods of time by flipping across the nearest border and then coming in again with a new visa in their passport. There was no need for a dilekce, hence complete confusion as to why we were being taught to write these formal sentences in a Turkish many levels beyond our understanding.
Three cheers, then, for the new application forms. Three cheers, too, for the English translations on them, which mean that even those with very little Turkish will be able to fill them out without needing help. The new application forms have also done away with the need to gather a multitude of signatures from all sorts of people in all sorts of different departments, sometimes not even in the same building. There are still a few stages in the process of paying for official tasks that could be simplified, but the truth is that I was in and out of the Emniyet in less than an hour on that last visit.
But human beings are the essence of perversity, aren't they? As I wandered back to the bus stop I couldn't help but feel the tiniest smidgen of regret that there would be no more funny stories to tell of mishaps with our paperwork.
"We don't give visa extensions to Greeks," a friend was once told.
"But I'm an American!" he squeaked.
That kind of misunderstanding won't be happening any more, it seems.
Pat Yale lives in a restored cave house in GE[micro]reme in Cappadocia.
PAT YALE (Cihan/Today's Zaman) CyHAN
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