Sometimes the alien culture and language barriers give rise to embarrassing situation and can land you in a lot of trouble. I was enjoying strolling around the Sultanahmet neighborhood one night, looking at the cafés, shops and kiosks and also trying to find my way to the tram stop to eventually get to my hotel in Aksaray. A car stopped beside me and two men in their thirties rolled down the windows to ask me about my destination, that was Tram stop. I had been in Istanbul for two days, so I had easily lost my directions in a maze of streets. I expressed my ignorance. They introduced themselves as from Cyprus, come here to see Istanbul and informed that they had a good Pakistani friend in their university and they admired him a lot. Little did I know, where this would end up eventually. They offered me a ride to the Tram way, when I sat inside the car, after a little chatting up, they offered me to drop me at my hotel. I had let my guard down, sometimes you feel to ease up and trust people with whom you just been acquainted while travelling. Sometimes that can be a grave mistake, as it did happened with me. On the way they said they wanted to stop at a pub for a drink and then drop me to the hotel. I was perfectly comfortable with them by now. They made a stop at an uber-posh place, couldn’t recall its name though ! We went inside and got us a round table. It was a strip club ! I wasn’t interested in this kind of hangout while I was in Istanbul. They ordered some drink and I contended myself with orange juice. Some girls were dancing on the floor, obviously following the dress code that was supposed to be there; and occasionally taking rounds of the tables and getting the money tucked into their Lingerie. By now we were talking freely about anything that came up on mind. Suddenly one of the guy called out to the Manager, “Hey Manager, send some beautiful girls here on the table”! The Manager signaled three girls sitting at a corner of the bar, who got up and came towards us with a dint of hesitation and took their seats besides us. Two were Turkish and were talking in Turkish I didn’t get to know them as they weren’t comfortable in English; While the third one was from Ukraine and could speak English, she was seated beside me. We continued chatting, she was here in Istanbul to study accounting for last four years, and was leaving in three months after graduating from a local university. Soon the newcomers ordered drinks, everything seemed normal to me. Little did I know about the culture of a bar or disco or whatever, as I never drank. I had followed the two guys to give them company at an unknown place. That was going to cost me.
We sat there for about an hour and a half, drinks were going on, while I was still playing with glass of orange juice that I had ordered earlier. The Manager came to me and said, “you look new here, I just want to say your girl had too much drinks and that’s going to cost you a lot, and she’s ordering another drink, should I bring it for her?”. I said “Yes, of course, we’re leaving in about 10 minutes, nor harm”. I am a little stupid,I didn’t see the menu card, the price, a drink or a juice cost about 100 TL ($ 50). I asked the Manager how many drinks did we had. My count was one juice, they other guys had around four or five each and to my surprise the Ukrainian girl had 14 drinks…………..I was shocked how one could have 14 drinks in about an hour and a half. More worried I was about how it would drain the money out of pocket. So we decided to split up, the bill for all six people was $ 2450, that makes about $ 800 for each of the three guys.
Coming from culture where drinking is a taboo, I was amazed how six people can fire two and half thousand dollars in such short time while just having drinks…may be I don’t know the joy I gives. After all I had only enjoyed the orange juice, which you can enjoy it at 20 cents at some places ! May be I don’t know the ecstasy the drinks bring, that you can actually pay such big money for that. Whatever !
But I was truly shocked at the 14 drinks that the Manager was asserting that the girl beside me had. I knew it wasn’t true, I had seen her drinking, not that I was counting her drinks, but I could guess that she ordered the drinks about three or four times at best; and this Manager was saying she had 14 ! I was more shocked when the other two guys teamed up with the manager to challenge my guess about the number of drinks the girl had. They said she was drinking too much and what the Manager is saying it, its right. I wasn’t drunk, so I was very much convinced that the girl had four drinks maximum, as I was talking with her the whole time and I had a fair guess of the number of interruptions in ordering of the drinks. I just couldn’t believe the figure 14. I knew I was screwed, when the other guys switched sides. ! I had to do something.
By now I was more open in refuting the Manager, once I knew my supposed friend are in league with the Manager and it was some kind of a scam. So we had quite heated argument, forcing the Manager to say we get down the stairs and sit down and talk. We followed him downstairs, where we were joined by three big guys, the situation became intimidating. All the money I had for the trip was right there in my pockets (damn why I don’t keep credit cards, I now repent). So I just toned down a bit to just get rid of the situation. I said, “Okay I pay, but after other two guys pay in front of me”. The manager said, “Okay The will pay” (as if he owns them). The guys looked in his pockets and said he doesn’t have enough money. So he’ll pay by credit card. I was acting too stubborn now, I said to pay in front of me, and show me the bill, proof, I’ll see that he actually pays. The guy and the person at the counter tried to resist, but I just stood upon their head, until they said machine isn’t working. The guy now wanted to go to an ATM machine to get the cash. the manager sent some guy with him. By this time I was very suspicious, I was thinking if they went out and came back with some money, how I am to know that the guys with me actually paid. So I again expressed my distrust on them. I said I am not convinced that they are actually paying the money. The Manager told me I’m making too much of problems and I shouldn’t have come here. I asked him If he wishes, he may call the police, as I don’t believe that the girl had actually had that many drink ( which he asserted that was recorded in CCTV cameras) I asked him to show me that recordings and call the police to resolve. He said his technician isn’t around, it can be shown tomorrow. By now he was fed up, may be it was too much wasting of time for him, since I refused to pay until the the other guys, and refused to trust them that they are actually paying if they go outside the bar.
So he calmed down to make a deal and get rid of situation.
He said how many drinks do you think the girl had and plus pay for your drink and some taxes. It came to about $ 270. Now I wasn’t much bothered about what the other two guys were about. I just paid the $ 270 and came out. Took a taxi and headed off to my hotel.
Crux..seems silly what every 10 years old would also know..but don’t let your guard off any time while travelling..