Is Hermes the God of Telecommunications?

2 February 2010

Reflections on Wind & “Sea-Effect” Snow

Today we left Çanakkale by ferry and crossed to the peninsula of Galipoli, on our way to Istanbul (ancient Byzantium or Constantinople). A modest-sized cabin cruiser (maybe 40’ long) left the harbor while the ferry was loading and we watched it bouncing around like a cork, sometimes above and sometimes overswept by the white caps on the waters of the Dardanelles Strait. The trading vessels in which first-century missionaries like Paul traveled would have been 3-4 times the size of that boat; nevertheless, the heavy gusting winds of yesterday and the fog and waves of today make it easy to understand why shipping ceased during the winter months.

All day long it has been snowing and sleeting, dropping that heavy, wet snow that is so easy to turn into snowballs but that also so easily creates black ice on the highways. (You can find a couple photos at http://www.kanalturk.com.tr/haber-detay/21009-tekirdag-kara-teslim-haberi.aspx.) Parts of Cleveland get “lake-effect” snow—which can be two extra feet in some places—but somehow I never anticipated “sea-effect” snow. For a while, it was coming fast and furious, forming a morass of slush on the roadway. Like happens sometimes, especially on the bridges, gusts of wind were forcing the lighter cars to drift across the roadway. Along some parts of the highway, the Marmara Sea is a stone’s throw away—maybe 50 or 100 feet. On a clear, summer day, it provides a lovely view. Today it looks like a boiling cauldron of ultra-thin lentil soup.

So, there we are rolling along in this giant Greyhound-type bus when a big burst of wind shoved us off the highway. (Did you know that it’s possible to fall off a highway? Indeed, ‘tis.) We scraped along the guardrail for a few hundred feet while the driver regained control of the vehicle. He made several attempts to get back up on the roadway, which was probably six inches or so higher than the two-foot-wide “shoulder”; no luck. He did manage to snag the metal cover for the engine cooling system and accordion pleat it, which provided a certain amount of entertainment for the back half of the bus; then the front half had to get in on the fun, so they came back and took pictures of the results.

A set of telephone calls and consultations eventually produced tangible results. About 75 minutes later, a tow truck came to rescue us, the TV news crew tagging along behind. A reporter stood in the freezing rain talking about the scene while the cameraman filmed the bus being winched up and dragged forward so all four wheels would rest on the pavement. If they were smart, they also got a good shot of the four-foot-deep dent we put in the guardrail when we got blown off the road. I guess we’re going to have our half-minute of fame tonight, to the entertainment of our Turkish hosts (Turkish TV Channel 20, I’m told). I don’t begrudge them. Personally, I want to shake the hands of those Turks who engineered and installed that guardrail—without which we would have rolled down the hill and at least half the distance to the waters’ edge. I’m not a big fan of swimming in the winter months, even less inside a tour bus.

As we re-commenced motoring down the highway, our guide took the microphone and began, “On your right is the Sea of Marmara….” We’ll never know what else he intended to tell us because the entire group burst into uproarious laughter. He prolonged matters by trying to interrupt the outburst, saying, “I don’t know what’s so funny.” Perhaps not. Maybe American humor is weird. I certainly would be at a loss to explain why we find odd that attempt to rewind the clock as if nothing had happened. After all, the strategy epitomizes Mediterranean culture to a tee. I think I’ll follow suit this time; I’m not going to ask.

The delay on the road and slower driving speed means that we will have to wait until tomorrow to see the Blue Mosque. Combined with the visits to the Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, and the covered bazaar, that will make for a very full day; but it means some down-time tonight, which I’m sure everyone will appreciate. In spite of the laughter about our adventure, I can see the adrenaline crash setting in: about half the bus is asleep now. I figure that every trip is bound to have some kind of unplanned excitement; we managed ours without anyone getting hurt, so I’m happy. And, on top of that, I’ve gained a new appreciation for guardrails.

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The Bible According to McGinn

People, places, and other points of interest relating to the Biblical texts

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