Monday, April 11, 2011

Learning to Squawk

I was originally going to title this post, "Washcloth Bathing Suit Lady," an homage to a patron from the Health Club. I will describe her here in detail later, but I felt it necessary to show what inspired this particular post. My friend, Sarah Perrich, used to work with me at the airport before she moved to Istanbul. She knows many of the people I am now responsible for managing, including the elderly, disgruntled women we lovingly refer to as "The Bats."

Without getting too far off my original topic, The Bats are a funny bunch when I'm not presently dealing with them (and when they're not actively hitting on me) and they provided Sarah and I with a lot of entertainment when we worked together. Sarah often sends me correspondence asking for updates from them. When The Bats have been particularly "flappy," I'm more than happy to comply.

Recently, Sarah wrote me about Turkish Bats:

The grandmothers of all Bats everywhere live in Turkey- the headscarf women from the East. They're alarmingly identical- they're all between 4'11" and 5'2" and fat. In five months I've seen exactly one skinny one. They wear headscarves and long, flowery skirts that are sewn shut at the bottom with two holes for their feet, and aprons and scarves and long coats. They all waddle- seriously waddle, like they lurch alarmingly from side to side when they walk. When they sit down they have their knees spread wiiiide open in a way I find, well, upsetting. They are incapable of forming lines. You see them in the banks and post offices and grocery stores in angry little clumps, squawking. Like geese fighting over bread. When I was on the night train back from Capadocia, we stopped at a rest stop with a busload of them from God knows where. I used the rest room and when I opened my stall door I had to push my way out- five or six of them were pressed up against the door and the one in front was halfway in the stall before I got out. There were more of them by the sinks, stuffing wads of toilet tissue into pockets sewn in their sweaters and shawls, doing alarming things with the electric handdryers, rocking side to side, squawking. 
It was disturbing. 

I don't know about you, but the visual of the "angry little clumps" of Turkish Bats "squawking" had me in stitches. It also reminded me of a Health Club patron who could squawk a blue streak, herself.

She was Korean and roughly 65 years old with a flat face that you'd be terrified of even if she was your Korean grandmother. Damon and I called her Wash Cloth Bathing Suit Lady because she came to the pool every day in a white terrycloth tank top with matching shorts (shudder). White. Terrycloth. Pool.  65. You do the math.

She was a devoted Hot Tub-ite, and on days when we had to clean it she would squawk a LOT. One day when it had been cleaned and refilled with cold water (like frigid. There was no way to add hot water to the hot tub and it was winter so it took a long time for it to re-heat after it was filled) and we were simply waiting for it to heat up, she did the usual "ignore the orange cones around the hot tub" routine and steps into it. 

Her English was not so good, but she was nonetheless a very communicative person.


I did not make eye contact with her. In my mind I thought of ways to justify this, like "if you're not going to address me in English you shouldn't be addressing me at all," but that made me feel racist and thick-headed. I'd been feeling that way all too often at the Health Club recently and I didn't like it one bit. 


I sighed and braced myself but still refused to look up.


I acknowledged her squawk. "How can I help you?"

"Craw," she said, pointing to the hot tub. She has her foot in the water on the top step of the hot tub and she wants me to know that the hot tub is cold. Like somehow, I didn't know. I'm the one who did it!

"It's cold," I told her, hoping that stating the obvious would placate her.


"I know. It's going to take a while for it to heat up. Until then, try the steam room!"

Menacingly, she scowls at me and suggests, "raacaaack?"

"Perhaps. I apologize about the hot tub. It had to be cleaned and it takes a while to heat up so it will be a few hours."

She replied, "RaaaaCAW," in a tone that suggested I go fuck myself.

"You have a nice day, too."

She got into the hot tub anyway and sat there in the icy cold water while I went back to my table and thought horribly racist things about Koreans.

My lips to yours.

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