“This man stole my passport!!!” A small crowd quickly grew in numbers to engulf the scene that was unfolding in front of a fruit stand in the Western Mediterranean city of Kas (pronounced kash). Fists started flying as I held the man by my shirt.
Five minutes earlier, as Amanda and I strolled through this beautiful Turkish beach town, Amanda stopped me and told me something that really caught my attention. With her right pointer finger extended Amanda said: “Leighton, isn’t that the man that was on the beach yesterday?”
I turned for a look and began to follow him. It would be hard to call this a chase, but the guy sure was taking some strange turns as he wound his way through the small alleys and shops in the center of town. After nearly being run over by a kid on a scooter, my hand reached for what I suddenly realized was the exact shirt I had been wearing the day before.
Had I spoken Turkish there would have been many wonderful and glorious phrases spilling from my seething mouth at that moment. “You f#@$% sh@@#$ad ba#$%d. However, all I could think to say was: “That’s a nice shirt”. I said this because it was a nice shirt. It was mine after all, and after not having it for the night, I realized how fond of it I had become. It was really nothing too special – just a grey Jockey T shirt. However, when you have been wearing the same 4 t-shirts for the past 6 months, you tend to grow quite fond of them.
So now I was standing in the street holding a Turkish man wearing my shirt. This was the only man at the beach yesterday whose face I remembered. As we swam in the clearest and freshest seawater of our lives, he sat on a rock smoking his cigarette with an impossibly long ash.
“How you know he steals from you?” A thick Turkish accent from the crowd asks me this fair question. As I answered yet another local stepped up to bat. His right hand made a solid connection to the face of the man wearing my shirt. My shirt staggered backwards and fell into the stack of crates. More locals saw an opportunity they could not resist and crates began flying at the lanky man.
Amanda had left about 3 minutes prior to the flying fruit crates. As instructed by me, shortly after my first foray into crime fighting, she was causing a scene by running around the town screaming for the police.
The Turks will throw a punch at any opportunity apparently. So anytime this 6 ft scrawny man with a darkened complexion and dark beard’s mouth opened, it was met with a new fist. I was smiling the entire time.
We had spent a good portion of the prior afternoon at the police station struggling to fill out a police report in Turkish.
The bag sat ten feet behind me as we stared off into the Mediterranean in awe. In it rested my pants, knife, wallet, credit cards, passport, camera, cell phone, and many smaller items such as my insulin, blood tester, small plastic samurai man, luggage keys, and basically everything of value that I possess on my travels – including my Herpicin Lip Balm because lip herpes can be a problem in the sun.
I wanted to throw a punch but I’m just not a violent person. Fortunately he was bleeding quite badly by the time Amanda arrived with the police to a crowd of about forty.
While the owner of the fruit stand was no doubt concerned about his flying crates of fruit, I was more focused on my shirt. I really like that shirt.
Our fingers shook as adrenaline pumped through our bloodstreams. Amanda and I were escorted to the station by two detectives.
I sat in the blue chair at the end of the hall tonguing my herpetic lip, pondering which items I missed most. Was it the samurai man, the driver’s license, the passport, the camera? We sat at the police station for many hours. Amanda produced a beautiful image from her digital camera of the beach we were relaxing at the day before. The man with the now bleeding face sat in the left corner of the frame, waiting to run off with my possessions. The police loved it. It was possibly the first time they had evidence of a petty thief in action. They wanted to hire my little Sherlock Holmes on the spot. They took him into a room near where I sat. Apparently the man and four police decided to sit down and watch a Bruce Lee flick on high volume in this room. However, I did not notice a television. Nor were there any chairs. I was promptly asked to move down the hall, away from the noise. I never received an invite to join in the melee.
My translator was a Turkish man of 21 years whose German girlfriend was also a victim of theft that morning. Their criminal was caught on tape. We shared our stories and begged the police to let me search the man’s hotel room who at this point was still wearing my shirt.
Items began turning up one by one. First the phone, then the camera, then my bag, then my sunscreen walked through the door as detectives searched his hotel room and the trash bins around the hotel. “Where’s my passport?” I screamed in agony.
In the end, we left the man in his jail cell – minus my shirt. He has many pieces of evidence to prove his guilt and even more bruises.
I hope they cut his hands off. However, this law was abolished in Turkey with the fall of the Ottoman Empire nınety years ago.
I still have no knife, no shorts, and worst of all, no passport. I do have one hell of a great story to tell. It is certainly an Independence Day that will not be forgotten.