Wednesday, January 13, 2016
In Spring 1999, I left the company where I worked for 15 years in Ankara. They said they were changing their track with me, a polite wording to fire an employee. I received my severance pay. Then with my wife, we went to Newport News in Virginia to stay with my late brother- Haldun for a while.
Haldun's had to go to his Washington DC headquarters office to clear some works. We went together. I made some business meetings with some potential companies in the Washington DC, for a new job. We stayed in DC a few days. We together toured the museums, visited Congress, took photos in front of White House. We drank coffee at a Café in Georgetown University district. We started way back in the late evening hours.
We had a second-hand Toyota sedan car. We drove on Interstate I-95S highway to south, then moved to Interstate I-64E highway east to our home in Newport News. Return drive would take 3-hours at average 55-65 mph speed. I took the driving steer to drive first. We had automatic transmission in the car, but I did not know the auto cruise control. It was late mid night dark at night. I had Turkish-style driving style with full attention to everything. Halfway over. I gave Haldun in the steering wheel. I bought the map of the motorway. We had no IPhone no GPS navigator, not like today. You have to give notice to the driver much prior to the motorway exit drive.
We were approaching to Newport News exit 255B on the interstate highway. You should move fast otherwise if you miss the exit, then you drive 25-30 miles more for U-turn. Prior to moving from Georgetown University cafe, I had strong black caffeinated coffee intravenously. Nevertheless, I still had fatigue. I noticed the exit plate at the last minute. I informed Haldun.
Haldun quickly broke the steering wheel to the right. On the way out as if to punish drivers, the highway contractor had made high sidewalks on both sides of the highway. We passed over. The car was shaken and left rear wheel exploded. At that time tubeless tires were not common. If a flat tire bursting full. We went on and stopped.
It was 03:00 hours late midnight. We pulled the car over, we put a lighted fuse on highway. We download the suitcase in the trunk, we remove the spare tire standing at the bottom. Haldun had never tire change until then. I was the classic Turkish chauffeur. I changed at least once a punctured tire on a long highway roads. We together changed the exploding tire very quickly with the spare wheel. We continued on the road. We came home, we were tired, we went to bed we slept.
The next day, Haldun wanted to get new tire. He said there is point to risk if tire explodes again. We had new spare tire on the wheel. We would not need to buy a new tire for the spare wheel. There was no snow in Virginia. They always use 4-season tire. A second-hand used, relatively new, with some teeth, could be a cheap solution for a spare tire.
Haldun accepted my proposal as reasonable. We had no internet, no google at that time. We checked the phone book to call auto spare parts dealers. The nearest was "Pete's Used Auto Parts" junkyard. We phoned, and asked, if they have the equivalent tire. Yes they had. We jump in the car, we found the address. It was a huge junkyard almost as big as a football field wide open space, all kinds of scrap auto parts ranked in a certain logic. More sensitive parts which could be affected by the sun, were stacked indoor area.
We named the tire brand and size, down from 4-5 years, we found on a tire rack. There was only one employee to help us. He was a wrestler type heavy guy, who could obviously has worked weightlifting in the past, but put weight on by releasing the sport, giving us reluctant answer. Haldun said to me, "This guy is a Redneck, be careful". "Redneck" is a heavy guy who worked under sunshine long hours to get red sunburn on his neck. "Redneck" is white, uneducated, relatively poor, conservative, racist, enemy of blacks, love guns, and much heavy drinking.
"Redneck" in pure form is a term that is applied to rural folk, particularly in the US South, who toil in their fields and acquire a "red neck" from sunburn. It is also used to indicate persons of limited education, often racist views and a rather parochial perception of the world.
"Redneck" told me the price of tire, $ 60. It would cost $15-20 for used tire not more. In Turkish style, I asked if would be"$40. $ 60 he repeated. $ 40, so I insisted. He received a facial expression as if I cursed the man.
Finally, he said "You have 2-minutes to decide, buy or then f*ck off". I left to negotiate, I went out. I called Haldun with silent agreement between us as close brothers, we left there. We went to the nearby Sam's Club supermarket, we purchased new tire for $ 120. We also had 4-wheel tune-up and balance.
In our geography, our cultural procedures do not fit them. Americans see our negotiation protocol as fit to "carpet- merchants". That is not only in Turkey, but all Middle -East region has such bargaining culture. Iran is a worse case, they never stop negotiation even after they sign the contract.
Russians do not know bargaining since they come from long lasting Soviet system with no bargaining, where all prices imposed by the ruling administration. Ordinary people do not know the bargaining. Important commodity prices are fixed by the senior managers taking care of public interest, international relations. Academics, mathematicians, politicians put contribution on price determinations of natural gas, oil, coal for export.
Bargaining in American is simple. Americans sell fire-arms in open market place so easy. They reluctantly put compulsory registration for buyers of arm sales. We saw the same easy trend in other negotiations with the educated Americans.
At our geography, we have bargaining rituals. "Buy or leave" is not our style. Americans do not understand our negotiation protocol. That is unnecessary time consuming effort. They have "non-negotiable" red lines. In their international dialog, weather in politics, thermal power plant sales, military equipment deals, the same procedures they apply. So do note this differences at all times in negotiations with US parties.
Haluk Direskeneli, is a graduate of METU Mechanical Engineering department (1973). He worked in public, private enterprises, USA Turkish JV companies (B&W, CSWI, AEP), in fabrication, basic and detail design, marketing, sales and project management of thermal power plants. He is currently working as freelance consultant/ energy analyst with thermal power plants basic/ detail design software expertise for private engineering companies, investors, universities and research institutions. He is a member of ODTÜ Alumni and Chamber of Turkish Mechanical Engineers Energy Working Group.
Ankara, 18 January 2016