The Nice Thing About Strangers

Creative Non-Fiction Short Stories. :) Travel, Oldsters, Love, and Compassion.

Inspire Curiosity

Men who sell simits–a bagel-pretzel coated in toasted sesame seeds–are almost as ubiquitous in Istanbul as ankle-breakable holes in the sidewalk. Since I often took the same streets, I often passed the same simit salesman. We bonded by blinking at each other. Some days he was decked out in a houndstooth coat and beige fedora. One this day, he went sporty with a grey jacket and a navy Adidas cap.

As I approached he gave me our blink of recognition. In Turkish, I asked if I could take his photo. My Istanbul days are dwindling, so I needed to pack my souvenirs. Actually, the question, though I knew it well, came out: “Can I take my picture?” But he forgave me. “Of me?”  Yes, yes, I reached apologetically for my camera and offered up my mother’s smile.

A crowd of men on a bench nearby began to chatter among themselves like pigeons. I turned to see if there was anyone there worth capturing–they went quiet–as my simit man got himself into a pose. We kept on in Turkish. “Should I wear my hat?

I grinned, “If you want.”

He took it off. “Oh, but I’m not beautiful,” he said smoothing his grey hair.

“You are, you are!” I insisted with a click.

I showed him the photo, which he gave a furtive look before patting me on the shoulder, sending me on my way. He stepped back to his friends, trying to blend back into the crowd of men. Like schoolboys, they teased him and he chuckled to himself.  I walked away beaming, causing a few strangers down the street to wonder why that woman over there should seem so pleased.

–Istanbul, Turkey.

Simit salesman, Istanbul, Turkey, travel photos

20 comments on “Inspire Curiosity

  1. crowsandsparrows
    September 17, 2012

    I just…aww.

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      September 17, 2012

      Haha! Me too! Somehow his usual swagger and macho doesn’t show up at all in the photo.

      • crowsandsparrows
        September 17, 2012

        And I know exactly what sort of buddy-buddy sheepish backslapping would go on among his old friends. Its so endearing. Especially how he doesn’t think he’s beautiful. He’s just…him. To you, or me, he is slightly, well, exotic, something to be captured like a memento, something unique. But to him, he is just…he.

      • thenicethingaboutstrangers
        September 17, 2012

        Yeah, I think we were all smirking to ourselves good-naturedly. On my way back from the market with beer and chocolate at 2 pm, I took the long way around so as not to cause a scandal.

      • crowsandsparrows
        September 17, 2012

        Hahaha, I totally get that.

  2. Linda Dunckel
    September 17, 2012


  3. Lynne Ayers
    September 17, 2012

    Nice story to go with the photo – I’m usually too timid to ask if I can take someone’s photo. I try to snap surreptiously, like my lady on the bus … 🙂

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      September 18, 2012

      Yes, I get nervous to take one without asking, then I get flustered asking. I seem like a hot mess for someone who has been wandering for a few years. The butterflies never depart, it seems. 🙂

  4. senatorbrett
    September 17, 2012

    I like your small stories of human moments.


  5. The Presents of Presence
    September 18, 2012

    You always make me smile…bet he was smiling the whole day too! 🙂

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      September 18, 2012

      Aww, shucks! Yes, I had a feeling that he’s have a funny story to tell later. I thought I’d direct him to the blog, but I have a feeling it’s better to stay an anonymous blinker. 🙂

  6. Don't Quote Lily
    September 18, 2012

    Aw, that’s sweet!

  7. crazytraintotinkytown
    September 18, 2012

    bless him – I find the Turkish love having their photos taken

  8. turkischland
    September 19, 2012

    Reblogged this on turkischland.

  9. ChefThomas
    September 23, 2012

    I truly believe that one does not collect enough “casual friendships” along the long winding road of our lives. It is these people that give colour to your busy days. A story worth telling for both of sides of the camera.
    Lovely anecdote.

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      September 23, 2012

      Thanks so much! I do wonder if he mentioned the photo to anyone else, and if he still looks down the hill where I would approach, perhaps hoping to see me coming back. I wish now that I had also bought a simit for the road! There’s always another time.

  10. Reblogged this on The Nice Thing About Strangers and commented:

    See you next week with live, new tales!

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