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ROOTS

I’M VERY HAPPY TO BRING YOU ANOTHER PIECE OF STUDENT WRITING FROM LAST TERM’S CLASS AT KOÇ. THE AUTHOR IS HAZAL YUMUKOĞLU, A SENIOR MAJORING IN BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION, AND AN ASPIRING COMEDIAN. THE TITLE IS “A ROOTER: THE ROOTS OF A SENSE OF HUMOR.”

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“Are all cell phones off?”

“Yes.”

“Home phones unplugged?”

“Yes.”

“The door?”

“Locked, as are all communication means.”

“Has ‘she’ been informed?”

“Couple of times. She won’t be in the way, won’t even approach the vicinity between 19.00 and 21.00 pm.”

So far, you expect Bruce Willis to blow up the place.

“Good. Which show is on?”

“Fatmagül.

“Damn! She’s more into The Magnificent Century. What if she gets bored and feels the urge to barge in?”

“Mo–om! Don’t forget, the game is about to start!!”

“Alright, alright I won’t come to the living room… God!”

It sounds like a CIA operation, but it’s just the routine preparation to watch a Galatasaray match in our house. As a huge Galatasaray fan, my father has certain rules while watching a game, which I will discuss later. First, I would like to tell you my first words. “Mom?” “Dad?” “Pee?” No, no and no. They were “Ye-ye-ye, Ya-ya-ya!” This was my best try at repeating the GS anthem after my father.

As a little girl, I was raised to always behave in a proper manner, except for the times I visited my grandmother. We lived in İzmir, but once a year we visited and stayed at my grandmother in Istanbul. She lives in Kadıköy—that’s right, right near the Fenerbahçe stadium (the biggest GS competitor, and the antagonist of my father’s autobiography). Every time we came to or left the house, we had to pass near the stadium. And every time we did, my father would say to me “Bak canım, şerefsizlerin stadı,” which means “Look honey, the stadium of the inglorious ones.” He said this with such a serious tone that I remember taking it as a scientific fact, actually thinking that was the stadium’s name. Soon I picked up the habit, repeating the same phrase every time we passed, as a 4 year-old cutie with a ponytail.

By the way, you factually cannot hear the word “Fenerbahçe” from my father’s mouth; when he says “bastards,” he’s talking about them.

So, let’s rank the rules and regulations of watching a game with my father.

1.) You can never watch the game with my father if you are a “bastard”.

2.) All cells and home phones must be shut.

This isn’t just to prevent distractions, it’ also a lucky charm.

3.) Oh, you cannot say “lucky charm”, “luck”, or “Eating during the game was bad luck, right?”.

It’s bad luck.

4.) Eating during the game is bad luck.

5.) You definitely CANNOT enter the living room during the game.

This one is specially dedicated to my mother. Still, it applies to everyone. He once fired an employee because he knocked on his door while he was watching a game. It might be in the contract.

6.) If you decide to watch the game, you have to notify him before, and must commit to the game totally.

You cannot leave the living room. You have to be present from the beginning to the end. All or nothing.

7.) If he decides that you’re bad luck, he’ll free you himself.

His reasoning and politeness will vary according to the person he lets go. For example, if it is me, he’ll say “Honey, don’t you have some homework to do?” Otherwise he usually “swears” an oath.

8.) There are certain seats and zones assigned to every participant.

If GS is losing or doing badly, he decides that the seating plan is false in some way and commands “change your coordinates”. Me and my brother change our seats or positions without hesitation. “How’s the reception over here?” My brother bursts out laughing. Me and my brother get a red card and are expelled from the next three games due to levity. We both sit in our rooms and think about what we’ve done, then laugh harder.

9.) You should watch how you stand throughout the game.

This one is again related with the “reception”. This is not his rule per se, but it is for your own good. My brother once had to watch the last 30 minutes of a game standing up in a stretching position because GS had scored at the time he was standing up, yawning.

10.) My personal favorite: My father MUST NOT be aware of Fenerbahçe’s scores.

I won’t call this a paranoia, because I have witnessed it myself. In the old times, whenever my father watched a FB game, they won (obviously, by either luck or match-fixing; FB in its history hasn’t won a single match deservedly), and whenever he didn’t, they lost. He noticed the pattern and stopped watching. Result: GS was the league champion for many years in a row. However, the very moment he accidentally turns the channel on, FB scores. I’m not joking, I saw this happen. All were coincidences of course, but try telling that to him. As far as he is concerned, he has become the center of the soccer universe. Consequently, he has to isolate himself from every technological device during a FB game; TV, cell phone, computer. (The phone is to prevent seeing score messages or friends who are FB fans trying to tell him the score, either to mess with him or actually trying to work the magic.)

A few years ago, there was a very significant night. Two games would be played at the same time which would both determine the league champion. Galatasaray was playing Kayserispor and Fenerbahçe was playing Denizlispor. In order for GS to become the champion, GS had to win, and Fenerbahçe had to lose or tie. If FB won, GS’s victory wouldn’t mean anything. Consequently, a normal human being would want to know both scores, whichever game he or she was watching. Well, at this point we can all agree that the normality ship has sailed in our living room.

In Turkey, the score of the other games are generally displayed at the right top corner of the screen when two games are being played simultaneously. When I walked into the living room, I was faced with a handmade artwork, which obviously took a lot of creativity and effort. A proportionally cut cardboard was covering the right top corner of the TV. The magic is, there wasn’t any kind of glue or scotch tape involved since it would harm the TV. What confused me and will confuse me to the day I die is how he managed to place the card board without using any adhesive tools, then took it off after the game.

Before I forget, I would like to apologize to all of the basta­—sorry, old habits die hard—Fenerbahçe fans reading this, since they have been insulted a few times. I’m not my father. Anyway, I lost my interest in soccer years ago. I defy any woman who says that they love soccer. C’mon, we all know that’s not true. I’m of course excluding derbies and national games, I still watch those. But acting like they are obsessed with soccer, knowing every players and transfers, like most men do in Turkey, seems fake to me. I believe girls who act like they are interested in soccer either are eager to catch men’s attention or find some player in a team very cute.

And no, I won’t have any problem dating a Fenerbahçe fan, although I’m kind of wondering right now about my father’s reaction if I were to marry a Fenerbahçe fan. Better, a Fenerbahçe player…

O Romeo, Romeo! Don’t deny my father and refuse thy team!
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I’ll no longer be a GS fan.

Even though the word “bizarre” seems deficient to describe his soccer behavior, after delving into this matter I have found that my father isn’t that unique, especially among Turkish men. Reading online forums and asking male friends even made me feel grateful for my father.

(Joking aside, I actually am very grateful for my father. He is perhaps the best father a child could ever want, very caring and concerned over his children. Sometimes too much so…For instance, he wanted to tuck my 28 year old brother in his bed while he was staying with us. Or, what do you think would cause the biggest fight between a father and his daughter? A family crisis? Some sort of addiction? A boyfriend or promiscuity? Wrong. It was about me drinking Diet Coke. We did not speak for two weeks. Not enough? Alright, he knows my menstruation dates better than I do, because I have a condition called Polycystic ovary syndrome which causes irregular mensturation. Every woman should get tested, because it’s very common and the symptoms may vary or hide. At this point, he has become a hypochondriac and… wait a minute… Didn’t I start this parenthesis to praise him? I swear this essay is starting to feel more like a therapy session…)

I heard a story about a friend’s uncle who had to wear a particular pair of pajamas during every game because he considered them to be lucky. And just before a game was about to start, he found out that his wife had washed them an hour ago. Without taking pneumonia or sanity into account, he wore the wet pajamas and watched the entire game. That’s what I call the spirit (departing from the body, since brain death has already occurred)! Another friend mentioned that he literally holds his breath throughout every penalty or close free kicks. I have in fact discovered that changing seats and memorizing who sat where during a match of triumph to replicate it at another match are very common. Other extremes include placing a knife on top of the TV at the side of the competitors goal, or wearing the same jersey for years without washing it, lest the luck also wash off.

But, come to think of it, who am I to judge these people when I also have rituals before I perform in an improv show? Such as listening to certain songs in an order on my way to the theater. I labeled one of my favorite shirts as unlucky because the show went shitty the night I wore it. I’ve blacklisted that shirt and I’ll never wear it on stage, I’ll die.

“Die” is what we call sucking at stage in improv, it’s nearly a drowning experience. You are probably alone on stage and your friends are as stuck as you are so they can’t enter. As words come out of your mouth and you hear the audience not responding, or worse, some people giggling quietly to break the silence, not because they think you’re funny, but not to be rude. Oh, the silence… That horrible, never-ending (even it lasts for two minutes, it feels like ages), stomach-stabbing silence! There is nothing worse. Then, you might think, why the hell you’d do this horrible thing to yourself and get on stage? Well, because the sound of laughter and applause feels as intensely good as dying feels intensively awful. I haven’t lived that long, but I’m pretty damn sure that those moments are and always will be the most pleasurable moments in my entire life. That is why I put up with the risk of dying.

Actually, that is what’s best about improv. In a scripted play, the performance is more or less pre-determined. Little improvisations among actors may occur, but to nowhere near the same extent. In improv, nothing is certain. The show might go incredibly well, or incredibly bad. No matter how much you train or know about improv, you might still perform badly. Of course there are certain rules and skills used in improv which are very useful, but sometimes they just aren’t enough. It could be the audience, your mood, the atmosphere… But when you do well and the audience is rolling in the aisles, there isn’t a feeling more wonderful than that.

Ever since I first gained consciousness, I knew that I always, always enjoyed comedy more than anything. I watched and loved the plays of Yılmaz Erdoğan and Ferhan Şensoy (even though I was 11 years old and I couldn’t understand most of it because it was all politics) thousands of times. I still know the lines of Ferhan Şensoy’s Song with a Tram Passing through It by heart. I also cried my brains out for three days when I found out that my father had taped over Yılmaz Erdoğan’s Otogargara [a pun combining otogar (bus station) and gargle (gargara)], AND GUESS WHAT HE WAS RECORDING? Exactly. Between the ages of 13 and 17, I fell asleep every night listening to Cem Yılmaz’s “Bir tat bir doku” stand-up series. I always liked laughing till I cried, making my friends laugh, and being known as the funny, crazy one. (Which I’m afraid is the feminine version of Cem Yılmaz’s consolation saying for ugly men in Turkey: “Not good-looking, but charismatic.”)

But here’s what I’m getting at in this story: I don’t take any credit for my sense of humor. I’m not funny. I don’t create or invent jokes. I just observe and take notes, mostly of my father. I didn’t make this stuff up—I wish I had. They say funny people often come from a difficult childhood or a troubled family. So dad, thanks for an advanced sense of humor—I’m planning to make a living out of it. And something tells me I won’t experience writer’s block anytime soon.

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2 Responses to “ROOTS”

  1. Zeynep Says:

    This. This is HILARIOUS! I’m sorry to say but after reading previous entries, I was worried about yet another student’s writing… they tend to be immature, self-obsessed diatribes… but then again we are talking about kids who are barely out of their teens, my own writing at that age was atrocious… But this is something else. Hazal is a) truly funny, b) actually pays attention to and describes emotions/feelings in a believable and compassionate way and c) did I mention funny?
    Good work Hazal, an with regards to your improv career… may the odds be ever in your favor.

  2. Constance Vidor Says:

    David Sedaris is getting nervous!

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