The time had finally come to sign a new rental contract with Ceylan Metal, the copper company who had occupied the bottom floor of the Caravansarai building since it was built in 1983. We had agreed upon the monthly rent, but not what to do about the rent from the six previous months. More than anything, we wanted to sign the contract and avoid jeopardizing our fragile position in the neighborhood by suing or otherwise fighting with Ceylan Metal. Our lawyer, however, was quite set upon getting these back rents and was ready to fight to the end to get us our money.
The appointment was made, the strategies devised, speeches rehearsed…..
After the welcomes, greetings and handshakes, we took up our usually assigned seats in the glass box that serves as the office of Ceylan Metal. Tea and cigarettes were distributed to Anika and myself, our lawyer Hasan and to Serdal and Mehmet, the owners of the company.
We discussed thoroughly the nuances of the copper industry, the business of running a law firm and the overall state of the Turkish and global economy. Conversation then moved on to the city of Mersin, the hometown of Hasan, with extensive tales of its beauty, random antidotes and Serdal’s very own Mersin adventures, when he had tried to buy a car there, but somehow didn’t manage.
- – - cigarette break – - -
The meeting had finally progressed to the point where proper business could begin. Serdal recited his speech, the same one that he had told is four times already this week. “Business is slow…Istanbul is expensive…We have a friend who has a place with cheaper rent than this…” Hasan retorted with his own speech (which included none of the things we had asked him to include in our two hour ‘preparation’ meeting the day before) “You owe the back rents…Its is our right to collect them…If you don’t pay the back rents, we won’t sign the rental contract”.
- – - cigarette break – - -
Serdal began the negotiation with a parable “for us Muslims, it is vital that we have clean hearts in this world, in order for our soul to be at peace in the next…we need that all of us, in pockets and in our hearts, to be satisfied with our agreement”. He then offered us less that half of what we were asking in back-rents. In reply, we pointed out that in our culture, such discussions are based upon calculations, not upon feelings, that our number was created simply by multiplying the number of months by the amount of rent we were legally allowed to collect. Serdal responded with an offer half way between his first offer and our arithmetic. Hasan asked if we were happy with this amount, which of course we were, but wanted Hasan to also be satisfied….which he was. We agreed.
Out come the pens and the company stamps, after 18 signatures on 6 different pages, we had both a rental agreement and a consensus about the back rents. Everybody on their feet! Handshakes! Kisses! Hugs all around! We are good people! You are good people! We will help each other! We helped each other before!
After two and a half hours, we left the small, smoke-filled chamber and stepped out into the sun.