Turks are a can-do people. Once they have identified a problem (a discussion for another time), they often throw themselves at the solution. For example, at the local level, road work and community beautification projects are often carried out late into the night, including on weekends, until the task is finished. At the state level, one only need consider the hundreds of millions of dollars Ankara has spent to assist Syrian refugees (again, a discussion for another time).
Yet the vigor with which Turks attack a problem is as much a weakness as it is a strength. For in their headlong rush to correct something, to appease, they often overlook key details and go for a quick-fix, rather than implement a viable, long-term solution. There is no better example of this than what Jamie and I nicknamed “The Charlie Brown Tree.”
A row of small trees line the sidewalk outside our apartment complex. They are planted about ten yards apart and grow no more than four or five feet high. Soon after the brutal 2011-2012 winter set in, Jamie and I noticed that once the then daily snowfall melted into puddles, one of the trees would get splashed, over and over again, with water whenever cars zoomed by. The cold evening air would then freeze the water to the tree, weighing it down with icicles and causing it to slouch to one side. After a few chilly days in a row, the poor sap would be so heavy with ice that nearly all of its branches would rest on the sidewalk. Its crooked posture reminded us of when Charlie Brown’s threadbare tree drooped to the floor after he hung an ornament on it.
Our tree didn’t lived to see last summer. The grounds crew here removed what was left it and the tree box sat empty until last month, when they planted two saplings in its place. But rather than encase the buds in something that would protect them from the elements, the grounds crew fashioned a crude box made of some of sticks, and few long strips of tape, with no top cover.
More importantly, the crew failed to address why The Charlie Brown Tree died in the first place: the severe dip in road directly next to it, which allows deep puddles of water to linger for days.
The tree box is a tangle of weeds now. They drown with every rain storm because the soil isn’t even with the concrete, so the water sits inside, stagnant. Then the cars drive by, dousing even more on them.
It would be easy to be cynical about it if deep down I didn’t know that the ground crew is already working up a new way to fix the problem. Notice I didn’t say better. Until the road is evened out, nothing will work. But that won’t stop the crew from trying, by God. Honestly, I can’t wait to see what they dream up.
As haphazard and short-sighted as their attitude may be, it is the Turk’s eagerness to improve something that I find endearing. Then try and try and, like many other cultures, may never get it right, but you have to admire their gumption.