Many years ago, I got a phone call from my boss one Friday night. This irritated me a bit, but in those days there was no caller ID on a landline (remember landlines?) and I just picked up.
‘Hi Dunk. What are you doing on Sunday?’
‘Hello Roger. Probably just go down the pub, dinner, you know.’
I was getting a bad feeling about this.
‘Well guess what? That’s not happening. You’re going to Istanbul*.’
‘Am I really? And the purpose here is…..’
‘There’s a sister agency out there that just picked up a pharma account pitch, and they’re a consumer agency with no experience. They need somebody like you to point them in the right direction.’
‘Thanks Roger. Not.’
I liked Istanbul a lot. It had been on my bucket list for years, and I got there for free, and got a hotel for free, and got fed and watered for free. Plus the agency was run by a very sympatico bloke, the creatives were eager and appreciative. I had a few things I needed to ask, and they were very forthcoming. My first query was how the medical system worked. Single payer, in which case medics want you out of the door really quickly, and don’t want you coming back? Or a pay per visit system, where you want punters through the door as often as possible? Once I had some answers, I could get to grips with things.
The sympatico head of the agency was brilliant. We’d work in the morning, go out for lunch, then he’d say, ‘Not much for you to do this afternoon. Go exploring. We’ll see you in the morning.’ I didn’t need telling twice.
I knocked about in the Grand Bazaar, the other souks. I went to the Blue Mosque, which is huge and lovely, and I was the only person in there apart from the bloke hoovering the acres of carpets. I got offered hookers (‘Very CLEAN nice Toorkish girl), ate some great food.
The day after we’d put the project to bed, we’d all gone out on the lash and I wasn’t feeling too good. I went for a walk, past Galatasaray’s stadium, ended up at the docks. I found a bar/café that could have been used as the inspiration for the dive in Airplane, but I was feeling so rough I thought it had to be worth the risk.
The owner was a colossal bloke in a grubby apron. He took one look at me. Pointed to a table.
I sat. Miraculously a beer arrived.
Then equally miraculously, a plate of proper hangover food arrived.
And he wouldn’t let me pay. That’s customer service for you. And yes, the agency won the account.
*This sort of thing happened quite a lot when I was getting helicoptered into somewhere foreign to lend a hand. I once missed a friend’s fortieth birthday because I was on a plane to Atlanta.