Indy500

I wasn’t sure what it was or what was actually happening until a friend kindly offered a label – Stockholm Syndrome. Boom! It was like a light bulb exploding above my head. (Don’t worry, I ducked.) I wasn’t going native after all; I was going Patty Hearst! Relief rushed over me. I kicked my feet back up onto the coffee table and proceeded to Patty away the next two hours.

Almost four years ago The Turk got a new job in the U.S. with the same company he’d worked for in Turkey. (Side note: Be sure that when your potential spouse reveals their career title, you really understand what it means. I did not know what an environmental engineer really did initially, but in our ten years I’ve spent 2 years living at a wastewater treatment plant, had countless dinner conversations about sludge eating micro-organisms, learned exactly (unfortunately) what happens when you flush the toilet and received mail regularly containing trade publications with titles like – Big Pumper, Waste News and Port-a-Potty Today (I only wish I’d made those titles up.)) With the Turk’s new job we also received a relocation package –to Indianapolis. The only thing either of us knew about Indianapolis was the Indy 500 (Even in Turkey you can watch the Indy 500) and neither of us were too excited.

Once we go here we realized Indianapolis wasn’t so bad, as long as we looked past being landlocked in a society of God-fearing gun nuts. Slowly we began to find people a little more like us (Ok who am I kidding? With the exception of Ricky and Lucy, no one is like us.) but in time we did meet a few who never uttered the phrases, “It’s my right to bear arms,” or “I’d love for you to come church with us sometime.” ((No for real. That’s part of why we joined the Catholic church- no one tries to convert a Catholic.) Religious America, why is that a thing? Do you get bonus points for bringing in heathens?)

Though we’ve been able to slowly fade into the background in this land of Hoosiers (No, I still don’t know what a Hoosier is.) the month of May has continually caused us to stand out like a good dancer at a Midwest prom. In May, all of Indianapolis shifts to race prep. Homes are adorned with checkered flags and signs reading “Welcome Race Fans!” There are parades, runs, historical recreations, smaller races and nonstop new coverage in which some of the favorite racers even get their own regular segments. I’m sure this is all very exciting if you’re the kind of person who enjoys watching men (and one lone woman- stay strong Pipa) drive in circles for a few hours while drunks cheer from behind a fence but the Turk and I don’t fall into that category.

The strange part has always been that even if I wanted to watch the race on television, I couldn’t. The Indy500 isn’t shown on television in Indianapolis. WHAT? Oh yes, if you are local you have to wait until the replay that evening, you know, after they’ve already showed you the winner and 3 hours of highlights.“You have to go once to experience it.” Is what’s always said when I share my disinterest in “Race Day.” The Turk did go once but returned sunburned and bitter uttereing, “Vat vas dat?”

But this year, either because it was the 100th running or maybe because someone finally realized the blackout was stupid, the ban was lifted and the race was played live in Indy. It was all very exciting from the press conference announcing the change to mutterings about town, “Can you believe we actually get to watch it?” I think that’s where they got me. After three years surrounded by checkered flag décor (The checkered flag mani/pedi is rampant here.) the month-long media coverage and race cars parked in every store hocking everything from beer to burgers, they got me. By the time the race started, I was actually watching.

I tried to tell myself that this was just research as I’m preparing to teach a 7th grade physics course in the fall and I’ve been recently preoccupied with velocity and speed but I’m not sure that was it. If I have to be honest, the excitement of the crashes and the instantaneous end to a potential win by something as innocuous as a bump from another car was what really sucked me in. (I’m morbid like that.)

As I watched, I worried that by acknowledging the existence of this car race I’d previously ignored meant that after three years, I was becoming a native. If I watched, what was next? Would I too invite people to go to church after stopping off to buy a gun? Would I soon refer to myself as a Hoosier? (Even though still don’t know what that is.) Worst of all, would I ask some woman to paint checkered flags on my big toe? God no. What was I doing? Why was I watching? Worse yet, why was I enjoying it?

That’s when my friend saved the day – I was experiencing a case of Stockholm Syndrome, assimilating to my captors to ensure my survival. While the Hoosiers have been fine with my lack of race day love up to now, it’s only a matter of time before they don pitchforks and march on the home of the foreign guy with the wife who doesn’t like racing in the car racing capital of the world. My viewing bought us some time, I’m sure of it.

I can’t promise I’ll ever watch again, and I highly doubt you’ll see a Welcome Race Fans banner hanging above my hollyhocks anytime soon, but you should try everything once.

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