Sunday, August 22, 2010

My Athens in August

I am not a misanthropist, I just like my Athens in August. Despite the economic crisis, Athenians have fled. This means that the streets are empty, you get anywhere you want in no time, there are no queues in banks, nor the tax office, nor the hospitals, nor IKA, nor at the supermarkets.

Halandri, 16 Aug. 2010 at 18:19

It is an interesting time for observations. For example, even though you can park anywhere you like, you still see the occasional car parked on the pavement. There are those stickers you can get that read 'είμαι γάϊδαρος παρκάρω όπου γουστάρω' ('I'm an ass I park where I like') from streetpanthers, but I think that if someone parks like this in Athens in August they deserve a special version sticker with 'κάφρος', instead of 'ass'.

It is also almost bewildering how the very few people who have remained in Athens drive. It is as if there is a silent agreement that basic rules are obsolete this time of year. There is absolutely no need to indicate if you are turning or pulling over, red traffic lights are there for decoration purposes only and speeding like your behind is on fire is your god given right. Even pedestrians seem to have a death wish. Perhaps they are dizzy from the heat, but they too behave like they have an invisible shield around them to protect them from the lunatic drivers. They, too, ignore traffic lights and cross the road without even looking if there are any cars coming. They cross at their own speed, like strolling in a park and at dangerous points where speeding lunatics can't see them before it's too late. The funny thing is, that because all this is known and -I honestly believe- actually silently agreed upon, and as I haven't seen any accidents, this system appears to be working, although I must say I feel sorry for the tourists and the new drivers who just got their license and decided to stay behind in the city while it's still empty, to practise. They must think everyone got released from the madhouse and were given a car as a farewell present.

Leoforos Pentelis, 16 Aug. 2010 at 18:22

One of the most annoying things about Athens in August, especially for us who've stayed because we like the peace and quiet, is all the alarms that go off and no one is around to turn them off. It is mostly car alarms. This is something I never understood. Why have a car alarm if you're not there to be alarmed when you hear it, and if nobody else gives a toss? Car alarms keep sounding for what it feels like an eternity until I wish that there really was somebody trying to steal the car and that he would succeed before I go out with an axe and smash the damn thing. However, it's not just car alarms. It's houses, too. About a week ago our neighbour called from wherever he's gone on holiday to ask us to check on his house because the alarm had been set off. I don't know exactly what I was supposed to do had there been a burglar, as I am not a particularly scary or muscly person and I don't own a baseball bat, but I went there to have a look, anyway. Perhaps because it was the middle of the day, an unpopular time to break into houses and because there was another neighbour -a retired army general mentioned before as the villain responsible for the slaughtering of the neighbourhood's last sheep- on his balcony who would have probably shot any suspicious lurkers on sight, but mainly because I firmly believe that alarms go off for no reason other than to annoy me, that I went there totally convinced all was fine in the house and that I was just wasting my time. Was I right? Of course I was. After a while, the police also came to check. All this because of an attention seeking alarm system. The next day, the same thing happened with the house next door to where I work. Again in the middle of the day, again the police came, again false alarm. And it's not just houses. There is a shop on a main street that I drive past every day where the alarm is always sounding. How that is possible, I don't know but I swear it's true.

As I'm typing all this, the boats en route to Piraeus are overflowing with people coming back to Athens. With them they are bringing their cars, their children and their disrespect for the city. The national roads are also full with unhappy people returning to unpaid loans and bills and uncertain jobs. From tomorrow morning that special time when the city feels humane will be over.

1 comment: