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Recently I was at Heathrow, flying to Greece. I was there with a couple of hours to spare so I wondered around the terminal (1) until it was time to board the airplane. It was a flight that turned out to be full and there were quite a lot of Greeks scattered around the terminal. This is an anthology of things I overheard them say, put into context by some observations, you’ll get the point.

Burberry’s, Bally, Timberland, Harrods and other brands’ stores were full of Greek speakers, comparing the goods and prices to those in Athens.

Overheard dialogue:

“Yeap, they don’t bring these to Athens, there are only some items that come to Greece you know. And, they are more expensive in Athens you know”

“Yes, the best stuff is in Milan, a cousin of mine works at Prada and she says that they (Prada) don’t send much to Greece, they couldn’t care less” (“ορεξη μας εχουν” ηταν η ακριβης εκφραση της κυριας)

I moved on. I went to the Star Alliance lounge, where I get in as a Gold Member of the Alliance, travelling London to Athens and back quite a few times every year. At the entrance of the lounge, a very famous Greek singer is negotiating with the lady behind the desk to get someone in the lounge that was not supposed to be allowed in. Turns out, away from Greece stardom seems to fade a bit…

In the lounge, only Greek is heard being spoken, and very loudly for that. There is a couple in their early 60’s who have filled in their plate so much from the (free) buffet that you think they will feed everybody on the plane once they are on. A few meters from them, a famous Greek architect is listening to a presentation (in Greek) off the internet on his laptop, so loudly that I can hear it as if I am watching it in front of me, and he is sitting about 15 meters away. He looks around, knows everybody finds this annoying, goes back to looking at the screen and ignores everybody.  A few seats down, there are two ladies in their late 30’s with 2 children either side of them. Lady number 1 complains to lady number 2 that she tried to do shopping online and shows L2 on her ipad what she tried to buy this morning but failed, which has caused a lot of stress for her. It was something from H&M if I got it right but can’t swear as the architect’s laptop was full blast so I could hear exactly what she said. However, what I did get was that she blamed one of the children for having fiddled with the ipad and the result was that she could not buy what she wanted now. The boy in question (about 9-10 years old) was playing with a Nintendo DS and sound was up which annoyed his mum so much more than the architect’s laptop that (buckle up) she stoop up, shouted at the boy and slapped him across the face with the ipad she was holding!!! The boy took his DS and moved to another chair, continued playing…

I left the lounge as I had enough and went back out to the area with the shops. I wondered around a bit and the announcement for our flight to board came up and we were to go to gate 5. I have taken this flight over 30 times in the last 3 years and I can assure you the gate varies, the relevance of which will become apparent in a minute. Right in front of me at the time was a father and two sons, father around 55 and sons early 20’s, first year university students by the looks and sounds of it, one of them was wearing an LSE hoodie. Each of them was holding two bags from Burberry. The dad said:

“Oh, dammit, gate 5, it is always God Damned gate 5, it is in the other side of the terminal, we now have to walk about 20-25 min to get there. What do you expect, they always put GREECE in the far corner, they don’t give a damn about us, the bastards”

I knew this walk well and it is not 20-25 min. but as at this stage I knew that my compatriots had given me enough reason to write this post, I though, “I’ll time how long it takes me to get there”. I do walk relatively quickly, it needs to be said. Still. It took me 1 minute and 41 secs. 1.41.

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To the naked eye, Greeks look like overloaded normal travelers when waiting at the gate, before they are asked to queue to board, when they turn into commando special forces eliminating the enemy who tries to board the plane before them.

When we boarded the plane, there was no space in the overhead compartment for the hand luggage of the people on the plane. What saved the day was that the business class was so ‘big’ (more than one third of the whole flight) that some hand luggage stuff was moved there by the very patient air-hostesses.

So, here is a summary of two points that I am making here.

a) the country did not go bust in 2009 or anytime near then. It happened a long time ago

b) the financial bankruptcy is nowhere near the worst thing that happened to the country over the last 40 years

 

P.S. For other thoughts about the state of the country have a look here

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