One of the nicest things about
is leaving it. If this sounds like a back-handed compliment, it is. Summers in Greece are usually crowded with loutish tourists and unwashed “entrepreneurs” driving suicide taxis or serving roadkill souvlaki. Unfortunately, this is what 20% of Greek GDP is based on, and the main reason I try to leave Greece for at least 2 months every summer.* Greece
If it’s any consolation, there used to be one price for tourists and one price for Greeks. Now, there’s just one equally bad price, and equally bad quality, for everyone. I no longer have to explain to my international friends visiting
to be careful of atrocious food in Plaka or crooked taxi drivers at the airport: now everyone eats the same crap and pays the same high price. Greece
I was lucky enough to spend a month in the
in July, and nearly a month in United States in August. I returned to France two days ago and made the mistake to turning on the TV. What's happened since then? Greece
is suing the owner of a vacant lot in Spetses because this guy had the temerity to set up a metal stage for the wedding of Nikolaos and Tatiana. Apparently, he didn’t have permission from the town planning authority (although he did receive some other kind of permission), and because of that is being sued for EUR 296,000. This is from a prefecture based in a city which is congested, polluted, full of illegal cafes and restaurants and illegally-build apartments, and where drug dealing and prostitution occur openly every day and every night. But it was apparently a major violation to set up a metal stage – on someone’s own property – for 24 hours and the price of this “crime” is EUR 296,000. Prefecture of Piraeus
· ERT aired a hagiography of George Papandreou’s “Symi Symposium”. This features a group of largely like-minded caviar socialists and other beneficiaries of public money who gather every year to discuss issues like “Democracy and Globalisation”. This year, the leader of
’s Greens insisted that Germany invest more in trains, “because this is the future”, while our Prime Minister concluded with the statement to the effect that “people and solidarity are more important than Euros.” They certainly are, especially when it’s Other People’s Money. Our creditors will be laughing all the way to the bank with that one. Greece
· I visited our local branch of the National Bank of
– the “steam engine of Greece ’s development”, as it were. One teller was unhappily and unwillingly working, one teller was scratching his ass, and four other people were sitting behind desks, talking to their friends on the company phone or eating tyropittes. Welcome to Greece ’s largest company. Greece
· A total ban on smoking in public spaces was introduced. Don’t even get me started on that one. Just because I’m a masochist, I’m going to start calling the police every time I see someone smoking in a restaurant. Since they no longer bother to show up for traffic accidents or burglaries, it will be a relief to see Minister Mariana Xenogiannakopoulou forcing them to fine smokers. I will also be sure to tell the tellers at the Halandri Commercial Bank branch that they can no longer smoke behind the counter.
Yes, I am in dark mood. It was a great summer, and it was great being in countries where customer service and professionalism count for something. In New York, for instance, I had to get a new Citibank ATM card issued: I was led into a spotless office by a smiling, clean service manager in a suit and tie who went over my file, looked at my ID, and issued a card on the spot, in less than 10 minutes.** Try doing this at Eurobank.
We sent a box of books from the Port St. Lucie Post Office in
to Florida . The facility was spotless. The line took less than 5 minutes, there were four people working, and the average processing time per customer took about 2-3 minutes. The staff were ultra professional.** In the Geraka Post Office, there will be 30 people in line, one person “working” (while two people scratch themselves), and it will take an average of 8-10 minutes per person processing time. Athens
We drove over 2,000 km this summer, in
, Florida , Colorado , Arizona and Utah . In all this time, not a single car beeped, tried to cut us off, burned a red light, or otherwise gave us a feeling that our lives were in danger. Drivers were actually friendly, everyone from the Celebration Wal Mart parking lot to the Florida Turnpike. Try driving 4 km from Geraka to the Atlantis sports club in Pallini (conveniently located next to the local cemetery) and see how that goes. Nevada
I start September one year older and a little bit wiser*** and with some new plans:
a. I will not watch any more Greek TV.
b. I will resolutely reflexively distrust or disbelieve any press release or announcement put out by the Greek government, or at the very least suspect that the true state of affairs is the opposite of what is being announced.
c. I will keep my head down, focus on work, and delocate my company out of this country so when it (the country) finally does go bankrupt and collapses, I will still be able to provide for my family.
d. I will eventually, perhaps in mid-September, creep out of my suburban bubble to a nice island like
Naxos and, with the tourism madness abated, remember as it used to be. Greece
e. I can’t wait until next summer.
But wait… weren’t these last September’s plans?
* At this point, I’m sure lots of people will try to convince me to the contrary: “But I know this great island called Astipalaia with really friendly people etc.” Don’t bother. I grew up here before mass tourism, Albanian waiters and lamb-chops-and-peas main courses in
Corfu tourist traps, and I can assure you that since 2000 or so, travel in is inevitably disappointing, or very, very expensive. Greece
** Let no one say the
government does not know how to provide considerate, professional service. Yes, Citibank may have nearly bankrupted the world; yes Post Office employees do occasionally rampage; yes, we may have invaded US in the name of democracy. But hey, great customer service, guys. Honestly. Iraq
*** Readers of this and other posts may question this assumption.