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The Flight to Athens

Hotel Attalos, Athens, Greece

Ancient Greek Computer Bag by MelissinosThis is just my third day here in Athens and already so much has happened that if I write it all I will be in front of the computer for the next 3 days. I feel like I spent the last 6 months doing nothing and all the things that should have happened in that time but didn't, just happened in the last 3 days. First let me mention that in this photo I am carrying the prototype of an ancient Greek laptop computer bag that I asked Pandelis Melissinos, son of the poet-sandal-maker to make for me. It turned out to be too small but if you have a 13 inch laptop it should fit fine. Its made from leather and lamb's wool and I am sure everyone will want one. At least that's what I told Pandelis. So if you go to his shop ask about them. By the time you read this he should have a version that will fit any laptop. See for more info on his shop in Monastiraki-Psiri. I know this sounds suspiciously like an advertisement but this is the only new photo I have of myself this trip and I thought it deserved an explanation. It also illustrates sort of what we do when we get together at night. We think of cool ideas and this is one of the rare cases where an idea actually became a reality. Usually its what kind of restaurant would be perfect in Athens (a NY-style breakfast anytime diner in case you want to make a lot of money) or ways we would improve the city (too long a list to go into here).

Flight to GreeceAs for leaving the USA I went through my usual neurosis and anxiety for a week but the day we left it magically disappeared (without drugs) and the heartbreak of leaving my home and family never materialized. I even forgot to say goodbye to the cat.

The USAir flight was OK except that I nearly killed my 80 year old mother-in-law by misreading the gate number for our flight twice and forcing her to run back and forth through the airport and almost having a heart attack. It's a long story so I won't get into it but to make it short and also to try to be helpful be careful in Philadelphia because on some screens they list Arrivals and then Departures and on others they list Departures and then Arrivals.

As soon as we got on the flight (drenched in sweat), there was a slight disturbance in the back of the plane. An old Greek woman was complaining loudly to the stewardess because there was no room in the overhead bin and she did not want to put her bag in one of the bins several rows away. "I paid a lotta money for this flight and I want my bag with me" she said in a very loud voice in the manner of speaking that Greeks have when they get agitated. The first stewardess handled it very well like she was talking to a child or a kindergarten student. "Please, lets use our inside voices. That's an outside voice", she said. Andrea and I sort of laughed about it like it was our first taste of Greece and we had not left the country yet.

A few minutes later another stewardess, an older one who had that look of someone who has been a stewardess for 50 years and had seen everything came on the scene. She seemed to have a much shorter fuse and even though I did not hear the old man say anything the stewardess said "Sir if you yell again I am going to take you off this plane".
The old man yelled "I am not yelling. Do you want to hear how I sound when I yell?"
"That's it. You are not going to Greece!" and she stormed off to get the police (or whoever's job it is to kick people off flights). In the meantime one of the gate crew came on, asked someone to remove a bag to make room for the Greek couple's bag and then everyone was happy. But a few minutes later a woman from security got on the plane and asked the poor little Greek couple to come along quietly, which they quietly did taking their bag with them. We saw the Greek woman later. She was allowed back on the flight but her husband was not. I saw her again at immigration asking security what to do because her husband had been removed from the flight. She was coming back to Greece for a funeral.

Just by coincidence that night at the Diodos Cafe in Monastiraki we ran into a couple from the flight and we discussed the incident. We agreed that the USAir stewardess completely overreacted. The situation had been resolved and everyone was happy so what was the point of kicking this poor old man off the plane? Because he yelled "I am not yelling"? That seems kind of extreme. Greeks yell all the time. That's how they communicate when they are excited. They are an emotional people. The woman had a right to have her bag where she could see it. Maybe it had her life's savings in it or all her jewelry. Imagine how this poor old guy felt, kicked off the plane and separated from his wife. And what about the old woman alone in Athens airport not knowing what to do. It was really a tragedy.

If USAir can't deal with the Greek personality any better than that then they should not fly to Greece. Its not as if this guy was a danger. He was just an old man, upset because his wife was upset. And now I am upset again just thinking about it. And I am mad at myself too for not standing up and sticking up for them though actually I was as surprised as they were when the woman from security came to get them. Maybe I thought they were being moved to another section. It did not seem possible to be kicked off a flight for such a minor thing. But in the now unfriendly skies, passengers are kept on a short leash. So no matter how bad things get up there hold your tongue. You can complain after you land.

Athens is beautiful. Not too hot in the day and perfect at night. I was going to tell you about all the stuff that has happened but when I think of it there is nothing to say except that we go out to dinner, meet people, talk, laugh, drink, eat and have fun and wonder why it took so long to come back here. Its Agios Pnevmatos, the saint day for the Holy Spirit, which is to Greece as Memorial Day weekend is to America so all the Athenians are in the islands or in their villages and the streets of Athens are empty. A great time to be here, like Easter or the week of August 15th. Tomorrow we go to Kea. There are posters up all over Athens for a concert of Leonard Cohen and Phillip Glass but it was the night before we got here. The Euro-cup soccer tournament is going on but Greece has lost twice and unless something miraculous happens they won't be repeating as European Champions.

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