Last night I got a message from one of the drivers in our team.
"Paige, you're going to do a full day city tour with a driver named Stavros tomorrow. Be at the port before 8am. Clients name: ***"
So the next morning, like a little soldier, I was standing on Syngrou Avenue at 6:55 because I had called my driver named "Stavros" and told him I would be needing a ride. Up swings a silver bus with an accordian door.
"GOOOOD MORNING, BEAUTIFUL!" said a smile from beneath a large pair of sunglasses.
"Kalimera!" said I, getting in, being careful not to tip over the pink can of basil in the cup holder.
Surveying Stavros, the pink can of basil, blood red chairs and the snow white plush tiger guarding the rear of the bus, my inner smile lined parallel to the outer one.
We did some back and forth banalities on our way to the port. Once wedged in the queue of trip-crazy taxis and elephantine buses he excused himself for a little pitstop.
I took advantage of the moment to explore my surroundings.
"My sweetheart! Do you want a coffee?"
He held two packs of cigarettes and two cans of iced espresso beverages in his hands.
"Oh no, Stavros, I don't think so, but thank you."
He shrugged and put the spare in the cooler before getting to his first pack of the day.
7:50 I assumed ranks with the other drivers picking up tourists from the cruise ships.
They're a happy bunch, the tourists.
8:10, I had mine and we made our way back to the Basil Bus. I had a sharp dressed crew that seemed intelligent and polite, two sets of parents and their varied-aged children + one girlfriend. They took their seats, I took mine, "This is our driver, Stavros!" smiling, smiling, all the time smiling, when I look over and see Stavros frantically pulling at his door.
"Den doulevi!" (it doesn't work) he reported, all traces of his "smiling" vanished.
Slam, slam, slam... and one of the clients leaned up and said, "Eh, Stavros, maybe if you pull the seatbelt through the handle and click it into the fastener it will hold.
Stavros followed the first part but improvised on the second by relooping the seatbelt into a magnificent bow. His eyes were raised like McDonalds arches. Sweat beaded down his magnificent forehead. He held the door closed until we reached the first stop, ten minutes down the road.
You'll be happy to hear it magically got repaired.
9:00 my people were at the Acropolis and Stavros invited me for another coffee.
We sat with two other drivers and the three men spoke in rapid Greek. Shop talk from everything I picked up. You can't go that direction anymore, that road is closed, and then, if I'm not mistaken, some idle gossip about who knows who.
(The man in blue is not Stavros.)
(The sandwich next to the styrafoam cup was also offered by Stavros. He was quite the gentleman.)
10:30, to the Marble Stadium where the 1896 Olympic Games took place. 11:00 the Temple of Zeus. I dutifully waited for my peeps, who I have to say, were awfully quiet after the door incident.
Next the stretching of the Evzones on the half hour and the grand trilogy of architecture on Panepistimiou Ave. "And what next, Paige?" "And where are we going now, Paige?" "And what will we do then, Paige?" and I was going a little bit crazy.
Time to drop them off at a museum where they can explore without my yabbering. The two men had me intimidated with their almost undetectable tone of condescencion. I lead them to the left; the enterance was on my right. I'd barely sat down with Stavros along the fencing outside of the Archaeological museum (where he bought me a sugar free ice cream) when they came like a little choo choo right back to us.
"It doesn't open until 1:30."
Think think think! Faster faster faster!!
"Okay! Plan B, let's go for lunch!"
And we zipped over to Paradosiako where the sun came out and the world looked rosey again.
My intimidating men were even impressed at the quality of the food. Somehow I got credit for it. The moods began to improve.
"Why don't you eat with us, Paige?"
Well because I'd already had a sandwich and an ice cream but work is work. Sometimes you suffer.
Then THREE HOURS of shopping ensued. I entertained the kids with Greek myths.
"You tell good stories!!"
Where have I heard that...
And after a little bit of kitten-herding I told Stavros we would meet him at the Melina Mercouri statue.
"I'm already here!"
So I tried to hurry them a little, knowing that the po-po aren't kind to drivers idling in this area but two were missing.
"Quickly, quickly.." but it was too late. We came upon Stavros shouting with some extra policey policemen and he looked at me, eyebrows raised wildly over the rim of his sunglasses.
SE PARAKALO! ELLA!
(well, it means get your ass over here, PLEASE, but that's not a direct translation.)
The last two had seen us from far and we jumped in the Basil Bus like bank robbers.
My people were so happy. They had a fantastic day. I was so pleased...
and I was exhausted.
5:00 drop off at the port.
5:30 I was walking down my street.
6:00 I was not.