I don’t want to get all high and mighty, but I will. I predicted the whole Greek economic crisis years ago. That’s right, a liberal arts geek who went to an agricultural college in rural Oregon saw it the moment I stepped on an Olympic Air flight to Crete.
Before I launch into this I will let you know that my darling husband who goes by the name of “Jim” will most likely dispute some or all of my impressions and memories of these events. I, however, dispute his dispute so suck on that!
We were in Athens on our way to Crete to meet up with a bunch of very odd, ragtag people who also thought an REI Adventure Vacation sounded like a really cool thing to do. (More on those details and the idiosyncratic behaviors observed another time.)
We’d been travelling for about 15 hours by the time we lined up (and I use “lined up” in a totally sarcastic way) at the Athens airport to get on the last leg of our trip.
If any of you have been to a Greek airport you know that my entire argument about queuing up and zippering in crowds as being the very foundation of a civilized society simply does not apply here. Without it, it’s anarchy – which is exactly what the Athens airport is.
For being the supposed seat of civilization, its subjects are decidedly uncivilized in a crowd.
There was a literal sea of small, old, babushka-wearing grandmothers, who all bore an uncanny similarity to Larry Bud Melman. As good, order-loving Americans, we allowed these women to cut in front of us in line.
That’s what you do when you are polite and don’t want to be perceived as ugly Americans from Texas (sorry Texans but that’s how we feel about you….if you could just lower your volume a tish….).
These old ladies are an unstoppable force. They seem to work well in small groups, they ignore protocol, don’t take no for an answer and, in head-to-toe black, can go undetected at night like elderly, annoyed ninjas.
When we finally made it on the “plane” (again, sarcastically speaking) we took the first seats we saw. I really don’t think we had assigned seats – pretty sure this is like a metro bus that happens to fly. We sat for a few minutes observing the surrounding din of screaming Greeks, crying children and utter chaos erupt around us.
I SWEAR I heard chickens and saw some feathers come out of a crate a little grandmother was shoving violently in the overhead bin. “Jim” says I was hallucinating but again, I dispute that!
Someone came on with what looked like a bunch of band equipment that would not fit in the overhead. There was a loud argument between the band and the flight attendant until they all seemed to agree it was fine (and well within the Greek aviation safety limits) to just leave it in the aisle.
When it was time for takeoff, we started to buckle up only to find there were no real buckles – or, at least none that actually would secure you in a seat. Pretty sure this aircraft was some remnant from the Greco-Turkish war. I tied my two pieces of fabric around my middle and proceeded to break out in a sweat. This would be fear sweat on top of the temperature and humidity sweat already going on.
I feel I must state here that I seemed to be the only one concerned about any of this. It would appear that this was just another day on an Olympic Air flight for everyone else. This, combined with my lack of sleep, made for a very Twilight Zone vibe. The start of the plane engines sounded like the lawnmower we got off craigslist.
As the wheels lifted from the tarmac, the plane did a sharp bank to the left with literally inches of space between the wing and the asphalt. In fact, I will swear to this day that I not only could see specific pebbles on the runway as I looked out the window, but I saw some sparks come off the wing tip as it dragged along the ground.
Again, Jim disputes this but I say, who had the window seat, dude?
By some miracle of the gods, we ended up in Crete alive.
Listen, people, put the ouzo down and think about it. If you can’t queue up a simple line, you can’t balance a budget. Seat of civilization my ass.
Next time I’m going to Switzerland.