Sunday, January 23, 2011

My Travels - Part 1A, continued --
The Athens Airport Tale

A continuation of yesterday's post.

From my notes and memories:

"Mizzes!  Mizzes!  That flight is booked.  There is no room.  No, Mizzes, you cannot get on.  You will have to take another flight. You are too late for boarding. Your seat is taken by another."  So said the unyielding agent at the ticket counter at Olympic Airlines.

Panic!  Son-in-law was expecting me at 8:30.  I wouldn't be there!  I realized, after a search of all my purse pockets, that I had left his work telephone number at home.  I had given it to my business partner; I had given it to my son; I told my elder daughter where to find my telephone book in my office -- and then I had come off without it!  Panic, again!

I made my way across the terminal lobby to the OTE (Telephone service), thankful that I had obtained about $100 worth of drachmas from my bank before starting on this trip, and called my daughter-in-law in Arkansas. "Sorry." My son had the number in his wallet. I called my work partner; his wife answered and looked for the card I had given him with no results. "He must have it with him."  Oh, dear! 

When I explained my dilemma to the nice man at the OTE counter, he looked up the number to call Souda Bay Naval Base on Crete, the only number he had for a U.S. military installation on the island.  I reached them; fortunately the operator spoke English,  and when I had made clear the reason for my call, quickly gave me the number of the Iraklion Air Station.  After a bit of delay, I was connected with my son-in-law's shop. I spoke to one of his co-workers who said he would call my son-in-law's beeper and let him know I would not arrive until 11:15.

That done, I felt better, but my mouth was so dry from nerves I could hardly speak.  I bought a carton of grapefruit juice with some of my remaining drachmas and sat down to drink it while "G" went in search of restrooms and to make some phone calls of her own. 

As I was sitting, trying to calm my nerves and allow my blood pressure to return to normal, I was joined by a Greek Woman and her three children.  The mother, who introduced herself as Eleni, tried valiantly to carry on a conversation with me, and although I had a Greek Phrase Dictionary, she faced a losing battle.  She introduced me to her children  --

 Mario Angelo, Manuela, and Christina. What name goes with what child I no longer remember.
I use this photo and their names only because I know they don't look like this anymore.

Eleni chattered, I picked up a word or two and would try to make what I hoped was an appropriate response, which would send her off into a torrent of Greek which I didn't understand at all.  When I indicated that I could not understand, mainly by shaking my head and making a sad face, the two older children, who appeared to be about 5 and perhaps 8 or 9 years old, would come near me and start repeating what their mother had said, very carefully, but not very slowly, begging me with their eyes to understand.  Although I could tell they were disappointed that I could not speak more than a few Greek words, the gift of some chewing gum from my purse (with the prior approval of their mother) seemed to please them.

This slightly nerve-wracking exchange went on for about 20 minutes, then I looked up the words for "it's been nice to meet you" and "goodbye" and fled to get my boarding pass for the 10:25 p.m. flight. 

Having been distracted, I had not noticed that I could no longer see "G" anywhere, so I went into a bar and ordered a Greek Coffee to try to stay awake.  She eventually saw me standing there sipping the thick coffee (I called it 'mud' in my notes, but that's not nice; I learned that you don't ever want to reach the bottom of a cup of Greek Coffee) and we went on out to the departure gate to wait it out.

The flight from Athens to Heraklion is only about 50 minutes, about the same distance as Little Rock to Dallas, so I estimate it's about 200 miles or so. (I just looked it up; it's 209 miles). The plane, a 737, is bigger than the one we flew in from Frankfurt to Athens. It's nearly full -- mostly of Greeks.

The cabin attendant dimmed the cabin lights in preparation for landing, so it looks like the first half of this long journey is almost over.  It has been an experience."

Someday I will, perhaps, write more about my visit to Crete.  I suspect that reading about someone else's vacation is a bit like watching your neighbor's interminable slide show. I don't want to drive you away.

Tomorrow is also a day.


Snap said...

Life is an adventure! Airports ... ugh .... !!!!!

Arkansas Patti said...

Not going anywhere.
What an adventure and certainly memorable.
I really have a fear of being in a foreign country and not knowing the language. How frustrating.
You handled it very well and those kids were darling, especially that youngster in the middle.

rhymeswithplague said...

Count me in! I love hearing about other people's travels, especially when they are well written. Makes me feel as though I have been to those places...Lilliput, Brobdingnag, Crete.

rhymeswithplague said...

...Athens Airport...

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Hi Pat, I've been catching up on your weekend blog posts... AWE --airlines!!!! We all have stories to tell, don't we???? I love to travel--but despise flying.. Seems like there are ALWAYS problems.

I love hearing your stories. Don't stop.

George said...

I don't want you to think that I could get tired of hearing about your travels. I thoroughly enjoy sharing your adventures, although I'm glad I've never had an experience quite like this one at Athens airport.

Marvin said...

I'm not sure I could have been as friendly and diplomatic with the Greek woman as you were -- not when what I needed most was time to settle down and pull myself back together.

Teacher's Pet said...

No way would you drive me away....I was mesmerized by every word.
And....nervous!! I was in a panic until I read that you got word that your flight would be late....Oh my about blood pressure shooting sky high! I would not have handled it as well as you....and I pat you on the back from here.
I loved the story about the Greek Mother and children....and can also relate to language differences when we traveled to Spain and France. I don't speak either language. We stayed 3 weeks....and the first word I learned was "bathroom" ! :)))
I will be back....and you keep writing. I love your Travel Tales. You write in such an interesting way, that it is fun and easy to read. I feel that you are sitting and talking with me. Wonderful!!!
Hugs and love,