Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Adventure Continues

[In case you are a first-time Reader, you will want to read the previous post, of which this is a continuation.]
The next morning I got up and went out for breakfast. I was very stiff, and ducking under the low arch between my room and the toilet had not been fun, so I stopped at the first open place that looked like it was serving eggs and toast. My Policeman walked in and sat down a few tables away, and of course, tipped his hat. He looked a little bedraggled, as though he had been up all night. I had my eggs scrambled, and three cups of coffee. My Policeman had coffee. As I passed his table on the way out, I said in English, "I am going to the museum now, so you needn't rush."
He smiled and tipped his hat.
I was halfway through the museum and its wonders, including a magnificent 18th-century crystal chandelier that had been brought up the mountain on the back of a donkey, when I remembered it was Monday. No museum in Greece is open on a Monday, so this was remarkable. Equally remarkable was the fact that I was the only person in the museum other than the guard who had given me a ticket in exchange for a look at my Deltion (a free museum pass given out at that time to scholars). Very odd.
My Policeman was on duty at the museum steps as I left. He tipped his hat.
I decided to go shopping and have lunch before my appearance at the Police Station at two o'clock that afternoon. I wandered through town, bought a tourist guide to the archaeological dig I planned to visit the next day, had an excellent horiatiki salad and a bottle of Demestika, inspected a stall selling fish and another selling vegetables. Wherever I wandered, eventually I spotted My Policeman, and he always tipped his hat. I was tempted to ask him if he was following me, but it was pretty clear by now that he was, indeed, My Policeman, and I would find him on a corner, across the street, or two tables away, ready to tip his hat when I spotted him. I speculated a bit on why I should be the object of My Policeman’s attentions. Almost certainly it had to do with my fall and the subsequent events, as the anger of the mayor and the sternness of the Colonel of Police definitely pointed to this. However, I was in a country governed by a totalitarian dictatorship, albeit one friendly to the U.S., and that alone was enough to make me just a little apprehensive. I had all the proper papers, including a document that permitted me to stay in Greece longer than three months, and these had been duly inspected by the Colonel early on in the proceedings. The permission slip listed me as a Professor of Archaeology; this was not a legitimate title, although I was indeed at the time professing archaeology in connection with my dissertation. Maybe this error had been discovered, and I was under surveillance because of it, an error purposely made by the charming middle-aged bureaucrat issuing the document when he couldn’t think of anything else important enough to call me. As he pointed out, everybody in Greece is a student of archaeology. I, working on a dissertation, was clearly superior to those dilettantes. Doubtless I would find out very soon what the score was.
The Colonel was already in his hat at his desk when I arrived, exactly at two o’clock. He greeted me with a solemn nod, and indicated the chair opposite the window wall. I sat down and looked around. There was now a row of chairs against the window wall, and seated in the second one from the desk was a skinny, droopy-mustached man in a rumpled brown suit, wrinkled shirt, and badly tied four-in-hand tie. In a chair further down the row sat a spotlessly clean middle-aged fellow, also mustached, dressed in the open-collared shirt, jeans, and sandaled feet of an animal-driver; he had, however, an air of authority about him, and he was obviously a cut above that occupation. The room was electric with expectancy, and I wondered who or what we were waiting for.
A policeman (not Mine) came in next, dragging along the man who had been running the animal I was thrown from, and who looked very frightened. He sat down in the chair at the end of the row, and stared at his feet, which were clad in dusty sandals and looked like they hadn’t been washed in several weeks. In fact, all of him looked like that. It was a marked contrast to the other driver, who now leaned over to say a few reassuring words to the newcomer. It didn’t seem to help much.
The Colonel was looking as official as possible with his hair sticking out stiffly from his hat, and said something about “the judge is a little late” to the man in the brown suit. “Still finishing lunch, I imagine,” Brown Suit replied. “You know how he likes to eat.” I tried not to show I understood this, as it seemed to me that my not knowing much Greek would be crucial to my part in whatever was proceeding. No one had spoken directly to me yet, and in fact I felt invisible, until Brown Suit said, “Is this the koritsi?" (A woman of any age can be referred to as a koritsi, which means “little girl.” I was 40, and used to it by now.) The Colonel nodded and looked pointedly at his watch. “He’ll be here,” said Brown Suit. “Don’t worry.”
Five minutes later, as we all sat in silence, the door flung open and a large fat man lumbered into the room. Everybody stood up, so I did, too, albeit stiffly. The Colonel and Brown Suit shook the newcomer’s hand, and he sat heavily in the first chair. Everybody looked at me. I looked back.
The Judge, for it was apparent that this was the newcomer, looked so much like Sidney Greenstreet in a Humphrey Bogart movie that I wanted to laugh. He wore a white suit with a marked gravy stain on one lapel, white shirt and tie, and to top it off, a white Panama hat. Brown Suit now took on a Peter Lorre-with-mustache aspect, and I waited for the rest of the movie to unfold.
I was asked to tell my story again. I did, in English, while the Colonel translated. The Judge asked a question or two about the number of animals I had seen. I answered truthfully that I thought I saw two in front of me, but I might have been mistaken, as the circumstances were rather hectic. The Judge looked even more like Sidney Greenstreet as he nodded at me and leaned back in his chair. I managed not to laugh, thank goodness, as this was a legal proceeding, and a man’s future was in the balance, as it happened.
The animal driver was asked to stand up and tell his story, which he did in a practically inaudible voice, still staring at his feet. He apologized to me (without looking up) for not getting me to a doctor right away. This part of the events was never in question, and the driver was culpable of gross negligence in this regard. It was clear that he was frightened nearly to incomprehension, and the clean animal driver stood up and gently questioned him further about the animals. This man was in charge of all the animal drivers, and was supposed to regulate them. I was still mystified about the constant return to the number of animals, which seemed a silly thing to dwell on, all things considered, until I heard Brown Suit ask him, “You did know you should only have two?” My driver nodded miserably. “And you admit you had three?” The Judge broke in. Again, a miserable nod. Brown Suit sighed. “I will represent you tomorrow,” he said. sadly, as though it would be a lost cause.
The policeman who had brought him in came forward and took the driver by the arm, leading him toward the door. The driver started off, shuffling his feet, but then stopped and turned back. “My children,” he said, tears streaking his dirty face. “What will happen to my children? ”
This was news to Mr. Clean. “You have children? But you are not married!”
“You know,” said the driver, “my children, my animals.”
“Ah,” said Mr. Clean, “I see. Don’t worry, I will see they are taken care of.”
The driver turned sadly away and went with the policeman, presumably to jail. Mr. Clean followed them out.
As I turned back from watching them depart, somewhat bewildered by the outcome of the proceedings, I noticed everyone was staring at me. I smiled weakly, and asked the Colonel, in English, what had happened. The Judge asked the Colonel what I had said. The Colonel sat up importantly, and told me that there had just been a hearing. He repeated this in Greek for the Judge. Did I know what a hearing was? The Colonel believed we had them in the U.S. He translated for the Judge. I agreed that we had them in America, but I was not sure what this one had been about, exactly.
“Ah,”said the Colonel, “the driver is only allowed two animals by law. He had three, so he broke the law. He will be tried in court, and this will be his lawyer.” He pointed to Brown Suit as he translated for the Judge. “Also, he did not help you when you were injured. That is also against the law.” He translated. The Judge nodded, and asked what I would be doing tomorrow, Tuesday. Would I be leaving the island?
I waited politely for the Colonel to translate, and said, No, I wasn’t leaving the island until the Fortuna subsided, and in any case, not before I had been to the ruins at Akrotiri. The Judge looked inquiringly at the Colonel, who translated. I was going to Akrotiri tomorrow, I said, and after that, I would go back to Athens when I could get a ship. The Judge listened to the translation and nodded. “How long will she stay at Akrotiri?”
I waited for the translation and said I would be there most of the day. How was I planning to get out to the site? I was planning on taking a taxi. The Judge nodded, and the Colonel seemed to like that idea.
“I will see that there is a taxi for you at your hotel in the morning,” he said, “and it would be good if you were at Akrotiri all day. I will have the taxi wait for you.”
“That won’t be necessary,” I said, mentally adding up the astronomical fare for that. “I can take the bus back. And I can get a taxi in town after I have my breakfast.”
The Colonel translated for the Judge. The Judge said he thought that would be all right, that the danger was minimal, anyway. That caught my attention, and I waited for the colonel to translate, but he did not. Everyone stood up, and I recognized that we were now in recess. I thanked the Colonel for his courtesy, and left the station. I was only partway down the steps when Brown Suit caught up with me.
“I hope your injuries are not too painful,” he said in Greek, as we walked along toward my hotel. Without thinking, I thanked him in Greek for asking, and explained that the doctor had said it was nothing. He laughed. “I know,” he said, patting me gently on the shoulder, “that doctor is my brother, and he worried that you did not understand what he meant–that you had no broken bones.”
“Ah,” I replied, “that did lose something in translation, but I understood.”
His eyes twinkling, Brown Suit said, “You are a good actress. You understood everything, and pretended not to. In there,” he added, pointing back the way we had come with his head. He smiled at my embarrassment at being caught. I said I thought it was prudent, and he agreed.
“I should tell you, though, why they want you out of town. The driver has a large family, and they are afraid one of them will try to get even with you, before they know the circumstances in full at the trial tomorrow.”
“Even for what?”
“They know he will have to go to jail, and it will be a blot on the family record, and they may not understand,” he answered. “They might think you accused him falsely. But he did confess, and that willingly, so I am not so worried.”
“It would not be very Greek,” I said. "Normally, a Greek would never attack a tourist."
“True,” he said, “but the Judge and the Colonel have decided to have you followed, all the same. I hope you don’t mind.”
“Ah,” I said, “I am glad to know that was why I saw My Policeman everywhere.”
He laughed. “Well,” he said, “he could have worse assignments. Anyhow, he will have a day off tomorrow, while you are at Akrotiri. And you should take the first taxi that you spot after breakfast, because that driver will be following you, too. By the time you take the bus home, the trial will be over, but you may still be followed.”
“What an adventure a simple trip to Thera turned out to be,” I said. “It will be something to tell my grandchildren, when I have some.”
“I hope you will remember it as a good adventure,” Brown Suit said, “in spite of the fall at the beginning.” He said goodbye at the door to my hotel. I thanked him for letting me know about the surveillance, and asked him to thank his brother, the Insurance Doctor, again for me. Then I turned and waved at My Policeman, whom I knew would be waiting to escort me to dinner that evening. He tipped his hat.

Thus ends this Greek Adventure. I have had others, of course, during my visits to that country, and I expect I will share some of those with you. One thing I left out of the first installment: How I Knew I Wasn't Dead After the Fall. My head came up from the ground and out of my mouth came two sentences.  In Greek. The first was, "pou eine o yiatros?" (where is the doctor?) and the second was "pou eine ta yialia mou?" (where are my glasses?).  I was still clutching my string bag of belongings. The glasses were found at the side of the road, thankfully unbroken, and restored to me. I had to find the Tourist Police to get to a doctor, as related in the previous post..


  1. what a great story, and I enjoyed it alot. Did you ever find out what happened to the animal man.

    1. More or less. He would, if convicted, have to serve three months in jail (the standard for his three-animal offense), and he would probably have been required to retire one of his animals. Because he confessed, he would not have had the expense of a trial, but just appear before a judge for sentencing. This I learned from the lawyer.

  2. Wonderful story, Mom! With a little tweaking of the facts, it would be a great frame for a spy thriller (comic or otherwise). You would just have had to have a clandestine objective in Santorini! I could imagine you played by Judy Dench.

  3. Hmm. I just realized the interesting play on words contained in the Judy Dench comment.