When I left for Athens for Kea, I didn’t really imagine that my ferry would be cancelled, but I realized it was a possibility. Being the highly intelligent and thoughtful person that I am, I did not consider what I might do in such a scenario. I was entirely convinced that the bus driver had my best interests at heart until he told me I should get my ticket there (pointing to a dark booth in a dark port) and closed the doors to the bus, turning his eyes away with an emphatic air that implied he would not be looking back, and drove away. Even then, I thought maybe there was something magical about the booth and that certainly, the bus driver would not leave me alone on a deserted patch of pavement. As it turns out, I was wrong.
Fortunately, I was not entirely alone. Another passenger had also been abandoned, and appeared to be equally confused if slightly less panicked. I asked furtively if he spoke English and he said yes, like it was the dumbest question in the world. Somehow, we developed a relationship rather quickly, in which I suggested that we talk to the people on that ship over there and he agreed, trailing after me with a look that did not convince me of his English proficiency.
The people on the ship were probably drug smugglers, but they spoke English. We asked about a ferry to Kea and Kythnos. The men shrugged and the plausible ringleader gestured across the harbor to a lighted ship. Of course! Why didn’t we think of approaching every lighted ship in hopes that it might be the right one? I considered bribing them to take us to Kea, but then their ship began to emit a loud beeping noise and I felt more frightened than I had already felt and we walked away quickly.
Then we approached the Greek Coast Guard office, which I had spotted because it appeared to be the only lighted building anywhere near the water. A woman stood in the frame of the door as I went up the steps and proceeded to speak half in English and half in Greek to us, explaining that she could give us a number for a taxi and that the ferry had been cancelled due to bad weather on another island. I said I didn’t have a phone, and also that I didn’t know where I would go with or without a taxi. She was unmoved and reverted to Greek, chatting with my new friend and giving him the taxi phone number. He called and they said they would not come get us; it was too far away.
My panic was rising at this point, and so I tried to make the best of the situation. Finding myself stranded, incommunicado, and strangely codependent with a guy possibly named Elton, I made a pop culture reference. I said it was too bad he wasn’t actually Elton John, because then a limousine would pick us up. Ok, so I’m not very good at pop culture references and I was really freaked out. You can’t expect too much.
But obviously, the one time I successfully reference a well-known Proper Noun, the person I’m talking to stares at me blankly. Robbie, you would have been impressed, right?
I was head-bobbing tired on the two-hour bus trip from Athens to Lavrio – a port town that has faced economically dire straights since long before the more recent generalized Greek crisis (unemployment consistently at around 10%, according to my B&B hosts, here on the island) – and I really didn’t want to ride back and forth again for the next ferry (at 8:30 am the next day). However, given its not-so-thriving economy, Lavrio doesn’t actually have a hotel or guesthouse, despite the fact that ferry cancellations are a relatively common occurrence. (My get-rich plan? Post a number of signs at the port in English and with arrows leading to a super awesome B&B: “Missed your ferry? Walk this way”). Fortunately, there is one hotel in the next town over, which took some time in discovering, as most of Lavrio’s English-speaking residents weren’t out and about and my new friend was less than assertive and seemed to possess at best a lackluster desire to actually translate the answers to questions he had asked on my behalf.
In the end, we ended up in a hotel, where he wasn’t sure he wanted to stay, but seemed incapable of coming up with an alternate plan to mine. And let’s be honest, that worried me, because hotels are not great venues for having innocent relationships with newfound ‘friends.’ It became more worrisome when the woman at the front desk insisted on only offering a reasonable deal if we shared a room. I was relatively horrified and considered camping, but we ended up taking keys upstairs to a two-bed room and discovering that it was a mess, which was my first real stroke of luck that evening. I left the room open and went down to ask for a clean one and she was happy to oblige. So I slept in the dirty room and let my indecisive partner in misdemeanor have the clean one. And guess what: I don’t even have fleas.
It was pretty weird, but I had never imagined that I would become excessively reliant on a 19-year-old Albanian dude who spoke enough English to translate Greek for me. And isn’t life more interesting when you haven’t already imagined it?