A Greek Story
A Greek Story
A friend announced that what she was going to tell me was the best thing she’d ever done. It was her best story.
She and her friend were about to start traveling in Greece. On the first day they were in Athens, where my friend lives, she stepped on her very nearsighted friend’s glasses. The nearsighted friend insisted anyway on being the driver of the car they rented. The nearsighted one pasted a piece of paper over the shattered lens and off they drove. The nearsighted friend drove everywhere. But they contacted another friend in the States, to send a new pair of glasses as soon as possible.
Everywhere they went the nearsighted friend saw out of one eye only. Maybe this is why, when they arrived at Mesalongi, where Lord Byron witnessed the massive battle against the Turks, she especially found the local population menacing.
Then finally it was time for the nearsighted friend to go home, to the States. By now, at some poste restante in Greece, they discovered that a FedEx package was waiting, with the nearsighted friend’s new glasses. A note told them that the package was being held in the customs building at the international airport, from which the nearsighted one would fly home.
On the day she was to leave, they went to that building. It was very hard to find the door to enter it, it was a very large, impersonal, and opaque-looking building, and for a long time they couldn’t find its entrance. When they did, finally, my friend, who speaks Greek, asked an official the whereabouts of her friend’s package. They were directed to a series of rooms, and, in each room, hundreds of packages, some marked Urgent, were strewn on many tables. Many of the cartons and large envelopes were broken or torn. In about half an hour, though, my friend miraculously spied the Fed Ex envelope, with the glasses. But at the door was a customs official who informed them, in Greek, that there was duty to pay on the contents. A lot of duty.
At first calm, my friend explained that her nearsighted friend was leaving for the States that very day and wouldn’t even be bringing the new glasses into Greece. The customs official said that it didn’t matter and repeated that there was duty to pay and she had to pay it. My friend became agitated and also repeated the same thing: the contents were her friend’s personal property, which she wasn’t even bringing into Greece and she was leaving that day. Nothing had any effect upon the customs official. He continued to say money was owed, and it had to be paid. Then, my friend told me, she launched into Greek anger, that’s how she explained it, which naturally made me think about Greek tragedy.
My friend began cursing and shouting in Greek, a torrent of words. All the while the nearsighted friend listened but didn’t understand. My friend shouted and shouted and then, as she shouted, she surreptitiously opened the FedEx envelope, removed the eyeglass case, and took the glasses from it. Then still shouting vehemently in Greek, she returned the case to the envelope, closed it, threw the envelope on the table in front of the customs official, took her nearsighted friend by the hand, and stormed out. When the two had gone through the door, my friend took the glasses from her pocket, gave them to her friend, explained what she’d done, and said, run.
After my friend told me the story, I reminded her how she began it, by saying it was the best thing she had ever done. Oh, she said, that’s awful if it’s true.