The Athenian interlude

Posted on June 19, 2006


The trip started off with a hassle. I had to perform that most humiliating of tasks, unpacking an underwear-filled suitcase in front of the checking counter because it was over weight and handing some of its contents over to M, while onlookers gazed unashamedly. It was still tagged “heavy” and I felt the slur all the way down to my soul. And then I had to pay a fairly exorbitant amount for my extra piece of luggage. M said, “Is my last memory of you going to be oversize luggage?” It ended up being airport pizza, which I ambitiously combined with Doritos. He hates it when I eat junk food. My last memory, I guess, will be seeing him take a sip of my diet Pepsi, the very first time I’ve ever seen him drink pop.
So I was all hyped up about “milking” my time in Athens, and of course nothing of the sort happened. After a maximum level of confusion, misinformation, and thronging, I finally managing to get myself on a bus to my hotel. This is the first time I’ve been let out of an airport, courtesy of my shiny new Canadian passport. Apparently I’m no longer a threat to the ancient land of Greece.
I was finally thrust onto a bus amongst lots of other people bound for various Middle Eastern destinations, next to a round Lebanese guy from Ottawa who regaled me with stories of his brushes with the police. He knew a hell of a lot more about criminal procedure law than I (I got a C in that course – I am not the person to call when you are arrested with a bag of cocaine and an underage boy).
45 minutes later, we arrived at a somewhat crummy hotel. It reminded me very much of Egypt, as did the pushing and shoving at the reception. I regarded my room with relish – empty hotel rooms of my very own always fill me with a desire to urgently conduct a brief sexual liaison. I feel that mere sleeping is not an adequate use of those crisp well made beds and paid-for privacy. However, hunger was a more pressing concern and I trotted off to the dining room where we were served a surprisingly real meal, with real waiters and everything. Next to me where a table of two Lebanese women, each with two children, from Montréal. Next to them was a parallel party of two Egyptian women with their four kids, from Italy. The Lebanese people were all good looking, and the Egyptians were all unspeakably ugly, despite what were obviously their best efforts at grooming. It’s a sad state of affairs, how ugly Egyptians are. It’s a mercy I’m cute.
Then I passed out, despite my Plan B to go and swim in the pool (I had packed a bikini just in case). I nearly missed the bus back. Two middle aged men engaged me in conversation on the bus and at the gate. We had the usual discussion about middle east politics, as well as dissecting my career plans limb from limb. I realized something – when you’re actually in the Middle East, talking to Arab people, all that bullshit babbled in the west about “terrorism” and “liberating” and everything else simply doesn’t make sense. It’s just nothing. I think I will have to retreat from my current centrist position and move back to the left. Maybe I’ll write more about that in another post.
So one of these men was Egyptian, and as our conversation went on it began to seem to me like maybe he was hitting on me, although he was at least my father’s age. He gave me his card – he was a sports psychologist. He was retired now, and he travelled the world as a masseuse to wherever the weather was good. Sounds like a fun, and pretty unconventional life. He said he was 73, but he certainly didn’t look a day over 60. he told me about how he managed to maintain this in great detail, and then he asked for my email just as I was getting off the plane. I wish I could say I couldn’t believe it, but I did. Men are sleazy motherfuckers. I just said I didn’t use email. He asked me for it while I was in the aisle walking off the plane, holding up dozens of people behind me. I mean, let’s say that for some reason my brain had atrophied and I wanted to correspond with an elderly masseuse. Would I really hold up the line, scrabble around for paper and pen, and give it to him in front of dozens of disgusted onlookers? Why do men think this sort of thing?
More about my homecoming and Kuwait in general later.

Posted in: Egyptians, travel