Being threatened with a needle held inches from my abdomen does not rank among the highlights of a trip I recently made to Athens. It was this thorny moment however that sticks firmly in the mind from an otherwise enlightening trip.
I’ll not forget the lank black hair stuck to his scalp or the rounded shouldered stoop with which he protected and hid the clutching hand.
I’d looked down once, after he’d stopped me with the usual casual question ‘hey… where you from?’ I’d seen the orange tip on the end of a clear plastic tube, although my mind didn’t want to confirm its first assumption. After he’d poked me in the chest a second time saying ‘STOP’; forcefully, poking again – ‘STOP..!’ It was like the needle had already penetrated, full of medical grade adrenaline.
The next time I looked down he’d removed the orange cap, but I was already thrusting the end of my tripod in his chest, spitting out the first thing that came into my dry mouth. Swearing and jabbing again with the tripod, I then turned and walked quickly down the steps away from my assailant who seemed, thankfully, to be in no hurry to pursue.
It was probably recklessly naive to be out on that Sunday morning on Streffi Hill, while an all night party was being re-energized by the new dawn, but I’d decided to walk the hill at first light, and the rave only added to the atmosphere.
Perhaps it wouldn’t be such a leap to use this episode as an analogy for Greece as a whole. It seems that the country is in a desperate state, willing to use aggression to initiate change. But this unease can’t hide the fact that life goes on for the vast majority of people. People are having fun. Cafe culture is thriving. The sun shines constantly and the Islands are as beautiful as ever – and now practically empty. Already hotel and restaurant owners have written off this year, hoping 2013 will be an improvement. In the meantime more men will try and scratch their drug itch by preying on the unwary.
A lesson learned.