Today I have to go into Athens to renew my bus card (a card that allows me unlimited travel on all buses and the tram and costs 20 Euros), something I cannot do in my neighbourhood for reasons only the Greek state comprehends. I chose to go by bus and return by tram to do other chores too. After a 15 minutes wait the bus arrives. It is not the one I would choose since I have to walk another 10 minutes to reach my destination but it is better than waiting for the right one since no one knows when it will come. The official explanation is that summer time is the time drivers have to go on leave too and the services are erratic. I doubt it since when I asked for a bus timetable I was told that they run a bus service and not an airport!!
The bus ride is very educational. People are complaining to whoever is closest about the pension cuts and the announcement that bus fares will be increased before the end of the year. Paulina, a 65 year old retired high school teacher explains that since the beginning of 2012 her income has shrunk by approximately 200 Euros. She has no car and therefore depends on mass transport for her moves. Her only consolation is that after September, when she will be 65+ and officially a senior citizen she will be entitled to a half price bus ticket provided the reduction is still in operation. Another passenger explains that the bus service is bad today because of the rally organized by the “uniformed” forces. Who are they? The “uniformed” are the police and army employees who are threatened with major cutbacks and are protesting in Syntagma Square which is where our bus terminal is located. A young woman comments bitterly: “Civil servants protest and get their own way, like the employees of the State electricity company. It is left to us, the people in the private sector, to pay for everyone. If we strike we are sent home”.
Thank God the bus service booth is open and I renew my card. Now for the way back. This time I am going by tram: a means of transport that started operating during the 2004 Olympics and is criticized for being extremely slow. Its critics are proved correct today since it took 20 minutes to arrive! It is packed to capacity and there is no inclination to talk this time.
It is full moon tonight – time to make wishes and dream. People speak on their mobiles and arrange where and how they will spend the evening. Lots of free events have been announced and the mood is lighter.
In conclusion, courage and the ability to adapt and find ways to be well together with a sense of humour are the ingredients that help the Greeks carry on. Let us hope that the supply is endless…
Writer’s correction of herself: I have, since writing this note, found out that I could have renewed my card at any tram station – and that happens to be 10 minutes walk from home… Well, next month… unless I want to visit downtown Athens and need an excuse.