ATHENS, GREECE – October 2007

A Global Band of Hustlers

By our abysmal standards, our transit from Paris to Athens, and then to the Port of Piraeus, was relatively uneventful, notwithstanding the 4am start.

The inconvenience only began when our X96 bus from Athens Airport dropped us at the Port area. We disembarked happily, expecting to see our vessel, Prinsendam, sitting proudly in the water nearby. We were shocked to find that the cruise terminal was on the other side of the bay, some kilometres away.

As if to underscore the anguish of the moment, we were met by a bolt of lightening and a clap of thunder!

(Seriously! I’m not making it up!)

A nearby taxi driver kindly offered us a ride; his offer being conveyed through the medium of an impatient shout from the seat of his car in a language which was not immediately apparent.

I inquired how much it would cost for him to take us to the cruise terminal and he responded `approximately’ 20 Euros. I asked whether his use of the word `approximately’ meant it could be less and he said: `No, could be more’.

When I pointed out that we were only asking him to drive a maximum of 2.5 kilometres, our entrepreneurial cabbie responded by observing that there were two of us, we both had luggage and it was raining. I asked, politely, how any of those factors affected the magnitude of the fare and he remained mute, but gave me look which said: “You’re the one that’s gunna get wet, not me.

I decided to make a counter-offer. By the reaction I got, a casual observer would have thought I’d offered him a kick in the teeth, rather than 10 Euro. In any event, he told me that 15 to 18 Euro was  (were) his bottom line(s) and at this point the negotiation ended.

It seems to us that every taxi driver we meet is a bandit.

Left to our own devices – and in a defiant mood – we waited for a pause in the rain and proceeded to drag our rather heavy bags around the hemisphere of the Port. By the time we arrived at the embarkation hall, ready to board Prinsendam, we were each dripping both with rainwater and sweat. But at least we had the satisfaction of imagining the greedy taxi man grinding his teeth unhappily, wishing he’d accepted the offer of an easy 10 Euro.


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