Forget smiling. Being accosted by strangers.

7 Oct

There are two things one must always do when being approached and threatened by an abrasive, angry, shaking, hairy, scooter-driving Greek man (and possible pimp):  1) defend yourself and fight back with all your might, and 2) get the hell out of there as quickly as possible.  So when an abrasive, angry, shaking, hairy, scooter-driving Greek man (and possible pimp) approached and threatened me at the bus stop in Santorini, making me fear for my very life, these two things are exactly what I did.

To back up, I had a week off from work due to swine flu, and so a few friends and I planned a trip to the islands.  We were a little worried that, what with it being low season now and the temperatures dropping, this wouldn’t be the most opportune time to island hop, but figured we didn’t have many other options.  We have not yet applied for our residence permits, so we can’t leave Greece, and because the ferry can take a while to get to Santorini, we really wanted to take advantage of this long stretch of vacation, rather than wait until next summer and cram the island into a short weekend.  So we hoped for the best, caught the 7:25am ferry on Thursday morning, and sailed into Santorini 7 hours and quite an uncomfortable deck nap later.  We had booked a quaint hotel in Oia, in the north of the island, for the 2nd two nights we planned on staying there, but were looking to stay in Fira, the main town, the first night.  Upon arriving at the port, we were accosted by hoards of Greek islanders, touting signs and pictures of their “legitimate” hotels and apartments, not so much asking us if we were interested, but more so pulling us and telling us blatantly, “you have 5 people?  OK, you stay with us.  Come.”

Wary of these locals trying to take advantage of innocent tourists, we swatted through the sign-carriers and made our way into a little tourist center to get advice on where to stay.  Note to those who wish to travel to Santorini.  DON’T DO THIS.  Turns out, this tourist center is not a tourist center at all, but rather a scheme, just like all the signs, except that these schemers were able to rent a little room to give a more valid appearance to their shady business.  Not realizing this, we “booked” a room, coughed over the 12 euro each, and waited for the private coach to take us to our palace.  Within 10 minutes, we were shoved into a taxi, driven by someone not affiliated whatsoever with the “hotel”, and taken to our abode.  Once the taxi drove away, we were left completely alone on these grounds, if a dirt blotch of land with a shoddy white building sitting atop it can be called grounds, and left to find rooms 114 and 115.  Sarah, Claire and I begin settling into our room, when Elyse comes in to tell us, just to be safe, to check our beds for bed bugs.  Lo and behold, what do we find?  No, not silk sheets, but nice guess.  Bed bugs.  So we call the guy at the port.  Suddenly, he doesn’t speak English.  So we call again.  Now it’s someone else.  So we call again, and the cell phone service is bad.  Everyone is trying to be polite, and he’s clearly taking us for all we’re worth, hanging up and the like.  We say we want him to come up here.  He can’t.  We say we want a refund.  No can do.  We say we want the room cleaned.  He says move to another.  All the rooms are dirty, we say.  Not true, he claims.  We say we checked.  Check again is his reply.  Claire, ever the Midwesterner, is being as nice as can be, and Mr. Shady Hotel is taking full advantage.  Kristin, meanwhile, searching the other rooms, meets a lovely Albanian chilling behind a fence.  (Can anybody say kidnapping and sex trafficking waiting to happen?)

At this point, I either just want to cut my losses and find another hotel, or get the guy up here.  We’re getting nowhere on the phone, and I can’t take anymore kind gestures on our part answered by being disconnected or getting hung up on.  So I take the phone.  After watching my Mom for 22 years, I’ve learned a thing or two about being assertive and using that “squeaky wheel gets the oil” technique, and I go into full swing.  I tell him the room is dirty, and he says he’ll be here in two hours.   I say there is absolutely no way we are sitting around in this dirty shithole for two hours, and that I know the next ferry doesn’t arrive for another 6 hours, so he has no reason to be down at the port.  I tell him we are his only clients, and it’s his problem, not ours, to deal with the issue.  He says it’s not his problem, and he has clients at the moment.  I call his bluff.  He gets angry, and begins to yell, telling me to switch rooms and get over it and he’ll be here in two or three hours.  I say this is absolutely unacceptable.  He says that’s my problem.  I say I will tell everybody I know, and write online reviews, about the horrible hotel he is NOT running, and guarantee no guests in the future.  (I have no basis for making this guarantee, but come on, I was on a role.)   He hangs up on me.  I throw his bug infested comforter out the window.  Kristin throws another bug infested comforter out the window.  Elyse flips a bed.  We take the keys, lock the doors, and leave, throwing one of the keys over the fence to the Albanian (hey, he might get cold in the middle of the night, maybe he wants a place to sleep) and the other in a bush.

We call a few hotels listed in Lonely Planet, and arrange a pick-up at the bus station.  And this pretty much brings us back up to speed.  As we are standing at the station, with all our bags, waiting patiently for Manos, the driver for the new hotel, a scooter rushes up next to us, and a man starts screaming.  He had demons in his eyes and fire in his voice.  Seriously.

“WHY YOU DO THAT TO MY HOTEL!?!?”

“Excuse us?”

“WHY YOU DO THAT TO MY HOTEL!”

“It was dirty.  There were bugs everywhere.”

(At this point, he recognizes my voice, and this is precisely when the weight of his body tilts the scooter in my direction, he points his fat finger at my face, and begins yelling at me, and only me.)

“GIVE ME MY KEYS!”

“I don’t have your keys.”

“GIVE ME MY KEYS!  WHY YOU DO THAT TO MY HOTEL?  That is MY hotel!”

“It was dirty.  You should keep your hotel clean.  We’re not staying in a dirty hotel.”

“So you throw everything outside?”

“We threw a dirty comforter outside.  When something is infested with bugs, you don’t want it sitting in the room infesting everything else.”

“THAT’S NOT MY PROBLEM!  GIVE ME MY KEYS!”

“That is your problem. It’s your hotel.  And I don’t have your keys.”

“WHERE ARE THEY?”

“At the hotel.”

“NO THEY ARE NOT!”

“Yes they are, you told us to leave them there, we left them there.”  (This is all technically true.  He just never specifically said to leave them in a bush and with the Albanian squatter, but…details.)

At this point, he’s off his bike, and nearing me, as I’m backing up faster and faster.  He’s shaking furiously, and I’m holding steady.  Go me.

“You don’t get your money till I get my keys.”

“I don’t even want my money, just keep it.  Now leave me alone.”

“I want my keys!”

“They’re at the hotel.  I don’t have the keys!  You said to leave the keys and we left the keys!  You can check my bag!  Wanna check my bag?  Here, check it!  I don’t have your damned keys!”  (I open my bag, a gesture to show him I don’t have the keys.  Clearly I wouldn’t actually let him stick his grimy hands in my purse if he really went for it, but again…details.)

“SHOW ME MY KEYS!  OR NO MONEY!”  (He points at his little fanny pack.  At this point, I was nervous that along with the money, there was a knife or small gun in this fanny, so I back up more speedily.  I’m halfway down the street from the bus station now.)

“I don’t want my money!  Take it!  And leave me alone!  I don’t have your keys!”

“Come with me and get my keys!”

“Absolutely not!  You’re scaring me, and I’m not going anywhere with you!”

“Fine, just come with me now and get me my keys!”  (He grabs for me, I back away again.)

“NO!  I’m not going anywhere with you!  You’re scaring me!  Get away from me NOW!”

While he’s still yelling bloody murder, I begin walking away with Sarah, but the others won’t budge.  They want to reconcile things.  I don’t see a point reconciling anything with a crazy motherfucker who looks like he wants to drink my blood for dinner, but they think differently.  Sarah and I grab our stuff and hurry away, ultimately hiding behind the urine-scented public bathroom.  Kristin calls us.  She and Claire have gone to fetch the keys, while Crazy Face Killer waits with Elyse and their bags as his hostages.  Sarah and I nervously wait.  Finally, in true Hangover style, Kristin and Claire meet Crazy Face on the street, the two girls holding the keys, Crazy Face holding the money and Elyse.  The exchange takes place, and we get 60 of our 70 euro back.  We didn’t think we’d be coming away with our lives, let alone our money, so considering all in all we each lost only 1.50 euro, I’d file this afternoon as a success.

While this altercation at the bus stop was taking place, poor smiling Manos drove up (if only the timing had worked out a little bit better, we’d have been off with Manos before Crazy found us, but we’d also be 60 euro poorer, so you’ve got to weigh the options, I guess), and Crazy Face yelled at him in Greek what we can only assume was a warning that we crazy Americans will destroy his hotel.  Manos was kind and waited for us, not believing him, but after a while had to go to pick up another client.  We decided it was best to stay at a completely new place, since Crazy Face, upon scooting away, barked at Kristin and Claire, “You stay at Villa Manos, yes?”  We weren’t trying to die in our sleep.  As nice as Manos was, he wasn’t worth risking our precious little lives.

And so began our picturesque vacation of sun, sand and island fun.

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One Response to “Forget smiling. Being accosted by strangers.”

  1. lindsaydiamond October 8, 2009 at 11:40 am #

    All I can say is wow.

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