Strike Up The Band

13 Aug

During my final week in Athens, I wanted to soak up the sun, savor the fresh food, and appreciate the language, the people, and the culture that I had attempted to adopt over the past year.  I did not want to spend every waking moment tracking strike updates and wasting my coveted phone credit talking to airline representatives.

Ahh, the pleasures of Greece.

Most countries that rely heavily on tourism would cater to tourists, especially in the summer months when said tourism skyrockets, and especially when their economy is flushing itself down the toilet.  Not Greece.  The Greeks are of the opinion that when their country is going bankrupt, the best thing to do is strike.  More specifically, the air traffic controllers, without whom flights cannot enter or depart the country, decide to strike.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, when your country relies heavily on tourism, the best thing to do is clearly to prevent these money-spending tourists from getting into your country.  At least you’re holding the ones trying to get out captive within your borders.  OK, OK, so maybe they will then be spending all of their time and money changing flights and sitting at the airport rather than eating mousaka and happily smashing plates, but it’s worth a shot, right?

To get back to the main point of interest (re: me), while I should have spent the last few days in Greece enjoying my time and preparing for how much I would miss the country I came to call home, I instead spent the remainder of my time frantically trying to get out of the country.  Nothing makes you want to leave somewhere like the prospect of being stuck there forever…with no place to live…and no baggage since it’s being shipped home…and no money since it was all spent on the hotels and flights and traveling plans you will now not be experiencing since you will still be in Greece, with no place to live, and nothing to wear, and no money.  I think I’m getting slightly redundant.

Let me break it down for you.  I had a flight out of Greece on a Thursday to Croatia, with a 2 hour layover in Romania.  The flight was to leave at 11am.  The air traffic controllers called a strike on Thursday, to begin at 11am.  Dilemma #1.  The airline stated that in the event of a strike, they would rebook me on the next available flight out to my destination.  My destination being Romania (since that is where I was technically going from Athens).  Where is Dilemma #2, you wonder?  The next flight out of Romania to Croatia was 4 days later, the exact day, mind you, that I was to be leaving Croatia.  I’ll let Shakespeare take it away: Ay, there’s the rub.

So what’s a girl to do?  The airline can’t officially cancel any flight until the strike is officially called.  Yet it constantly remained “potential”, despite it being obvious that it was absolutely going to happen.  And so I had to keep calling the airline.  And calling the airline.  And calling the airline.  In between phone calls, I vigorously searched the web and discovered a flight scheduled for Romania on Wednesday night, the night before my original departure date.  In talks with the customer service reps (who, by this point, had become pretty solid friends of mine) I learned that unless my flight was officially cancelled, I would have to pay a fee for switching my flight.  I made a judgment call.  I knew this flight wasn’t going to see the clouds at 11am on Thursday, and so I decided I would change my flight, regardless of fee.  Fortunately Elena (customer service rep and current bosom buddy extraordinaire) let me hold off and track the strike, guaranteeing that she would book me no matter what, but would not put it into the system until the strike was officially (or not) announced and my flight was cancelled, so that I wouldn’t have to pay the fee unless necessary.  Luckily, the strike was eventually officially called, my original flight was cancelled, and I was rebooked sans fee.  And this is how I came to leave my last day of work early, frantically pack and clean out my room, and spend what would have been my last night in Greece sleeping in an airport hotel in Bucharest, Romania.

Greece, if you were a frat guy, you’d be king.  You sure know how to get what you want from a girl (my money, my heart) and still avoid having her spend the night.

I’ll miss you.*

*This, in fact, is not sarcasm.  I really will miss Greece.  A lot.  I’m already battling constant cravings for Greek honey, feta, and beetroot salads, and the simple channel click to reveal “My Life in Ruins” or “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” causes slight separation anxiety.


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