Thursday, May 19, 2011

Myko-No And The Traumatic Greek-Island Grope

Yesterday morning I woke up with a mission to day-hop to a Greek island.  I didn’t know which one; just whichever one was cheapest and closest.  I had heard the island of Aegina fit that bill.  At 10 Euro and one hour on the sea each way, it sounded great both for my wallet and my tendency toward motion sickness.

Though a series of events—beginning with my stepping forward to help another backpacker find his way in the metro—I rode to the ferry port seated next to a tall, handsome Brazilian man about my same age.  He spoke Spanish in addition to Portuguese and some English.  Between my English and un poco Espanol, we found a way to engage in conversation about the places we’d been, and where we were headed.  At the moment, he was going to the island of Mykonos for four days; I was going, presumably, to Aegina for one.

Sometime, mid-conversation, he said:  “You should go to Mykonos.”  I took that as a rhetorical suggestion and responded:  “Yes, I’d like to someday.”

We continued talking.  He was friendly and humble and I enjoyed his company.  I especially noticed that he was in no way creepy, aggressive, or off-putting, as I had found in other instances in these parts.  It was quite refreshing.  After a little more chit-chat, he said:  “We could have fun in Mykonos.” 

It was hard to know how to respond to such a statement.  “Yes, I’m sure we could have fun in Mykonos,” I thought.  But I wasn’t going to Mykonos.  I was going to Aegina, and leaving Greece soon, and needed to get to Amsterdam to catch my flight back home.  He knew all this already.  So I just nodded, smiled, and changed the subject.

Finally we reached the port, and realized our respective boats were in opposite directions.  I started to say the usual:  nice meeting you; safe travels, but he cut me off, came in close, and said, impulsively, “Why don’t you come with me to Mykonos, just for one night?” 

Suddenly I was a character out of Eat, Pray, Love, with a question looming:  Why don’t I go to Mykonos with this guy, just for one night? 

My mind searched for an answer, and came up with several practical responses concerning my itinerary, my finances, my impending departure from Athens, motion sickness on a much longer boat ride, and this:  I didn’t have my toothbrush.  Not exactly what Julia Roberts would have been thinking, I suspected.  She’d just rearrange all of her plans and buy a new toothbrush, I was sure.

In the end, notions of Hollywood-romance fantasies yielded to practical considerations.  I smiled and said, simply, “I really can’t.”  His face told me that, of course, he understood.  He pulled me toward him, kissed me on the check, and hugged me goodbye.  We turned and walked in opposite directions.

I boarded the boat filled with horrible questions like:  Did I just let my Javier Bardem walk away?  Did I just miss the best ending to my blog?  Seriously—no toothbrush?  

I opened my computer and tried to feel good about writing my latest post concerning the doing of laundry abroad—painfully aware that a wild night on Mykonos with a Brazilian-slash-Adonis would have been much more exciting to my readership—not to mention—to me.  I needed to justify my potential stupidity.  “The guy was probably a serial killer,” I concluded, convincing myself that I had just dodged a major bullet rather than made an awful mistake.

I arrived on Aegina and began exploring its perimeter.  I walked and walked, thought and thought, wrote and drank cappuccino, and walked and walked some more.  Soon I found myself 9 kilometers away from the port in a place called Perdika, hoping there was a bus that could take me back.  It was a really long walk, particularly with the missed-rendezvous still in my thoughts.

I walked up to a gas station and found an attendant his late forties--early fifties, perhaps--and asked where I could get the bus back to the port.  He didn't speak English.  He led me inside the building where he began to fumble with a map of Perdika.  Soon it became clear that his lack of English prevented him from helping me, and I started to thank him and say goodbye.

That’s when this animal started pawing at me.  First he grabbed my hand and pointed at the ring on my right hand, as if to say "you're not married?"  I pulled my hand away as he asked "England?" as in, where are you from?  “America,” I said, and turned around to leave.  That’s when he took it up a notch.

He followed after me and pinched my hip, just before he grabbed a handful of my backside.  I turned around, startled, trying to process what was happening, and that’s when he reached forward and groped my chest.  I’m talking a straight-up, full-on squeeze.  It all happened fast and left me shocked.  Through 60-plus countries, nothing like this had ever happened to me before.  I reflexively pushed him back while I simultaneously yelled, “No!” just like I would with a dog that was misbehaving.  I exited the gas station quickly.

I walked five minutes to Perdika’s port where I learned—to my utter dismay—that the last bus to Aegina had left at 3:00 p.m.  It was 3:05.  If I hadn’t stopped in that damn gas station with that psycho-predator lurking, I’d have caught the last bus.

I still had three hours before the last boat back to Athens, so I began the long, 9-kilometer walk back from Perdika—a bundle of nerves—and seething with man-hatred.   I felt victimized, and traumatized, and just plain mad over what this guy did to me.

It was a longer walk than the first, and gave me time to think back to my days in criminal law class.  Had this been a battery, or an assault?  I remembered the elements of battery:  an offensive touching that is unwelcome, or something along those lines.  This was definitely all those things.  I couldn’t remember exactly, but I thought the additional placing of someone in fear of grave danger is what ratcheted battery into assault.  I didn't have that; in fact, it was the opposite--really, I wanted to kill him.  Perhaps this was an “aggravated battery.”  To be sure, I was aggravated.  Completely.

So aggravated, I decided to tell the police in Aegina what happened.  I didn’t want to give my name or file a formal report, seeing as my boat was leaving in 30 minutes, and I intended to be on it and sailing away from this God-forsaken place.  I more wanted to drop a dime in the form of an FYI—like:  FYI, there’s an old-rotten-toothed-grabass-D-bag working back at the Perdika gas station who thinks it’s okay to squeeze unsuspecting foreign womens’ tatas. 

I approached the small station near the port and found a bunch of youngish-guys in uniforms sitting and standing in and around the police hut.  One was chatting on his cell; another was outside having a smoke.  An available officer took me outside into the courtyard—apparently so as not to disturb the one inside on his cell—to take my report.

I told my story while this Greek kid just stood there, stone-faced.  When I was done telling the initial details, he said, with zero sympathy and an incredulous tone:  “Well, I’ve never heard of anything like that happening before, and I’ve been here five years.”

Wait, what?  What in the hell kind of response is that? I thought, angrily.  I replied:  “Well, be that as it may, I’m telling you what happened to me today.”

We had some back-and-forth, in which the cop remained largely disinterested in my aggravated battery.  He mostly stood staring at me blankly, and now I was feeling doubly-traumatized.  Talk about adding insult to injury, Greek-style.

I spent the next few hours doing what I normally do when something bad happens to me:  I told anyone who would listen.  I told the woman on the way out of town who sold me Aegina pistachios; I told a group on a college trip from Indiana University on my ferry back to Athens; I told the French-Canadian guy in my hostel who asked how my day went when I returned; I told the two French-French girls who checked into my dorm later that evening; and I told my new Pakistani friend who manages the hostel in the evenings. 

The latter was very shocked, and offered the most sympathy.  In Pakistan, he told me, a man could get beat up by an angry mob for so much as even looking at a woman sideways.  “You wouldn’t even need the cops,” he explained.

In the end, I got the sympathy I needed.  Also, the sweet French-Canadian gave me an extra ticket to the Acropolis since he was leaving the next day, saving me 12 €.  It was then that I decided, after all, to splurge on sushi one night before leaving Athens.  I’m not suggesting that sushi can erase the sting of a traumatizing Greek-island groping, but I’m certain it can’t hurt.

I thought I wasn’t going to be able to get out of bed this morning after walking approximately twenty kilometers yesterday, all in.  But I did, and put the past behind me as I rocked up to the top of the Acropolis this afternoon and stood by the Parthenon, gazing over Athens, positively enthralled. 

On the way to the Acropolis, I also stumbled upon some striking Greek men.  Not striking as in attractive-striking—though there were definitely some of those in the crowd--but striking as in, the verb, striking.  They work for the power company, and stopped work for three hours today in protest of the public electric company’s decision to privatize.

We chatted for some time while they indulged my curiousity.  They were totally friendly and respectful.  They agreed to pose for me and said I could post the pictures on my blog.  And just like that, Greek men were back in my good graces.  No need to let one rotten apple spoil the bunch, is what I always say.

Oh yeah, I'm really loving Canadians again too.  Especially the French ones.