Tuesday, June 5, 2012


Performing a bank transaction in Athens gives new meaning to the word "patience." Or "insanity", depending on your view of the glass being half full or half empty.

We walk to the bank this morning with mom so she can collect her social security and pay her rent. (First question mark: pay her rent in the bank?) There is a line outside the door waiting to get in. Is the bank that crowded we have to wait outside? Not. You have to go up to the door and press a red button. When the red becomes green you can open the door. Close that door and press another red button that turns green in a few seconds. In the meantime, if there are two people (like in our case) you are stuck in this tiny enclosure. (Second question: what is that about?)

Walk in and there must be about 50 people waiting. What the heck is going on? Most of them are old. They have come to collect their social security. We take a number: 387. I look up at the counter on the wall to see what number is being waited on right now: 299. What?! (Third question: why do they have to come here and wait?) Answer: because their money is not delivered by the postman anymore (what? the mailman or woman brought you cash?). Yes, because they used to be robbed. So now, you have to go to the bank and wait for two or three hours to collect your pension money.

I look at the faces of the women waiting: tired, wrinkled, hopeless, they stare out into space and/or look at me and/or look at the counter. When we walk in a man who is leaving gives my mom his number: 360. Ok, that's something. Only 59 numbers to go.

In the meantime mom goes up to a desk where a woman she knows is working and introduces me. Mom's passbook is old and she must get a new one. (What number question is this? Anyway, passbook? I haven't seen one of those in 30 years.) We sit down and after half an hour mom has a new passbook and the clerk's signature on her number so she can now go to the teller ahead of the others and get her money and pay her rent. I always say: it pays to know people. In this case, it saves us an hour wait, at least.

To get out of the bank we must go through the same procedure as when we walked in. One door first. Close that door. Stand in the glass enclosure. Open the other door. The line to get in has grown longer by now. Good luck folks! Did you bring something to read? Your lunch? Some candy at least or a crossword puzzle?

In the evening we go to Key Bar where Katerina is djing. Cute place! Samantha comes and we chat a while. Two other people join us later, friends of Katerina's. Chris is creating a paper for the homeless. Like our Street Wise in Chicago. He's a journalist who has devoted his life now to creating the paper, organizing the vendors, finding funding, etc. etc. Born and raised in Australia he lives in Athens. For now. We talk about homelessness, economic crises, education, the "madness" of life in Greece. I enjoy talking to him and his friend, finding kindred spirits. I am glad I met them. Perhaps there is still hope...

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