Who do you call when the lights go out?

Thoughts and prayers.

A great new discovery to share! When the power fails — summer, Friday midnight, central Athens– your immediate response is to call the power company, right? Or rather, you call the number for faults on the power bill you receive (by mail still, because if it were online how would you find the number, eh?).

That is what we did. Then we called the other number the recording told us to. And then … well, it told us the service for faults was only available from 7 to 7 weekdays. And that was it. No other option. Line cuts out.

We called directory — and they directed us to that number. On the off chance that we were at fault — we live in Greece, of course we’re at fault — we called again. Same message.

There was a breeze last night so it wasn’t a complete and total emergency because, boy!, wouldn’t that be a bummer? No power in a heatwave. And if you were elderly maybe, or sick, or just alone and a bit scared, too bad, human!  We sat on the balcony sharing light coming from neighbouring buildings that were lucky enough to have power.

We checked in with the neighbours and they too said they’d called the power company and noone was picking up. We used the dregs of power in our mobile phones to check the web to see if there were online options to find someone. No.

We lit some candles. We waited. We realised how helpless we were — there was absolutely noone to call, nothing could be done.  And that, my friends, are the choices you have in this country – 21st century capital city in Europe. Thumbs up sign.

Took a couple of hours before the power came back. Just switched on as suddenly as it had gone. It’s always fun to realise how much you rely on an organization like the Greek Public Power Co., related entities and the Greek state.


Wanted: People willing to live on a beautiful, remote Greek island

widescreen of port

A small, windswept island off the coast of Greece has ample beauty, an ancient shipwreck and flocks of migratory birds. What it lacks is people.

What’s happening on Antikythera is a microcosm of what’s going on in the entire country as Greece continues to deal with a demographic malaise exacerbated by the departure of young professionals of child-bearing years. My story in the LA Times. http://ow.ly/GgPu50uym2a


If I ran this country ……..III

no one in a Greek courtroom would be allowed to make a noise while people are giving testimony.

I was in court for work this week. Not oddly, I had to keep notes. This was near impossible with all the activity — none of it necessary.

It was like being in some kind of Turkish bath. People milling around, slapping one another on the back, lounging around in corners, gum being chewed and snapped loudly, private conversations unrelated to the proceedings going on between people in the court.

I don’t understand. This was a murder trial. The family of the victim have travelled from the U.S. to attend this trial.  Their child had been brutally killed. The least bit of courtesy that could be extended would be … attention? Respectful silence?

Instead, a T-shirted policeman would cross the room to chat with newly-arrived female lawyer friend, who just stood in front of those attending the proceedings. People would just wander in, like one unshaven man with a cap who got annoyed when a policeman told him to take off the cap in the courtroom. A lawyer involved in the trial left his desk at the bench, wandered over to the where we were sitting, spoke casually with his interns about another matter, used his cellphone to call a friend, then wandered back to his post.

And of course, there were the usual camp followers: those strange people who do little errands like bring bottles of water. There seemed to be a handful of them in court today.

It was hard enough to hear what was being said because witnesses speak to the judge/jurors, not to the people present. Add to that the translation that was running concurrently with the testimony (no translation booths in Greek courts!). The glass entrance door to the courtroom did little to muffle the noise from the loud conversations outside.

This is about basics. It’s not really good enough to have people lounging around and schlepping in and out of the courtroom. Shows complete disrespect for everyone. My solution: lock the doors after the session begins.  (Of course, having written this, for all I know I just showed disrespect for the court!)