As soon as I picked up my bags in the airport, I made my way to the taxi stand. The sign at the beginning of the line of taxis clearly stated “35 Euros to Athens.” I was pleased, no bargaining, no checking to see if there was an actual meter running, no watching the route to see if the taxi was going the long way around to the hotel. After I entered one, I tried to turn down the window and said “Zesta,” meaning “hot.” The driver said, “No, no. Air-conditioning” and insisted I close the windows. Then, he informed me that the weather was unusual for June when the temperatures were usually around 28 instead of 36 as it was today. I nodded politely, thinking that in that cab, the temperature was a “cool” 35. The vents blew only tepid not cold air.
As soon as we got on the well-maintained highway with signs in Greek and English, my driver proudly informed me, “Made for the Olympics.” As we entered Athens, I looked for signs of the economic crisis. There was more graffiti, and there were some office buildings that looked deserted, but I didn’t see much difference than any other time I traveled from the airport to Athens. I did notice a number of stores with large outdoor displays of expensive patio furniture. Perhaps all those Athenians who swore they didn’t have swimming pools needed furniture for the new found space on their rooftop terraces.
My driver was an affable man in his fifties. He told me he was from Santorini where he returned every November. I told him that my grandfather was born in Greece and complimented him on his English. He replied, “Only for my customers, madame.”
At the hotel, he took my bags out of the trunk and I gave him 40 Euros expecting an “Efharisto” or “Thank you” for the tip. Instead, he insisted on 46 Euros. I insisted that the sign at the airport had said “35 Euros.” He insisted that the price was 46 Euros. I told him “Ohi, ohi,” that is, “no” in Greek. I started to go for my bags, and he followed me. Luckily, I was staying a posh hotel, a new experience for me and there was the doorman ready to intervene. Bags in hand, I looked at my driver, shrugged my shoulders, and entered the hotel. One for the Greek-American.