Every family has an eccentric uncle or a cool but loudmouthed aunt – in other words, a middle-aged relative who dresses like a 20-year-old and sits with the youngsters at big family gatherings. In my family we have my older brother, who is 54 and plays in a rock band. He is far from the long-haired, leather jacket-wearing cliche. Nothing about him betrays his courage when it comes to rehearsing and performing at small Athenian venues.
He and his band had their first gig of the season recently at a venue near the National Archaeological Museum in downtown Athens. I was surprised to notice that nobody was smoking. I felt it immediately: The dense cloud of smoke that we have – or rather had – all gotten used to and taken for granted was gone. We knew that we had to put up with it and had come to terms with the idea that we’d have to take ourselves and our clothes to the nearest dry cleaner the very next day.
Two elements stood out: the almost automatic way that smokers went outside to light up, as though they’d been doing it forever, and something I heard from a member of the band when I asked him how he felt without all the smoke in his face: “I think that the change is due mainly to the venue owners’ determination to make sure that the law is respected without exception.”
It makes me wonder: What changed in their and our minds to make us suddenly ready to abide by a law that has been in force in this country for the past 10 years? Is it the fines? Is it the fact that the country’s prime minister has taken the matter into his own hands?
Everything has played a part, but that’s not the whole picture. Because we have changed in these 10 years. And it wasn’t just any decade – it was a decade that took us from 2009 to a very different 2019. And, yes, people can change.