A boring bus ride? Not necessarily so

No one expects surprises on a bus in Athens. Once in a while, there are arguments with the driver or complaints about how the young don’t offer their seats to seniors. But, usually, silence and boredom rule. Theano Metaxa neither likes being bored nor knowing others are bored, too. So the young drama school graduate from Iraklion, Crete, who now lives in Athens, brainstormed a bit of performance art to lift her fellow citizens out of the dullness doldrums. She put on her best white shirt, a low-key dark-colored skirt and a fancy blue scarf and made her way to Academias Street. Then she chose one of the dozen buses at the terminal and hopped aboard, looking like an flight attendant in uniform. Most of her fellow passengers thought she was on her way back from work. They returned to their newspapers. The driver turned on the engine. As soon as the doors closed, Theano Metaxa turned into the Amelie Poulain of Athenian streets. She got up and, after securing the driver’s consent, she welcomed passengers on board. «Ladies and gentlemen, driver Giorgos Georgiou and the bus crew welcome you on board the Academias-Holargos route and wish you a comfortable and pleasant journey. We would like to inform you that smoking is not permitted during the journey. Thank you very much.» «Most people were really surprised,» Metaxa said a few days after her last journey. «They didn’t quite know how to react. Some people seemed genuinely concerned while the calmer ones asked me if I was doing some kind of practical training as a flight attendant.» Since she apparently encountered no extreme reactions, Metaxa went on. She gave safety demonstrations in Greek and English and offered passengers candy, before delivering a short guided-tour speech on the passing Athenian sights: Vassilissis Sofias Avenue, the Athens Hilton, the US Embassy and Mavili Square. Metaxa said she came up with the idea for the performance after considering her own behavior on the bus. «There is so much lost time and I wanted to surprise them, to give them a new perspective on what was ahead,» she said. «When I take the same bus route all month long, I stop looking outside altogether.» Metaxa says she probably accomplished her mission, considering the passengers’ reactions. «Slowly the atmosphere on the bus would change, laughter would win over mistrust, people seemed to be more at ease, they would even start talking about traveling; in the end many people would wish us a safe flight,» she said. What about the negative reactions? «There was one lady who kept saying that she knew about art,» Metaxa said. «She was telling me off and insisted that what I was doing was not a performance.»

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