Sharing our space with others

«Just keep your mouth shut, do you hear me?» That was the reply I got from the man who had blocked my exit from the supermarket parking lot for about half an hour – when I dared to complain. Greek drivers have acquired their own reputation, which has, justifiably, crossed the country’s borders. Yet when a few minutes later I found myself stuck on Kifissias Avenue, I could not help but wonder why we Greeks are such selfish people. Over the past few weeks, the so-called «Christmas spirit» once more transformed Athenians into raging, semi-paranoid creatures rushing compulsively from one store to another, trampling on everyone around them. Recently, just because I didn’t give way to one of these huge SUVs so essential for Athens’s narrow streets although its driver had a stop sign in front of him, the young man behind the wheel thought it necessary to get out of his car to come over to mine and kick it. Most Greeks don’t consider anyone else. They jump on the metro as soon as the doors open, without waiting for the passengers to get out first. They park anywhere and drive around as if they are on the warpath, waiting for the slightest excuse to start swearing at anyone in close proximity. They throw trash out on the street and keep moving the neighborhood bins around because they don’t want them near their own front doors. No matter what is happening, it is always the fault of those around us and we are never to blame. Everyone is indebted to us, but we never owe anybody anything. The state and society exist to serve us, but we have no obligations whatsoever. Daily life in Athens is difficult in many respects. Is it not ironic, though, to think that Christmas time, with all the talk about love, world peace and solidarity, is when people’s behavior is at its most savage? Maybe one of our resolutions for 2008 should be to realize that we must learn to share our space with those around us.