NEWS

Just how sad can we Greeks be?

“Whadayawant? A withdrawal? Well, why didn’t you say so? Come on…» The bank teller could not have been more than 30 years old. Throughout my wait, I watched him speak to elderly men and women, and people his own age in the most informal Greek address. He had stripped himself of any pretence of professionalism, of any effort to be polite. While I am neither conservative nor a great stickler for form, I do believe that using formally addressing people who are older than us or that we do not know, even when they are the same age, shows a certain cultivation, a politeness – though neither quality can be acquired solely by using the plural. This particular bank clerk was sarcastic and arrogant; he was moody and brusque, rash and a smart aleck. A Greek of the worst order. The extent of his obnoxiousness was displayed in all its splendor when the next customer, a shy and by then terrified foreigner, walked up to the window: «Whadayawant, you?» I let my imagination loose considering this young man. I saw him waking up a bundle of nerves. I saw him take out the garbage and throw it into the nearest bin, without caring whether it was for recyclables or not. Blue bins, green bins, red bins, what’s the difference? I watched him drive to work, honking all along the way. At the traffic light, he threw his cigarette out the window as he punched a number into his cell phone. He parked blocking a ramp for the disabled. In the afternoon, he sat around with his friends sucking down a frappe. Their conversation came around to how much they hate immigrants. At dinner, at a trendy beachfront restaurant, he picked a fight with the waiter: «Can I get some service over here?! I was here before those guys!» On the weekend, he takes a ride in a friend’s boat; dumping his garbage into the sea. He is the star, the protagonist in a microcosm of self-complacency and inadequacy, selfishness and false bravado, ersatz luxury. There is only one truth, his own. One opinion, his own. One ethnicity, his own. One religion, his own. One group, his own. How sad.