The usual chaotic return to the city

The traditional August influx into Athens has begun. Through the rolled-up windows of the cars, we can catch glimpses of the returning Athenians, who are a chaotic image depicting a new breed of Greeks in their summer mode: shirtless motorists, women gazing restlessly at the road ahead, summer hats stuffed into car boots like trophies. Children play electronic games as grandmothers flutter elaborate fans. All the while the cars roll slowly toward the toll posts. Their tardiness seems to symbolize the reluctance of their owners to rejoin urban life. There are always those motorists who try their hardest to avoid ever stopping. They sound their horns, make dangerous swerves, overtake from the wrong side. Their vacation does not appear to have taught them anything that they cannot promptly forget in a second. Indeed, overtaking on the right appears to have become something of a national sport. Did Greek motorists drive so recklessly a decade ago? They didn’t. Their desperate attempts to «beat» their fellow drivers are a direct consequence of the expensive new cars they have acquired. It is quite ironic that they spend so much on safety features such as air bags and then do their best to crash. These are the ills of sudden prosperity, which is hardly really prosperity if one considers the percentage of those paying for their state-of-the-art vehicles in installments. I was surprised by how many returning motorists bore a confident smile while talking on their mobiles. Even more surprising was the number of those traveling with children. They are theoretically suppose to teach us that we are not alone in this world or, indeed, on the roads.

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