Posts Tagged ‘athens’

The Law Just for Me

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008


I start to ask the man a question and he waves me closer. I follow and ask and thank him and he says, “Can I see your ticket please?”

This is when I realize. When I moved closer to the man, I walked into the ticket control area. And because I wasn’t sure where I was going yet, I didn’t validate my ticket when I crossed the boundary.

“Oh,” I say. “I’m sorry. It’s not validated. I can do that now.”

He hands it to another man with a notepad, and this man, brandishing a pen now, says, “I need to fine you 48 Euros. Can I see your ID?”

I try to explain, and he says, “This is the law. It’s written in English. The law is not just for you.”

And in this moment, something happens to me that has never happened before. I tell the guy off. Fully. Without an ounce of hesitation.

“I bought a ticket five minutes ago. I didn’t validate it yet because I wasn’t sure if I was going to actually take the train. This is ridiculous and I’m not paying anything.”

The man doesn’t budge. He writes things on a piece of paper and points me upstairs to the office and I am ready, enthusiastic even, about the prospect of shouting at the right person.

I am halfway up the escalator when I realize that I’ve been on the verge of tears through the whole exchange. They’re caught at the corners of my eyes but I will not let them fall. I will not.

Upstairs, a bunch of guys are sitting at a table with the same piece of paper I’ve been handed. They’re scribbling something on another sheet. I expect to be asked to take a seat, to lie, scream. I will not give them a cent. They can send me to jail. I don’t care.

I am not, however, asked to take a seat. I am handed the second piece of paper, the one the guys are all filling out.

“You fill out this form and e-mail it to us after August 18. Tell us why you shouldn’t have to pay the fine, and maybe you won’t have to pay.”

I debate — I really do — explaining to the woman that folded sheets of white paper cannot, as far as I know, be e-mailed anywhere, and then I realize. I’m being told to leave. In so many words and not in so many words. To shut up and go.

So I do.

On a bench outside, I collapse, horrified. The tears fall, maybe at what almost happened and maybe just about what did.

The Real Difference

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

A Grand Lady

There are days when. I do not want to sightsee. Or walk around. Or think. Or practice this thing we call personal growth. Or lie on a beach. Or visit a cathedral. Or wander shaded little streets. Or take pictures. Or think of things to write about. On my blog.

The one significant thing that happened to me today was this.

In the National Archeological Museum in Athens, Greece, I was gazing through a glass case at little hammered gold ornaments. In the shape of lilies. Each one had little holes along the edges so that some ancient seamstress could attach them to cloth. To some diaphanous piece of linen that would be belted and draped around some pretty ancient matron, less than 5 feet tall. With matching ear bobs. And a torque.

And I think about how, one year ago, I felt sometimes like I was being foolish for liking clothes too much. For collecting. For getting a visceral high when I found something really, really great. Cut well. Or nice fabric. Or something weird or rare or just fabulous.

A whole universe of difference between what you find in H&M and the real thing.

I own about ten of these things. The real thing. Maybe less. Maybe six.

And for every time I thought, you’re being superficial. You’re like those stupid women on that stupid show. Today, I thought. Looking at those little gold lilies. Some of them bent and messy from where they were dug up, all by themselves, the linen long turned to dust. A fortune in a handful of little gold scraps.

Never apologize for or question what separates you from the apes. From what someday will be gilded, dug up, and placed behind glass as a hallmark. A scrap of what was more than functional. What was beautiful. Rare. What made you more than what you were.