Thursday, June 2, 2011

Grecian Formula Part 7


Arriving Athens close to nine in the evening made for not only for a long day but being a Saturday night, a crowded Metro ride to our stop at Syntagma Square where our Hotel Metropolis was a ten minute walk away.  I’ve discovered returning to a place where you previously spent a few days and got to know the lay of the land is like coming home. I felt very comfortable though trying to exit at our stop proved rough, shoving through the thoroughly packed train car with our bags knowing we had only a minute to get off the train before its doors closed. I forced a path through the wall of humans with Sharon riding my wake and like a cork popping from a bottle we delivered ourselves onto the landing both sighing from relief.

Out the exit onto the bustling night time square down the boulevard to our home with the five stories of  bougainvilleas clinging to the exterior. The night clerk gave us a welcoming smile reserved for returning guests but became serious for a moment. “I’m sorry” he began, “Their was a misunderstanding about when you would arrive….we thought tomorrow and your room is taken, but we got your email today rather late and saved our last room for you but it has a shared bathroom. Tomorrow your special room will be ready for you”. Our gasp at first turned to jubilation because we just needed to collapse and not search the streets of Athens to find a bed.  We thanked our night clerk for their thoughtfulness, went up the steep stairs to our room for the night. The tiny room with twin beds and the bath down two floors didn’t faze us. We smiled at each other, prepared for bed, and morning quickly came.

We contacted our friend Irini once more for our last get together and after a few back and forth attempts we arranged for a dinner date the next evening before we left Greece for Egypt. After contacting Irini, Sharon and I finished up our sight seeing of Athens, made our last minute arrangements for hotel, flight, and airport driver for Egypt.

Evening came and we met Irini on the street in front of our hotel, exchanged our flashes of happy smiles and hugs, then wondered through the alley ways of our neighborhood to find a local Greek restaurant. Down a small alley was John’s Taverna. This very small restaurant had maybe two tables inside, four outside on the sidewalk and two in the street on the opposite side of the alleyway. We chose a table in the street where the few cars would drive within inches of my backside plus the table sloped with the elevation of the street by a couple inches. You can’t buy charm like this. Our dinner was delectable, well served, and our conversations were fully animated heightened by the local carafes of wine.

Upon finishing dinner, Irini asked if we would be interested in hearing some jazz music. She explained we needed to take some transportation because it was further than just a walk so I excused myself while walking up to the Metro station so I could get some cash from the ATM.  I unzipped my waist pack and discovered my wallet wasn’t there. I checked my pockets twice, three times and my heart began to race. I rechecked my waist pack finding my passport, US cash, and some other items but the wallet was definitely gone. The wallet didn’t have any money but it had my credit, debit, health insurance cards and my driver’s license.  I chased down Sharon and Irini to explain my dilemma and told them I must return to our hotel room a short walk away to check my backpack and duffel bag to see if I can find my wallet. I quickly made my way to our room, searched everywhere but couldn’t find it. I then started to think about our Metro trip from the airport the night before and the warning the night clerk at the hotel had told me weeks earlier. The crushing crowd was the perfect cover for a pickpocket to access the zippered waist bag in front of me. I had been pick-pocketed!  In all my hundreds of thousands of miles in some of the most outrageous places in the world it just happened to me.

Now I had to perform damage control. I quickly got out my computer, logged onto my bank, checking the accounts and the VISA activity finding nothing to indicate any malicious activity. I went downstairs and all of us agreed that the night out needed to be postponed since I needed to contact my bank, credit card and debit card people to make certain everything was canceled and everyone was alerted. I was a bit panicky but knew I needed to call the US to begin this process. We said goodnight to Irini and I got to work trying to call the US with no success. The night clerk was quiet but concerned and finally interjected by making some calls through local operators and finding the best connections. He was very patient but stern like a father. He made the connection to National Bank of Arizona, handed me the phone and the customer service woman on the other end of the phone was like a nurse with great concern and assured me everything would be fine from this point forward. No activity has been detected and new cards would be sent to me. I explained I was in Athens, Greece but I would be leaving for Cairo tomorrow. She explained it would take 5 to 7 business days and she would contact my personal banker, Matt, and he would make all the arrangements to get the cards to me. “Don’t worry, continue to have a nice trip”. Then the sweet voice of assurance hung up. Totally wrung out, I logged off my laptop, thanked the night clerk for his patience and assistance, walked up the stairs, and figured out with Sharon what we would do for funds for the next 10 days.

The next day, after having a farewell lunch with Irini assuring her everything was alright, we checked out of the Hotel Metropolis, walked to the Metro mid day, boarded the half empty train and arrived at the airport a few hours before boarding our flight to Cairo.

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