Today we had the trifecta of strikes: metro, buses, and taxis. The government told millions of citizens in the little hamlet of Athens to lace up their sneaks and … walk. (We had an adventure today made possible by the free market: a private company that runs a shuttle bus to and from the Zoo.)
However, a trip to Greece wouldn’t be complete without my FAVORITE kind of strike — the garbage strike.
For those keeping score at home, here are some numbers: trips to Greece: six. Garbage strikes experienced: you guessed it, six. Yup, they bat a thousand on stinking piles of garbage. This current strike lasted about four days, which is worrisome. Usually they last a day or two; the garbagemen catch up on sleep, get drunk, and generally do whatever people with a few extra unexpected vacation days do. Then, they promptly get back to work. (I am presuming this. I have yet to meet an Athenian garbageman or woman, though I’d welcome the opportunity, if only to find out what they do while on strike.)
My very first trip to Athens was in December of 2001, and that particular garbage strike was epic. There were streets that were impassable (that’s saying a lot with these drivers) due to the giant piles of trash. About four days after Christmas (presumably upon sobering up?) the garbagemen got back to work, and the garbage disappeared.
The smell is a nasal assault. Imagine — the climate here is hot, blindingly sunny, and humid, and there are overflowing dumpsters about every 20 feet. That may be gross enough, but the part that gets me is the health risk. For the uninitiated, hold on to your Scottissue: this is a country that does not flush toilet paper in the toilet; it goes into the garbage. Yup, I wrote that correctly. Every bathroom has a (hopefully small) garbage can with a lid that you put your toilet paper into.
Yes, yes, I understand that there are places on this planet where you still dig a hole to poop and then cover it up with dirt (from lack of plumbing, not because of hippie ideals). However, this outpost of the EU is supposed to be a first world country (albeit one in crisis). This is the culture that invented democracy, drama, and probably helped Al Gore with the Internet, uncredited. And yet, in 2011, their plumbing system is (literally) Byzantine. So, as you walk past the mountains of trash, you may see a different kind of movement. I swear you can see the e. Coli colonizing, mobilizing, and planning an attack that would make the Ottoman Turks weak in the knees.
Really, this plumbing situation is just plain nasty. Please, dig out of this crisis, and get some 21st century plumbing. Please.