Walking back and forth between my apartment and Gekko – something I do with monotonous regularity, sometimes three times a day – is a challenge. It does not help that generally I am going at twice the speed of my fellow travellers. The narrow pavement bordered by railings on Kavetsou, the first part of my journey, presents its own difficulties. As I have somewhere to get to, I need to overtake, and this is not easy when the person in front ambles diagonally, or decides to stop, or is with a friend or two. A muttered paloniko or excuse me generally gets zero response.
When I reach Ermou, the main shopping street (though the width of a country lane) there are other difficulties. For much of the day (though not all) it is “pedestrianised”, but only if you count bicycles, motor-bikes, delivery vans, even occasional rubbish lorries, as pedestrians. But the people are just as difficult to navigate past. At home, my experience is that people have an awareness of each other, will look to see if they are in someone else’s way, might apologise if they inadvertently block someone’s path. Here, there appears a total absence of such awareness. If someone suddenly turns and walks across you, it is as though you did not exist.
I am determined to retain my English politeness in such matters: giving way, holding back, watching out. And I am, by and large, ignored. Occasionally, if I am sufficiently theatrical in my gesture, I can provoke a reaction, the ghost of a smile, but mostly their faces are stony. It is not as though they are unfriendly in all their relationships; friends across the street are acknowledged with demonstrative affability. But I had not registered before how used I am to people registering each other with a smile, a nod, a gesture (and not a rude one.) And I really do believe that such things are important, that human interaction, even (or even especially) with strangers, is the glue that holds society together.
“When you’re smiling, keep on smiling, the whole world smiles with you.”