Saturday, September 12, 2009

Day 57: Bridge Lessons

The single most exciting thing about Itea was leaving it.

That's not a joke, although it's not far from the truth. Itea turned out to be a very ordinary town with little to see or do. We could have taken a taxi about 15 miles to Delphi. There are some ruins and temple steps remaining there, but the Oracle checked out centuries ago. All the reports LK had read said the Delphi ruins weren't very interesting. Skipping it suited me since I am just about "ruined-out", having seen lots of broken columns and headless statues in lots of places. I would never have been a good archaeology student because after seeing so many, about the only ruins that are interesting to me now are the ones that are mostly all there (like the Coliseum in Rome) or creepy (like the people trapped in the lava in Pompeii).

We did walk around Itea for a while until we realized there really wasn't any reason to do so. The town did have one odd feature. At least every fifth store was a pharmacy. I don't think I have ever seen so many drug stores in such a small area. It made me free associate with Wrangell, Alaska. When we were there last year, there were more bars than stores. I guess if Wrangell is full of drunks (and apparently it is), Itea must be full of hypochondriacs. At least it's a Greek word.

The departure was interesting because our ship had to go under the bridge connecting Corinth to Pelopennesus. At its center the bridge is only a couple of meters higher than the ship's highest tower, making it a genuine photo op for all of us. LK was doing stills. I was making a movie.

We prepared well. With half an hour to go, I went to the Pool Bar and got us drinks while she went to the room and got the cameras. We climbed to the sun deck at the top of the ship and staked out a spot very near the center to get our shots. LK had the sense to realize that, if the ship's tower was going to hit the bridge, it would crash backward so we got in front of it. It was only as we neared the bridge that it occurred to her it might be the bridge that would tumble down, in which case we'd have great footage of being crushed if they ever found our camera. In any event, the captain knew what he was doing and we cleared the bridge with at least a yard or two to spare.

That's not to say that our photos and videos went as planned. Despite having staked out our position about 30 minutes ahead of time, it was probably inevitable that some clueless Poms would wait until the last second and then get right in front of us. ("Poms", for my American friends, are what most Aussies call English people. The term is not a nice term, but it will never go out of fashion so long as there are Poms like the idiots we encountered last night.) The first time one of them got in front of me, he did so by climbing onto the deck lounge where my drinks and camera case were, and then standing on its arms, completely blocking my view of the bridge.

For some strange reason, he was wearing a pin-striped suit (strange because this is a casual dress code ship at all times). So I took it to mean that he was the sort of Pom who went to a boys' boarding school. That, and the fact that he seemed to think I would prefer to look at his butt from a foot away rather than the bridge. If I was right, I figured him for the kind of person who responded well to bullying. So I just snapped at him. "Hey, you're blocking my view. Move it!" And he did.

But his actions, of course, only served to signal to other Poms that the space in front of me was in dispute, a mini-Falklands, if you will. By tradition that means more troops must be sent in, and with pluck and determination one more colony will fly the flag and soon this place, too, will celebrate the Queen's Birthday. What I mean, of course, is that after the pinstripe idiot moved, two other clueless Poms stepped in front of me and blocked my view.

Only this pair were of that semi-bovine sub-class of the English best known for blank stares and wrinkled foreheads. These were the public-school kids who go on to become the troops that would hold the territory in the face of attacks, commands, insults and abuse. Surprisingly, it wasn't me abusing them, but if LK said "gormless pommies" once, she said it at least ten times. And loudly. And OK, I was abusing them, too. But mostly in a calm voice as I narrated my video, which had gone from being the watching-the-passing-under-the-bridge video to the watching-the-backs-of-the-heads-of-two-gormless-poms video. Perhaps I used a few objectionable words myself. And not once did they even act as if they heard us.

Frankly, since we didn't end up hitting the bridge, I think there's much more dramatic tension in the video I did take. There's the bridge looming up at us; there's the sudden appearance of the two bad guys; there's the repeated chanting of "gormless poms" from our heroine. Unfortunately, it ends rather blandly as we all just walk away once we clear the bridge.

Even so, it will eventually go up on YouTube. But with the ship's cheapest Internet rate at 42 cents a minute (that's more than $25 an hour), there's no way this video gets uploaded until we're back home.

Oh, and today we're in Sarande, Albania. Never thought I'd visit Albania. I will be quite surprised if I ever do again.

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