Two singles from Thessalonika

“Two Singles from Thessalonika.”

“If you are the lady from Viros village who sings, you owe me two bus fares” he shouted at me from the steps of the bus. I thought that my basic knowledge of the Greek language might have failed me again, so I asked him to repeat what he had just said to me, slowly.

“I said, Miss Janet, that you owe me two bus fares” he said slowly, but with much more emphasis. I still did not understand. I had no problem with understanding the Greek, I understood what he had said to me perfectly well. What I did not understand was why I owed him two bus fares!

 An hour before this exchange, I had been quietly enjoying my morning coffee, and a play on the English radio station, when I almost jumped out of my skin as the telephone rang suddenly. I rushed to answer it, so that I would not miss the end of the play.”Yasas” I said, in my best Greek telephone voice. The deep voice at the other end, also in Greek, told me I had to be at the green bus station at one o clock that afternoon, to meet the number 13 bus from Thessalonika.

 I had just translated the message in my mind, and was about to ask why, when the telephone line went dead.

“Who was that?” asked my husband.

” I have absolutely no idea, it is very strange, someone told me I had to meet the bus from Thessalonika that arrives at one this afternoon.”

“Why , is someone coming ?” replied my husband.

“No one I know of, but we had better go to meet the bus anyway, he was really insistent!”

 I was full of curiosity. Who could be coming to see us in the winter months in Corfu? None of our relatives would travel by bus, that was certain. They all liked the luxuries in life, they wouldn’t spend hours crammed onto a Greek bus, rattling up and down over the atrocious mountain roads that are a part of life here. Besides, it was pouring with rain as usual, no one would come on holiday in that weather.

So that was how we came to be waiting at the bus station, at one in the afternoon, meeting the number thirteen bus that had just arrived all the way from Thessalonika. We waited in the pouring rain until it pulled into the desolate bus station, and we scanned the passengers in the hope that we would recognize our visitor, who must have sent the message one way or another, on the Corfu grapevine.Neither of us could see anyone we knew, the bus looked full of Greeks, carrying parcels, visiting relatives, or just coming back home. No one familiar. So when the doors opened I moved forward to have a better look, and that is when the conductor asked me for the bus fares. I gave in, the curiosity was killing me….

 “Why do I owe you two single fares from Thessalonika when you know I didn’t get off the bus? How did you know my telephone number? Who gave you the message to give to me, that I must meet the bus at one? How on earth did you know that I sing!!!!”The questions shot out of my mouth, in Greek, before I even thought about it. My husband was beaming with admiration at my grasp of the language, he was impressed. The Greek conductor was beaming too, but he didn’t look impressed.

“It is simple! You have to pay two single bus fares from Thessalonika for these!” and saying that, he went back on board and handed me two beautiful pheasants from the front seat.”They were put on board the bus in Thessalonika by your neighbor’s father, and I promised to give them only to you”

 Everything was suddenly clear to me. My neighbor had asked me if we liked pheasant, and told me that his father, who was a hunter, would send two for me. He had arranged for his father to put them on the bus to Corfu, and I would pay their bus fare when they arrived. My neighbor had given my phone number to the bus company, to contact me when they were going to arrive in Corfu on the bus.He had told the bus conductor to identify me by asking me if I was the singer, Miss Janet.

 Now it was all explained, I smiled gracefully, paid the two single bus fares for the pheasants, and carried them back to our car. I love Greek logic!

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