Sunday, April 08, 2007

When being a lawful citizen ain’t always safe…

For more than a year now, I live in a very central residential area of Athens. A pedestrian-way and a backyard sandwich my house so I don’t experience the automobile noise most of the downtown Athenians do. This was a factor that played a decisive role when I chose to buy this place. A beautiful pedestrian-way full of trees in front of my doorstep was a guarantee that I would be relieved of most of downtown noise and allowed to sleep in relative quietness.

The problem arose a few months after I moved in, when right across the street from where I live a nightclub opened. Its music was mainly Greek laika songs of the lowest quality and therefore its clientele was obviously not the ordinary young happy crowds you see in clubs of that size. The place was attracting a mainly 40-50 year-old male crowd dressed conventionally in dark suit-white shirt-no tie outfit. Most of the -- few -- women frequenting there were blond and over made-up in shinny tight skirts, who were speaking Slavic languages. Soon, every Friday and Saturday night, the pedestrian-way was turning into a huge parking lot for expensive dark-blue or black cars. Their drivers were standing in groups of five or six smoking while they were presumably waiting for their bosses, who were in the club.

There was hardly any place to walk through and arriving home late at night was at times adventurous, as I had to zigzag my way to my doorstep, watched closely by suspicious pairs of eyes. I was preoccupied and some of my neighbors I talked with felt the same. The worst part was the noise. That terrible music was so loud you thought it was coming right from inside the house. And it wouldn’t stop before 4 or 5 am. The owners’ indifference of the residents’ peace and quite was so preposterous that could make you jump. Weekends and weekends went by and my patience was really hitting red alert. I turned to my neighbors once again. They all agreed that the situation was unbearable but they were reluctant to do something about it.

All this until two weeks ago when I decided to call the police and report the terrible noise at 3am. The police came 15 minutes after I called. I was watching behind the shades of my bedroom with my lights off. They were two young guys. They stood right outside the club’s door and talked to the doorman. Soon after that, the owner came out with some papers in hand. I guess they were licenses and stuff… The policemen looked at the papers and took some notes. Right after that, they all lit cigarettes and chatted for a while. They even laughed together with the owner, then shook hands and went their way. The noise continued for another 2 good hours. I couldn’t sleep.

Next day was Saturday. After midnight the same nightmare started. At 2am I call the police again. Fifteen minutes later the same two young policemen arrive and the same scene repeats. This time, the owner was a little nervous. He gave his papers, they took their notes and went off without chatting or shaking hands. The music went on as loud as it could for 3 more hours.

On Good Friday night, when the Orthodox religion commemorates the death of Jesus just before Easter Sunday (today), I wasn’t expecting the same scene. Tradition has it that people do not go out on that night, therefore most of bars and clubs in the city are closed. Most, but not this one… Not only the skyladiko music was too loud but people standing outside the club were talking and laughing as if they were in the middle of the desert at 2am. As a good citizen, once again I called the police. They came 20 minutes later. I was again watching in the dark. Only this time, it was different. The owner was obviously angry and was very aggressive to the policemen! They all chatted for a few moments and then cops left and the fat owner stayed outside smoking nervously and talking to a friend of his. His body language was saying “pissed off.” I though my tactic is working. This is war!

Last night, right after the Resurrection mass in the churches, my neighboring club received a much bigger crowd than usual. I knew I was going to stay awake once again but I thought this is what you’d traditionally expect on a night like this. But this time they took it way too far. At 5am the music was still on loud as ever and I could sense no sign of signing it off. I was already exhausted from my sleepless Friday night, so I called the police once again. The lady on the phone seemed she recognized me and said “Oh, it’s that club again across the street?” “Yes,” I said, “it seems that your visits at night don’t bring any results, cause they go on and on.” “Well, sir,” she said, “we’ll send someone over right away.” Twenty minutes later, at 5.30am two cops arrived. They asked for the owner. He came out furious. With his papers in hand. He talked to the policemen. And then… as I was watching again in the dark I saw something that gave me the shivers. One of the cops turns to my side and shows the club owner my window. I was frozen. A while later, the cops go away and this terrible man stays outside the club’s door with two other men who looked like body-guards. All three were nervously smoking and looking straight at my window. They seemed really mad. And I got really scared. They now know who I am, thanks to the Greek police.

What am I supposed to think after this? Why did the police treat this guy like a gentleman? Why didn’t they apply the law? Why did they reveal a lawful citizen’s identity to someone who can potentially threaten or hurt me? What’s wrong in this country?

Am I getting paranoid? Am I imagining things? Maybe I’m misinterpreting the facts. I don’t know. May be… But the thing is that I got the message. I won’t exercise my rights as a citizen next time. It’s too dangerous.


Blogger P=NP said...

It is typical for the Greeks, that they rarely complain about things that disturb them: they wait that an other person will play the "lonsome Calahan" for them.

That's why your neighbours are so reluctant. "Why should they complain?" They have found the one who does the dirty job.

9:25 AM, April 13, 2007  
Blogger Saile Sistigrev said...

@ p=np
i don't blame them my friend. after all they knew better than me. i was too naive maybe trying to do what i thought was my duty to the community. but it doesn't work like this here. my neighbors know this. i didn't. now i do...

9:35 AM, April 13, 2007  

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