Monday, 19 March 2012

The way we are: The member of Parliament (Ο βουλευτής)

Naturally, a lot more happens on the open road than does in my small office. My cabbie husband tells me funny stories like this one every day.

"There he goes, there he goes," Zahos suddenly interrupted the conversation. The cabbies were standing around outside their taxis, engaging in general chit-chat over trivialities, which they often engaged as of late while they were on their shift. There seemed little else to do amidst a crisis-ridden economy, apart from giving up on the business altogether. Few people needed to use a cab; few people could afford it. Nondas was wiping down the windows of the car when he heard Zahos' muffled whispers. He turned around to see what he was looking at, but couldn’t see anything of immediate interest.

"There who goes?" Nondas asked him. Without lifting a finger to point to anyone, without even turning his head, Zahos simply moved his eyes in the direction that he wanted him to look in. Nondas followed them and saw a man walking quickly, head bowed low as if he were looking at the ground. It took him a while to register who he was.

"You know him, don't you?" Zahos asked. Nondas stared at the man who had now broken out into a trot, still looking confused.

"It's Xenofontas, isn't it?" Zahos nodded. Nondas knew Xenofontas well enough to greet him, and in the past, in better days, Xenofontas would often stop and chat to anyone who recognized him on the street. He was especially partial to the taxi drivers parked in the rank waiting for a fare. But today, Nondas hardly recognised him. Xenofontas wasn't walking like he used to. For a start, he did not keep his body upright, and he seemed to be trying to keep his face hidden by turning up his collars. He hurried up the road, where at one point he disappeared into the bakery.

"Tough time to be an MP, isn't it?" Zahos chuckled. Nondas was smiling too, because it's not every day that he had the chance to see an MP on the road, especially one that doesn't want to be seen. In the past, in better days, politicians’ appearance was a welcome sight and generated a great amount of cheer with people rushing up to them to shake their hands. But not any more.

"He's afraid of being yoghurted," Nondas said.

"Or tomatoed," replied Zahos.

"Nah, they're out of season now," Nondas replied, and everyone laughed.

"Good thing too, because tomatoes are expensive," said Zahos. "If it was summer, they'd be soft and mushy, so Xenofontas would need a goo dry cleaner’s. Imagine getting struck by one now. It’d be like being pelted by potatoes."

"Potatoes!" Nondas cried. "They’ll do a great job – much better than tomatoes and yoghurt! And they're cheap enough now."

At that point, Xenofontas came out of the bakery. He was holding a plastic bag in his hand, which he guarded furtively, keeping it close to his jacket. He had a worried look as he walked back in the direction from which he had emerged. His gait was quick, his eyes looked straight ahead, he did not tarry. But it was obvious that he had caught sight of Nondas and Zahos outside their cabs, and he knew he could not walk straight past them without at least acknowledging the presence of the people who had put him in office. Without turning to look at them, without raising his hand to wave, he gave a quick nod in their direction and continued walking to safety. In the past, in better days, he would have waved and smiled, and then stopped to talk to them.  But those days were gone for now. His main worry was that they seemed quite definitely over.

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