The orator on the bus

IMG_6203I am writing this post of the bus into Athens where I will be meeting Christos and our local advisors, Thalia Dragona and Nelly Askouni at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, to discuss initial fieldwork.

Having typed up the notes from our reading group yesterday the image of sound and public transport, buses in particular, is still fresh in my mind, as is the idea of the affordances created by technology: in this case the semi-private bubble that I’ve blown up around me as I catch up with unanswered emails on my iPhone. This bubble quickly bursts when an argument between a man in pink UGG boots and a woman in a green puffer jacket, breaks out.

Starting in the polite plural, her voice nevertheless betraying irritation, ‘Please, I’m asking you kindly, this is a public space (δημόσιος χώρος) talk about whatever you like but don’t talk politics’.

The man in the pink UGGs, previously animated, is now furious and shouts back at her, ‘this is a public space and I will talk about whatever I like, and I will talk politics.’ Then, turning to address his mini audience, the elderly men and women who are sitting opposite and adjecent, ‘the place has filled up with Golden Dawners, look how they are trying to silence us!’ He repeats this a few times.

The woman continues to repeat her plea, speaking to the man in the singular now. She’s insisting that because this is a public space she has the right not to be subjected to political conversations. She is about to say something in response to his pointed accusations, but seems to think twice about it and doesn’t retort preferring instead to stare out the window at the sea view.

The man in the pink UGGs tells us her to shut up, ‘Go gargle (γαργάρα, γαργάρα),’ he tells her repeatedly (I don’t understand this reference but I’m sure its abusive) and adds, ‘this is a public space and if I want I will sing and dance too.’

‘I would rather you did!’, the woman responds while the other passengers encourage the man to ignore her. The argument dies down and the man resumes his oratory on the new government engaging those sitting closest to him anyone else who cares to, or cannot but, listen.

The running commentary from the two women behind me fills in some context. The man in the pink UGGs is a regular on the bus, known for starting conversations and, on occasions arguments. They imply that he’s not quite right in the head but don’t go as far as actually saying ‘he is mad’. Then not even a minute later they add, ‘but he’s not wrong, you know’ (‘πάντως δεν έχει άδικο’). Between them the women agree that the younger generation these days are pretty sussed (‘είναι εξηγημένοι’), and that it was high time to leave the old ways and do things differently.

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