In Athens, as I attempted to leave town, I managed to flag down a taxi driver who knew no English. I mean, no English. He didn’t even know the English words for Greek cities. Never heard of Piraeus, which is the port for Athens. For all I know, he had never heard the English word Athens, either.
After I threw my suitcase in his trunk, we lurched around for a few blocks before the full extent of the dilemma was clear.
The driver seemed like such a nice guy that I figured we could work it out. He pulled over, so I could point out Piraeus on my map. He laughed.
I pointed to a picture of a boat and told him I was scheduled to meet a cruise ship in Piraeus named Seabourn Odyssey. He laughed.
Amazing, a Greek who had never heard the word Odyssey.
He drove on, smiling. I’m sure he knew that he was going toward the sea. If we could get there, perhaps we could find my boat. I saw a road sign for Piraeus. I pointed and gave him a thumbs up sign. He laughed.
When we got to the port, about 20 minutes from downtown Athens, we made several wrong turns. I’m not sure the driver had ever been to Piraeus before.
But when we found the ship, the Seabourn Odyssey, it was clear that the driver knew one thing about people who speak English -- or at least Americans.
He drove up to the cruise terminal, stopped the car, turned to me, laughed, and offered me a high five.
We celebrated our communications success with mutual smiles and slapped hands. He probably had a good story to tell at home that night. And I had one for the road.