I immediately disliked the tour guide.
It was a scorching hot summer morning in Athens, Greece. I had been waiting at the base of the Acropolis, second-guessing my decision to join a tour group. But the long queue convinced me that if I didn’t stick it out, I might spend my only day in Athens standing in line for an individual ticket.
The others in my group were all retired couples on holiday. I was much younger, and I was the only solo traveler. We shared a patch of shade while we watched the clock.
The guide arrived late, and he was in a bad mood. He didn’t introduce himself, he simply handed out little plastic receivers that would allow us to hear his voice over the crowds. We each dutifully affixed the receivers to our ears, and then he hissed his first instruction. “You must all go to the restrooms now.”
The women’s restrooms were located at the base of a steep hill. I helped the other women in my group navigate the incline, and then I got in line behind them. The line was long, and it was moving slowly.
As I waited, I could hear the guide in my earpiece. He had forgotten to turn off his transmitter, and he was arguing with someone on his mobile phone. In Greek. The line for the women’s restroom was still moving slowly.
Returning from the restrooms, the men in our group rejoined the guide. I knew this because the guide ended his phone call and began to whine at them in English. Mostly he complained that the line for the women’s restroom was moving slowly.
I saw the other women from our group exit the restroom, but I was still waiting. They began to make their way back up the hill.
I heard the guide grumble about the delay. “You ladies in the restroom” he said impatiently into his transmitter, “I am giving your tickets to your husbands. Hurry up!”
Terrific. The guide himself had been late, and now he was carping at us for holding up his schedule. The line for the women’s restroom was still moving slowly.
I heard the guide mutter to a few ladies as they returned. Then, more loudly, he asked the men “Are any of your wives still missing?” No response. “We go then, follow me quickly!” he said.
Barely out of the women’s restroom, I sprinted to the top of the hill. My group was already on the move, but I caught up with the guide. “I’m in your group, and I need to collect my ticket” I said breathlessly. He turned and scowled at me. “I already gave your ticket to your husband” he smirked.
Seriously? I just ran halfway up the Acropolis because he was late, he was grumpy, and he couldn’t be bothered to count heads – and he had the nerve to bark at me?
I yelled at him. “I DO NOT HAVE A HUSBAND, AND I DO NOT HAVE A TICKET!”
Our whole group suddenly roared with laughter. The exchange between the guide and me had been captured on his transmitter, so they heard it all loud and clear. The guide dug into his pocket and grudgingly produced my ticket. When he handed it to me, everyone cheered.