Blog by Richard Heagy
After an all-day session hammering out the latest economic rescue proposal for Greece, if you could call a take or leave it deal a proposal, the meeting adjourned. The underlings leave the room, leaving only those who really matter: the Presidents of the European Council (‘TUSK’), the European Commission (‘JUNCKER’) and the European Central Bank (‘DRAGHI’), as well as the President of France (‘HOLLAND’) and the Chancellor of Germany (‘MERKEL’). It is late but many restaurants are still open—though only a few suitable to the standards of the esteemed group. It is ironic that the one they end up at is a Greek restaurant, fortunately one with a Michelin rating—only two stars, but sometimes sacrifices have to be made. The ensemble in elegant dress enters the restaurant where they fit in seamlessly with the other expensively dressed patrons and are ushered into one of the restaurant’s elegant private dining rooms.
Appropriate to their status, the meal commences with French champagne, followed by a choice of several house specialties: Roasted figs stuffed with feta cheese; Santorini Fava, with caramelised onions and black truffle vinaigrette, encircled with grilled octopus slices; Greek lamb quince stew; Fried sardines; and finally desert, Yogurt mouse with sour cherry preserves. Later, an after dinner aperitif—a sweet light wine with a unique but pleasant taste—is served by a surly waiter with unruly hair in a uniform that he must have borrowed from someone else. His eyes seem to radiate malice as he quickly refills their glasses. Unknown to them, and in spite of the rules that make it virtually impossible to fire employees of the European Union, he is the only employee known to have been fired by the EU. The effects of the aperitif are quickly realised as the diners motions slow; their speech slurs as they fall asleep in their chairs. They will eventually awaken, only to find themselves at a distant location.
A short time later the BUS DRIVER looks at his watch, then at the ancient Mercedes bus, one he had never seen or driven before. It was from another era, evidenced by its short stubby length and two-toned finish of blue and white (or was it once crème), or what was left of it. The elements had eaten into the finish, leaving ugly splotches of rust on the sides and top of the vehicle. Still in working order were large round headlights, one on either side of the round Mercedes emblem on the front. The windshield wipers had no doubt once worked, but the BUS DRIVER was not going to test them before he set out. No need to start with a negative omen; it wasn’t supposed to rain anyway.
The BUS DRIVER climbs aboard and counts his passengers—one woman with short hair and four gentlemen, or so they might be described if their manner of dress is any guide. The condition of the interior of the bus is no better than the outside, but the passengers do not notice as all are in a deep sleep. The engine sputters, then starts and the bus moves forward. That’s when the BUS DRIVER notices that there are no outside mirrors.
The bus drives for several hours, passing through a few towns before stopping at Katerini for gas; then it continues onward to Litichoro, the last small village at the foot of Mount Olympus before the journey is interrupted. The old Mercedes bus is travelling at a slow speed, but when it stops suddenly the passengers are thrown forward. Curses in sleepy voices break out in various languages. The bus driver looks through the front window and blows the horn several times without any response. Finally he opens the door, climbs out and approaches an object blocking the road—a wooden bathtub with a man crawled up inside.
DRIVER: What the bloody hell are you doing in the middle of the road?
DIOGENES: Waiting for the bus.
DRIVER: The bus doesn’t stop here.
DIOGNES: It just did.
DRIVER: Get that thing out of the way.
DIOGENES: Help me put it on the top of the bus; I’m going with you.
DRIVER: Certainly not.
DIOGENES: Then I am not moving.
(They stare at each other, neither wanting to budge first, until someone in the bus starts blowing the horn)
DRIVER: Oh, very well.
(DIOGENES crawls out of the tub and places a lamp on the ground. They carry the tub to the back of the bus. The DRIVER climbs up the ladder and DIOGENES hoists the tub up to him. The DRIVER pushes the tub onto the roof of the bus and secures it with a rope)
DRIVER (continuing): I hope you are satisfied.
DIOGENES: I will give you a good rating if you have a passenger satisfaction survey to fill out.
DRIVER: Do you realise that we are now behind schedule; there are some very important people on the bus.
DIOGENES: No doubt they think they are.
(DIOGENES gets on the bus and walks to the back, swinging his lamp to get a look at the weary passengers. The DRIVER jumps in and starts the bus; DIOGNENES falls into a seat as the bus lurches forward. The passengers doze off as the bus continues its long journey in the darkness along a narrow road that slowly winds its way up the mountain until it reaches Prionia, where the road ends)
DRIVER: All change please. Mind the gap.
(MERKEL gets off the bus while the others slowly wake up, wondering how they ended up on a bus)
DIOGENES: Are you bozos going to stay here all night?
(The DRIVER hits the horn a few times to wake up the stragglers)
HOLLAND: Who is that rude bum in the back of the bus?
DIOGENES: I am Diogenes, often called ‘Diogenes the Dog.’
HOLLAND: No wonder. You could use a bath and a haircut.
BUS DRIVER (from the front of the bus): Hey, no comments about haircuts.
DIOGENES: I lead a simple life. At least I don’t spend 10,000 euros a month on haircuts, not that your stylist has much to work with.
HOLLAND: It’s only 9,895 euros.
(One by one the remaining passengers get off the bus and look around, shivering in the cold)
TUSK: Where are we going?
DIOGENES: I thought that you knew everything, especially what is best for others.
TUSK: I wasn’t talking to you.
DIOGENES: Were you talking to yourself? If you were, I can recommend a good book on the subject.
(TUSK walks away from DIOGENES)
DRAGHI: What’s that awful smell?
DIOGENES: Don’t look at me,
(A LARGE MAN in a sheepskin coat and a cigarette dangling from his lips approaches, followed by several donkeys)
JUNCKER: I demand to know what’s going on.
LARGE MAN: All aboard. Mount up.
(The group looks around, puzzled and uncertain about what to do)
LARGE MAN: You can either ride or walk, but the mountain gets a bit sleep and sometimes the rocks loosen and fall. You are lucky because the donkeys usually haul supplies, not people.
JUNCKER: I am going nowhere.
LARGE MAN: You’re already there—nowhere. If you stay here you will freeze to death by morning.
BUS DRIVER: That would be a big loss, wouldn’t it?
(The BUS DRIVER takes off his cap and JUNCKER realises that he is looking at BORIS JOHNSON)
JUNCKER: It’s you.
BORIS JOHNSON: Sorry I can’t continue on with you. Maybe we can meet for tea next time you are in London.
(JUNCKER turns away and looks around. Although it is still dark, he realises that there is nothing for hundreds of kilometres and reluctantly mounts a donkey)
LARGE MAN (to DIOGENES): You going to walk?
DIOGENES: These well-fed bureaucrats must weigh more than the donkeys.
LARGE MAN: Don’t concern yourself about the donkeys. They usually carry much heavier loads.
DIOGENES (to MERKEL): I understand that you like hiking. Care to join me?
MERKEL (climbing onto a donkey): Not in these shoes.
(The next day the morning sun is slowly rising above the mist as the passengers begin to awaken in their new surroundings, feeling sore and stiff, wondering where the hell they are)
MERKEL (turning over): Who kicked me?
HOLLAND: It wasn’t me.
(They look around and realise that they have been asleep all night in a makeshift barn, together with the donkeys; the one next to MERKEL gets to its feet and moves away. They all fully awaken in response to a loud blast from a trumpet)
DIOGENES: Rise and shine. Today is your big day.
TUSK: What’s he talking about?
DIOGENES: Were you speaking to me?
(TUSK turns away from DIOGENES. The trumpet sounds again as a STABLE GROOM enters, dressed like a race track jockey in black cap, red jacket and white pants)
STABLE GROON: Sorry we can’t offer you a shower. This will have to do.
(He dusts off the straw with a whisk broom as they object. HOLLAND adjusts his glasses and brushes his hair back with his hands. MERKEL touches up her hair)
STABLE GROOM: This way, if you please.
(He leads them up to the Pantheon, the highest peak on Mount Olympus, nowadays more commonly known as Mytikas. At the entrance of a courtyard they are welcomed by HERMES, god of travellers and hospitality, as well as thievery and other things. Inside, on a large gold throne at the far end sits ZEUS, surrounded by the other Olympians. The mist makes it appear as though they are suspended on a cloud; perhaps they are. The puzzled travellers walk forward and come to a halt)
HOLLAND: What is this—some kind of Greek theatre?
MERKEL: Maybe a Hollywood movie set.
DRAGHI: No, they are wearing Greek costumes.
DIOGENES: Don’t you fools know where you are?
HERMES (to the uninformed): You are on Mount Olympus—in the presence of the twelve Olympians.
(A thunderbolt strikes the ground, and the assembled group jumps)
ZEUS: I see that I now have everyone’s attention. MINISTER, you may present your case.
JUNCKER: What’s the meaning of this?
ZEUS: Silence, mortal.
(ZEUS throws his hand forward and a thunderbolt lands at JUNCKER’s feet)
FINANCE MINISTER: The bailout and austerity measures that have been imposed on the Greek people by the EU have caused widespread suffering, economic hardship and social unrest. The billions provided by this so called ‘rescue plan’ have gone 95% to the European banks.
TUSK (to ZEUS): You have no authority over the European Union.
DRAGHI: I say we leave.
(ZEUS shoots repeated thunderbolts at the feet of JUNCKER, TUSK and DRAGHI. They jump each time and their motion is similar to bullet dancing—shooting close to a victim’s feet—in an old western movie.
DIOGENES: I haven’t had this much fun in a long time.
(The thunderbolts stop and JUNCKER, TUSK and DRAGHI compose themselves)
DIOGENES: You are all fools, suffering from ‘endemic tower phobia.’
FINANCE MINISTER: That’s a new one on me. What does it mean?
DIOGENES: It is a psychological condition that starts each morning during the chauffeur-driven ride by a high-level bureaucrat, most often unelected, to an expensively furnished office in a modern skyscraper that often reaches above the clouds. The condition accelerates faster for those who reach the top floor in a private non-stop elevator in less than sixty seconds. Once seated behind a desk that would have been the envy of the mighty ZEUS …
ZEUS: What’s that?
(DIOGENE’s explanation is interrupted by a loud thunderbolt)
DIOGENES: Begging your pardon, mighty ZEUS. I meant to say King Farouk.
FINANCE MINISTER (to DIOGENES): You were saying …
DIOGENES: Once seated behind a typically gold inlayed desk, the high atmosphere causes the close fitting tailor-made suits of these know-it-all big shots to compress, forcing pressure upwards into their heads, which then swell with self-importance.
FINANCE MINISTER: That explains a lot about dealing with the European Council, the European Commission and the European Central Bank.
JUNCKER: I’m not going to listen to any more of this.
DRAGHI: Nor am I.
TUSK: I didn’t come here to be insulted; in fact, I didn’t even ask to come here at all.
(ZEUS sends thunderbolts that barely miss the trio’s shoes)
ZEUS: One more peep out of you overpaid bureaucrats and the next thunderbolt will make those expensive shoes into open-toed ones.
(Another thunderbolt is shot as a warning)
ZEUS (to FINANCE MINISTER): You may proceed.
MERKEL (to the others): It’s not just a bad dream, is it?