I am not going to talk about the masses of municipality workers and policemen, civil servants, teachers and school guards who take to the streets every day protesting the upcoming lay-offs in the Greek public sector. I am going to talk about my friend Markos and my friend Giota. Two people in their 40’s.
Markos has a work, a responsible position in a private company. He gets in the hand no more than 900 euro net. But he hasn’t been paid since three months. His bank account is empty. A couple of days ago, he was shocked to discover that he had in his pocket just 29 euro and 65 cents.
“I was shocked!” he says “Not even when I was a student I would run around with just 30 euro in my pocket.”
Markos made this distressing discovery right there in front of a counter of a pharmacy. He needed a very specific medicine that that the Greek National Health Care System (EOPYY) does not prescribe anymore. Cost 34 euro. No generic available.
He left the pharmacy with a big questionmark on his face. “How could this happen?”
End of May, Giota found herself without a job – again. For the third time since the last four years. Her last job with a one-year contract had expired. She is still waiting her last salary: 980 euro. She walks around with a thoughtfully folded 20-euro banknote in her purse. Making a list of her top priorities: buy food for her and the cat, a shampoo, coffee, toilet paper. There is not much she can do with 20 euro. Paying utilities or rent is out of question before the salary arrives. Even borrowing money makes actually not much sense. She will have to pay it back, from what? She cannot apply to the unemployment agency. She has to pay her own medical insurance contributions. From what? From the zero income?
She needs work. Anything. One-time contracts, one-month contracts. Anything. She has sent more than 50 resumes in Greece and abroad. Even before her contract expired. She is willing to go everywhere in the world. So far, she had no concrete answer for a job opportunity. Neither inside nor outside the country.
We sit on bench and gaze at the sea. We sit and talk about the Greek reality: that more and more employees delay to pay their workers. Some on purpose, some because their businesses have just dried out of money.
That more and more sneaky people are wandering around trying to get advantage of your talent, of your needs. That they squeeze you and throw you away like a lemon without juice. That in best case they pay you half, even 1/4 or even 1/5 from the agreed amount.
Hustlers who secure funds through connections and as their golden snap opportunity in times of crisis and money shortage. Game-players who deal other other people’s money. And they want you to do the job for a piece of bread. The Greek “λαμόγια” who came out of the dark holes now that there is no monet for everyone.
We gaze at the sea and talk about how defenseless we feel. We, people with university degrees, foreign languages, modern technology skills and several years of work experience. But we do not know the right people in the right place. Neither are we the cousin of…, the children of…, the newphews and nices of….
We are just lost in our pathetic anonymity in a country where favoritism and nepotism prevail. We also do not trade blow jobs for real jobs. We are just too old for that.
We gaze at the sea and talk about that more and more people isolate themlselves socially. That they don’t have money to dine out, to go out for a coffee or a drink. That some have to turn a euro coin three times before they buy an ice cream for their kid.
We sit and wonder what force pushed us over here, to end up like this.
We talk with words that some times slip and turn into a joke. A good laugh over a screwed life.
We sit, gaze and talk – and deep in our heart, we know that things have better chances that they will soon be worse.
We sit and talk and the real unspoken bitterness, the frustration, the anger… swell from the pores of our words and form misty clouds that raise and spead over the ripples of the blue sea. We send our message bright and wide over the sea…
But we don’t give up hope. We can’t.
* names have been changed.