At the Avis counter this morning, as the security guard mooned over Violet, the lady asked if I’d prefer an automatic instead of the manual I had reserved. Seeing that I was from America, she figured I wouldn’t know how to drive a stick. I assured her I indeed LOVED driving a stick, but if it’s the same price, perhaps I should get the automatic…if for nothing else, then I might actually be able to drive it up my steep driveway. What she neglected to mention was she was renting me a tank.
I mean, what are these things along the side? Is driving here a full-contact sport?
Ummmm…as they say in Greece, neh.
The car is called a Citroen Cactus, and it’s a diesel. She repeated it twice. DIESEL. Presumably because Americans don’t know what diesel gas is. There’s no shifter at all, just three buttons that say D, R and N. And a weird looking parking brake. OK. I can handle this. I drove four blocks back to my house with white knuckles at 10 and 2, nearly hitting a dumpster on the turn to my street. Or at least I think I nearly did — the length of the front end of this thing is still a mystery to me. I didn’t even attempt to park in my garage, opting for the street in front of my driveway instead, a nice big open spot.
We had just enough time for a quick lunch before we had to head to our first ever Gymboree class. I’m not sure what possessed me to schedule it today…two weeks ago driving sounded like so much fun! Way more fun than waiting for the stupid bus. Let’s drive to the Gymboree, yay! But as I merged onto the highway, I started to rethink my logic. I knew the Gymboree was on the main road to the Embassy — I’d seen it on the bus numerous times — so I didn’t bother programing it into the GPS. Surely I could spot it.
And spot it I did…on the left side of the street. And there were no left turns. Anywhere. I was in the left lane, all prepared to turn, but then on the right side I spied an access road that I should have taken instead. I wasn’t ready for quick lane changes, not like the Greeks like to make. So I meandered a bit, cursing at Siri as she neglected to respond to my increasingly frantic voice commands, “Find the Gymboree! Map to the Gymboree! You are a worthless piece of shit, Siri!” But somehow I managed to circle around the block, get in the right lane, and find the place. But then…parking! Of course it was on a one-way street going the wrong way.
Did I mention Violet was screaming the whole time? This girl DOES NOT like riding in the car. And despite the Cactus’s claim of on automatic transmission, the shifting was just as jerky as it is in a stick. But I was still grateful not to have to worry about shifting as I was negotiating cars, buses, motorcycles and pedestrians, all while looking for an open spot. Finally, there! Just a couple of blocks down, not too far to walk. Violet had fallen asleep. Of course.
I wasn’t sure how much I’d enjoy this Gymboree class. I used to take Liam to these things, and he’d usually sit in my lap the whole time, and he didn’t like when babies got too close to him. But not my little Violet. She scooted her little butt right into the middle of the action. The teacher sang all of these songs in Greek, songs I knew in English as I listened to the melody, but I tried to sing along with the Greek lyrics. Every toy she brought out — mostly musical toys — Violet grabbed with gusto and thrust into her mouth. She’s working on another tooth. But she started to get the hang of shaking the maracas like the other babies. All the parents just adored her…people kept saying she looked like a little doll. She was the only blond with such porcelain skin, and of course I had to put her in a cute dress with a little flower headband. She loved getting all of the attention. At one point the teacher started playing guitar, and Violet scooted right out of my lap and right in front of the teacher…just a grinnin’ the whole way.
Feeling rejuvenated, I drove back home with more confidence in both driving and navigational skills. But, crap, I had to find a gas station quick. The Avis gal warned me that the tank was almost empty because of our last-minute switcheroo. So I pulled into the Shell station on the way home, not entirely sure what to expect. Could I pay at the pump? Will I be able to tell which one is Diesel?
So, turns out the whole gas station experience is like America circa 1955. An attendant came around and asked me what type of diesel I needed — I picked the one that sounded the least expensive (Something tells me “Turbo” means big $$). Then he had me pull around to a pump in the back and filled ‘er up while I sat in the car. Then he handed me a receipt for 40 Euros (not as expensive as I feared) and said I had to go in and pay. I motioned to the sleeping baby, and he said, “Oh, I’ll keep on eye on the baby. Don’t worry.” After paying, I had to give him a receipt from the clerk. And off I went. Not a bad experience at all, really. Much better than actual driving!
On a lark I picked up this snack at the counter made of…I don’t know…birdseed?
It said it was made in Rhodes, and it has honey in it (says the little illustrated bee), so it can’t be too bad, right? Indeed, it was quite tasty. Pairs nicely with a nice, cold Reisling.