The Boat to Santorini

I’d been warned to have low expectations catching a boat from Mykonos to Santorini: Lauren, the second-most-travelled-radiographer I’ve ever met (Giz would have to be the first), warned to be prepared for delays, cancellation and just relax to know that you’ll reach your destination, eventually. This was good advice. Having spent the weekend relaxing in Mykonos at the beach and not particularly caring whether we made it to Santorini today, or tomorrow, or never, also helped.

We arrived at the New Port at the end of a very long queue of taxi cabs and hotel cars. Our drive shook our hands and wished us well. We walked off, dragging our wheeled luggage over the cobbled stone path and wondered whether we were meant to tip the driver. The sun was bright and it was getting warm. Luggage haphazardly formed obstacles across the path.

A queue had formed leading towards the jetty margin, where only one boat was docked. No other boat had arrived. We joined the queue. Like at Ann Frank House, the individuals unthinkingly standing behind the last in queue had deviated the line across a clearly marked border between road and not-road. At Ann Frank House the stupid tourists had queued across the narrow street and down the road, until we’d arrived. I had felt particularly assertive that morning and walked up to the people standing in the middle of the street and pretended to be an authority. I spread my arms wide and gestured for the queue to turn the corner (what a revelation!) and confirm to the footpath around the corner. Everybody moved, like sheep. So, this morning as Daniel and I joined the queue, but standing back onto the pedestrian side, more people tried to queue behind the woman and man sitting on a traffic bollard on the road. A warden whistled and moved them back, towards us. Anna returned from the toilet and announced, “This queue is not a real queue!” Around the corner the forming queue melted into a rabble of people and luggage, without a front or an end. We bravely left the queue, the gap quickly closing. I was resistant to leaving the queue at first, not wanting to “lose my spot” – just like the patients in the waiting room refusing to evacuate when the fire alarm in Bunbury Regional Hospital sounded and all staff and patients began to evacuate the building. I tried to get them to move from their seats in the waiting room but they refused; they didn’t want to lose their spot. Irrelevant that the staff had all left and were all standing outside in the sun. We left the queue to nowhere and sat in the shade inside.

The boat was about 20 minutes late but it arrived. Masses of people disembarked. We joined the developing queue to board, which quickly became a crowd of people pushing to get on as tourists from countries that don’t queue (I’ve been to some and learned not to queue because you get pushed backwards and never get anywhere) filled in from the sides. I took a breath and filled the gap between myself and the person in front. After travelling in India I became comfortable with queueing so close the person in front that your bodies are almost touching, because otherwise somebody would squeeze into the gap. It’s the opposite taking the elevator at the private hospital in Perth; six people uncomfortably fill the elevator oscillating at maximal distance between all other like-charged particles and looking pissed off at the sad faces looking in from outside the doors at the “full” lift, which is only 50% of the suggested capacity. Usually somebody on crutches or equally limited mobility has stood right in front of the buttons to select a floor, blocking anybody from pressing a button. I sometimes take the stairs in frustration.

We left our luggage downstairs and the boat left, before everybody was even upstairs. I forgot my passport in my carryon and, worried that it might get stolen, ran back to fetch it. I was not allowed back to Daniel and Anna to board the boat at their door, directed to the door behind me. I started to panic. I began to imagine what it must have been like for refugees trying to flee saving any possession or paperwork but not wanting to get split from their family. We were only on a ferry on holiday from one Greek island to another, not fleeing for our lives. I’m not sure how I would survive.

Our seats were ticketed. We had not known but the code “126M” on my ticket, “125M” on Daniel’s and “127M” on Anna’s were assigned seat numbers. A family were sitting around the six-seat table on our seats. They were reluctant to split up and move so we could take our assigned seats. Anna was bravely assertive and stood her ground, when they asked her to sit in their assigned seats – two columns away. We were a group too. It was freezing in the air conditioning.

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