Greece is in the grip of another heatwave.
When the temperature soars to more than 40 degrees Celsius during the day and stubbornly refuses to drop below 30 even in the dead of the night, it’s hard to stay focused on the job in hand (if you’re lucky enough to have one).
Those that can have abandoned the city. But for those who can’t, due to obligations or lack of funds, it’s a struggle.
Refuge is sought in air conditioned shops or offices, fans are pulled out of storage to move the lethargic air around, sweat-soaked workers flop onto armchairs the minute they reach home, dogs pant madly for relief in the streets, a million cold showers are taken, cats refuse to budge from the shady spots they've stretched out on, and those who have to venture out into the sizzling heat bouncing off the city's cement and marble find it hard to put one heat-weary foot in front of the other.
Like many Athenians, I take the city’s public transport to get to work. It’s relatively cheap (though who know how long that will last), it’s eco-friendly, it saves on petrol and eliminates the problem of where to park once I arrive at my Piraeus office. On the downside, it’s slow (60-90 minutes one-way from my home in the northern suburbs to the office), often crowded, sometimes bumpy (I have the bruises to prove it) and with air conditioning that’s unequal to challenge set by this week’s weather.
But it’s one of those things you accept, warts and all. The inconveniences are as much part of the Metro, bus and electric rail network as the conveniences it offers…
…unless you’re an MP.
This week, New Democracy MP Adonis Georgiadis went on record saying that it would be an unacceptable humiliation for Members of Parliament to take the bus. (Presumably, he doesn't feel the need to win any popularity contests now that he has been voted in once again.)
That’s why they accept the complementary hire cars afforded to them by the Greek system. That’s why your chances of seeing a Greek MP riding the Underground like New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg, or even pedaling round the streets like London’s Boris Johnson, are about as strong as they are of Angela Merkel being named Athens' favourite blonde. They won't be found hanging onto the straps on the crowded train, sharing body odour and reminders of last night’s tzatsiki with fellow passengers.
Greek MPs apparently are worth more than the people who voted them in – and they certainly can’t risk be confronted by a tired, sweaty constituent while riding the No.040 to Syntagma Square.
But we mustn’t condemn them for stinginess, for they’re saving none of their own money by refusing to join the common people in the public transport system.
MPs get to ride for free - unlike the unemployed, who aren't even entitled to reduced ticket prices.