Today I went to the bus stop in Plakias, Crete, Greece to say goodbye to a friend who was going to Belgium on the 3.15 coach to Rethymno.
Fuck me, hold the front page!!!
This guy is friends with loads of folk in Plakias, including my dad. He’s 90% of the time in a good mood, likes a beer (and a carafe of raki) and could be politely be described as a “happy go lucky” type of bloke.
He loves Plakias about as much as anyone I know, and over the last 7 years has apparently missed close to 20 flights through deciding very late in the day, “Ahh, fuck it!” and staying put instead of going home.
Last night him, me and three others went out for din dins at a very good local taverna and he was teased about how he’d probably be back within a couple of days.
His plan was to head off to Brussels to hook up with a mutual Plakian friend and celebrate that guy’s birthday on the 12th August. Despite being ribbed about his DNA-level inability to leave Plakias behind, and that Heraklion airport now has a revolving door in the arrivals lounge named after him, he insisted that he HAD to go back to sort out giving up his apartment and then sorting his life out.
Today came and at 3pm four of us accompanied him to the bus stop, as always a little sad that a pal was leaving, possibly until next summer.
The owner of our favourite bar had, that very morning, teased us with the intel that arriving ON the 3.15pm bus there would be a glorious surprise for us. Attempts to elicit exactly who it was fell flat (and were met by much smug chuckling into his beard) so we attempted to guess who it was.
“Maybe it’s HIM?”
“No, not his style to be so secretive!”
“What about HIM then?”
“Hmmm….nope. He’d have told me”.
“What if it’s HER and HIM, that’s feasible!”
“Yeah, that would be brilliant”.
As the bus arrived at 3.15-ish this afternoon, we waited and waited as people piled off and no one we recognised was grabbing their luggage. Then the woman we were with shrieked and ran over to the back doors of the coach. Being waved out the doorway was a sign with her name on and the legend “YOU SUCK!!!”
The guy from Belgium whose birthday was in 2 days…had secretly travelled to Plakias to surprise everyone. As people were hugging and cries of “MOTHERFUCKER!!! could be heard the guy who was meant to be leaving ‘fessed up to having spent the last couple of weeks fibbing his arse off to protect this elaborate plan of military-esque proportions. He said he was now relieved that he didn’t have to keep telling such elaborate porkies and the last few days had been hard as people were asking him what he’d be doing in Belgium and later London, and he had to keep his lies consistent to maintain the charade.
We all then took a trip over to our favourite bar and had a drink while laughing at the elaborate hoax and reminding each other of the elaborate lies the bloke who was meant to be leaving had told.
This was a very intricate, meticulously planned and altogether wonderful thing.
In a desire to a). Celebrate his birthday with good friends in Plakias and b). Give everyone a great surprise, my friend had created a plan that required secrecy (only 4 people apparently knew the truth) and everyone playing along with it.
For the last 13 days I haven’t had a drink of alcohol at all. I’ve been on bottled water when I go out to socialise and this teetotal lifestyle has cleared my head of a LOT of the paranoid clutter that has lined my cerebellum for years.
What I saw today, in the sobriety of a mind unfettered by paranoia, anxiety and hangover… was that no one I was with today regarded themselves as the centre of attention.
Not the guy who came by unexpectedly. Nor the bloke who lied about leaving. Definitely not the bar owner who had teased us about a surprise guest. And certainly not the mutual friend who was in on it but kept his mouth shut anyway.
Everyone was blown away by what happened and as I left the bar at 4pm to go home, I could hear the laughing and joking behind me for at least two minutes as I walked up the street.
This was (and for the next four days, will be) a joyous event designed to make everybody feel great.
Ego wasn’t present in anyone’s mind during this. It was simply done because all those involved wanted to make their friends feel good.
Today was a good day.