We just returned from vacationing in Greece with my mother in law, Joy, and her husband, Jim.
We had a great time crawling over piles of ancient rocks and soaking up the atmosphere in the cradle of Western Civilization.
And, we learned something about Joy.
If you need someone on your team who can decipher Greek and Roman mythology and the stories of the ancient Greeks, you want Joy. If your need is for someone steeped in British and American literature or European history, you want Joy.
If, however, you need someone to help negotiate a trade deal, Joy will dump you in the grease and here’s how I know.
About a week into our vacation, we traveled across the Peloponnesian peninsula through the Oligyrtos Mountains from Napflion to Ancient Olympia. The road was twisty and narrow and clung to the side of the mountains. It wound through tiny villages, which also clung to the sides of the mountains.
There was a lot of that “clinging to the sides of mountains” stuff involved in our journey.
At one point, a heard of sheep wandered down the slope and across the road, followed by an old shepherd woman dressed in shades of purple holding a plastic grocery bag full of some sort of greens.
While sheep milled about in front of the car, the old woman came up and asked loudly if we wanted to buy her vegetables. At least, that was our assumption as we only had six or seven words of Greek and an old woman shouting in Greek sounds angry. Or, at least, over excited.
My wife rolled down the window to try to better understand but the woman promptly stuffed her hands and head through the window and demanded — something.
Tia offered her a 2-euro coin.
She took it but that wasn’t what she wanted. She pointed vaguely about the interior of the car so Tia figured she wanted our snacks. She refused the frantically-offered dates and the almonds but took my honey-coated cashews.
That wasn’t enough.
About this point Tia realized the old woman peppered her Greek with French and tried to open a dialogue.
Chocolate! That’s what the woman wanted!
Tia said, no — we have no chocolate.
The woman, who still had her gnarled hands inside the car, yelled, “Chocolate, chocolate!” while Tia tried desperately to roll up the window.
“No, no!” she replied. “We don’t have any chocolate!”
Then, from the back seat, Joy piped up, ”Wait! Jim has chocolate! Jim! Jim! Give her your chocolate!”
The bar of milk chocolate was passed to the front seat and into the woman’s hands and she smiled a snaggle-toothed smile … but kept her hands inside the car.
“Germans?” she asked, sounding a bit mollified.
“No,” Tia answered, “Americans.”
This information sent the old woman back into a state and she shouted, “Cigarettes! Cigarettes!”
“No, no, we don’t have any cigarettes!” Jim shouted back while I let my foot off the brake and nosed our rental car into the herd of sheep, which reluctantly parted for us.
The window secured and the shepherd behind us, we sat in stunned silence for a moment.
“You do realize we were just hijacked,” said Tia. And that’s when the laughter began.
We kept it up as we drove out of the mountains in into the valley where the ancient Greeks conducted their track and field events.