A fellow blogger recently listed a few of her favorite things and one of the items, a classic TV sitcom, brought a smile to my face and made me remember one of the most beautiful sounds I’ve ever heard.
It was ’76 and Mrs. C. and I were on a bus riding from Patras to Athens, a journey that didn’t look long on a map but seemed endless on a bus with clucking chickens and grunting pigs. Mrs. C. and I were exhausted when we arrived in downtown Athens a few minutes before ten PM. We had yet to find a place to stay so I told Mrs. C. to keep her eyes on the other passengers so we could follow them to a hotel or pension after I collected our backpacks from the bus driver.
When I returned, she was hopping with excitement. “Look!” she said, her voice thick with excitement. My eyes followed the direction of her trembling finger and I caught my first glimpse of one of the marvels of the world all lit up, the Parthenon atop the Acropolis. We were so absorbed by the spectacle that we didn’t hear the bus pulling away. At exactly ten o’clock the Acropolis winked into darkness, as if someone had flipped off a switch. None of our fellow bus passengers were in sight. At that moment we realized we were the farthest we’d ever been from home, in nearly total darkness with no idea where to go.
Weighed down by our backpacks, we wandered the streets of Athens. Street signs were no help; the language didn’t resemble any of the romance languages we were familiar with (Mrs. C. was marginally competent in French) and the words appeared ridiculously long with an absurd amount of Xs in them. I became alarmed when the streets narrowed and men came out of dark cubicles to stare—not at me but at Mrs. C. She was the only female in sight.
We picked up speed but it hardly mattered since we didn’t have a clue where we were going. Shadows in corners were starting to play on my imagination, as if I required further convincing that I needed to get my wife off the street. And then, wafting through the darkness, we heard the most beautiful sound I’d ever heard, the music of my childhood, a paean to home and safety, more uplifting than Mozart—the musical theme of I Love Lucy. We followed the glorious sound to a dark hotel, pulled open the door and stepped inside.
The room was lit only by the glow of a television. A dozen Greeks were sitting around the TV, pounding their thighs and laughing at Lucy’s rubber face. The dialogue was in English, with Greek translation below. Ricky was saying, “Lucy…Lucy…Lucy! Now that you’ve pulled your sheets together you need to lie between your blankets!” It was hard to imagine how Ricky’s Spanglish could be translated into Greek, but apparently it wasn't a problem.
I dropped my backpack to draw the proprietor’s attention and dozens of eyes, lit by the eerie blue of the TV, turned in our direction. My voice probably cracked when I said, “We’re looking for a room. Do you have any available?”
A man came forward, reached for a key on a wall and handed it to me. He pointed at stairs. I thanked him and he went back to the TV. I think Lucy had a loving cup stuck on her head.
We climbed five flights of stairs in the dark and found a door with a lock that fit our
key. Inside was a moderately clean room with a comfortable-looking bed. We dropped on it in exhaustion.
The next morning as Ms. C. lay in bed I opened my eyes to dazzling Greek light flooding through glass doors leading to a small balcony. I rubbed my eyes, ambled to the balcony and saw a forest of TV antennas. I glanced higher, and rising above the antennas was the Parthenon, the goal of our journey. As I stared at this architectural wonder I could hear my wife’s gentle breathing over on the bed, but it was the sounds of I Love Lucy playing in my head.