|There are a lot of buses in Athens like in most other capital cities in the world. In Athens, they are blue or the newest ones, white and green. But, there is one that is different. Bus No140 is an ancient bus still on duty, as well as an urban legend. The legend questions the route of the bus, which is, well, pointless. It also questions, the age of the bus, and why hasn’t It been removed from service for over 40 years. I know the truth, and I am going to share it with you now; so you know, the next time you travel to Athens, what to really look for. |
Early, on a Monday morning, I was waiting at the bus station in Polygono, a hilled neighborhood near the center.
I could feel a slight morning breeze, but it was June so I was wearing just a T-shirt. As I waited for about 10 minutes, I heard the instantly recognizable sound of a Greek bus. A Loud roaring sound, alternating between howling, rattling and idling. I saw the bus approaching, and when it stopped and the doors opened, I hurried to get inside and get a nice seat in the back. After I get comfortable, I pulled out my mp4 with my earphones, put them on, and enjoyed the music while looking out of the window.
I had a long ride ahead, to be exact, 88 stops. So I just sat there and watched. As the stops passed, until around 8:30 am, I saw well-dressed people holding briefcases and going to work. They did not stay on the bus for long, and soon I got a bit bored watching them, so I looked at the driver. He looked like an apparently very old man, with a gray brawn beard and almost bald head, except some white hair on his ears. He had colored rubber bunds on his beard, and wore a very old and definitely outdated bus driver’s shirt, with a huge coffee stain. After 9 am, the people had gone to work, and the only few passengers were either late to their job or homeless people staying a bit in the bus with the air condition, to escape the heat. After 10 am, the bus filled with lawyers and generally people that were travelling either to get coffee for coworkers or to catch a meeting. Around 12, people with a midday break were taking the bus, holding cheesepies, or wrappers and meat skewers. These people often used their cellphones to speak with their mom, wife or kids. An hour after, at 1:00 pm, a lot of high-school kids started showing up, tired of the day at school, listening to music and waiting to get home and eat. After that hour, the bus went quiet, except the small waves of the employees having finished their shift and going home with the largest wave being the one at 5 pm.
During the hour after, the bus was silent as a grave, so, the driver spoke for the first time “Where are you going mate? You have been here since the morning”. “I am going to Glyfada” I replied. “Well,” the driver commented, “I could leave you right here, and you could take the bus that will take you there in 30 minutes, not another 4 hours.”. “I am sorry, but I don’t have the money for another ticket” I said as an excuse. “I can give you five bucks there is no problem in that. When I stop next, get down, go to the next street left, there you will find the next bus station”. It must be noted that this is extremely unusual, no, actually that never happens. Now, I wanted to stay on for the ride even more, so I decided to be honest. “I actually want to stay for the ride”. The driver looked back in my eyes, and said “are you sure?”. Of course I replied in the affirmative. The driver looked towards the front again, and said with a slow and quite, but steady voice, ”enjoy the ride then”.
At 6 pm, people that were going on summer night clubs on the beach, to night dive in the sea, or a beach party, started flowing in. The smell of expensive parfum filled the bus. The people were wearing swimsuit Bermudas with a cheap T- shirt above. Those came and left until 9 pm. The sun started diving in the sea, and the place grew darker. Now we were on the road at the side of the beach. Golden light from the sunset made the sand shiny, and as the bus went on farther from the city, buildings started getting rarer and all you could see on the right was the sea, the golden sand of the beach, the dry cracked road, and the arid earth lacking any vegetation except some bushes on the left. Those moments are where the true magic is.
The bus was empty, except for me and the driver. “How was the ride then?” Asked the driver. “Magnificent till now,” I replied. “ But unfortunately it’s ending” I said. The driver laughed so hard he almost choked and lost control. “yes, but now is the coolest part he said”. I looked at him, and then he told me “I am going to show something to you now, are you ready?”. It is almost 10 pm now, 9.59 to be exact. “For what?” I inquired. The driver did not reply, but instead, he sped up until the point where the engine could not take it. “Where do you live?” he asked and then added “I will suggest you reply quickly”. “Why?” I asked. “I like you very much, and to thank you for keeping me company today, I will give you two free rides, one today, and one when you need it most. Without knowing why, I replied “Agia Paraskevi”. That is a suburb quite far away from the sea. The driver looked at me with a huge smile and said “wise choice”. Then he turned the bus to the sea, the tires screeched, and gravity was lost for a split second, before the bus landed on the water. I thought I would die, but then I felt an overwhelming heat, and suddenly, the bus was unharmed , sitting still in front of my house. “Cool huh?” said the driver. “Go now, I have to be in Polygono at 6 am, and it is already 4:30 am. ”How did so many hours pass? It was only 10 pm when you…Wait, how are we even here?”. “Poseidon gave us a hand, but teleportation trough water is time consuming” explained the driver. “But I” tried to say. “Go now I don’t have all day” the driver interrupted my questions. “Thank you” I said, and got down from the bus. And as I saw it leave, I thought to myself ‘wow I have to write about that’.
So here we are. Now that you know the truth, it is your choice to take the bus or not.
Note to readers: Bus 140 really exists, and is really the stuff of legends, mostly because it makes a round trip, has too many stops and follows a convoluted route, not to mention that it seldom is on time.