• by XpatAthens
  • Thursday, 05 February 2015
Greek Donkeys

Maybe I'm way behind the times, maybe I walk around in a daze most days, maybe as a 'non-driver by choice' I simply miss these things... Outside my front door there is always a tightly packed line of cars, parked nose to tail, on both sides of the street. It is notoriously difficult to find parking in the Thiseio neighbourhood, especially on weekends. So finding a spot is a real coup and brings instant joy to the winner.

Of course, we have also all seen the utter creativity of Athenian drivers, in making their Renaults fit in the most awkward of spaces, or in discovering space where I am fairly sure there was no space before. Thus, when I returned from a leisurely coffee on Saturday afternoon, I was not so shocked to find a little grey Toyota sticking out diagonally from the corner, having parked nose-first up on the curb, blocking the sidewalk completely, blocking the other cars from leaving, and generally proving the miraculous skill and total arrogance of certain drivers. It was also bold to the point of offense, and (I assume) completely illegal.

Here comes the good part: on the front windshield someone had stuck a bright orange sticker that read in Greek 'Είμαι γάϊδαρος! Παρκάρω όπου γουστάρω' ('Ι am a donkey (read: jack*ss), Ι park wherever Ι please') - with a cartoon drawing of a smiling donkey sitting in a car.

This brought a huge smile to my face! Finally someone taking action against parking hoodlums, someone saying exactly what we are all thinking, in bold neon orange.

In this city of seemingly low accountability and precious few consequences (especially concerning cars and parking), this 'sticker shaming' movement is better than the alternative - the alternative being 'nothing'. So I snapped a photo and posted it to my Facebook. A couple hours later, the car was gone and the sticker was not thrown on the ground, as I had expected it would be. I'm hoping the driver got the message and perhaps was showing the sticker to his/her friends... Who am I kidding, he probably didn't even notice it on the windshield...

I'm not sure if this 'public ridicule' works, nor how widespread this practice is in Athens. Something tells me that 'public shaming' actually has an an effect in this culture - but if so, then maybe an orange sticker doesn't go far enough....

I'm less interested in the outcome (the 'driver'), than in the original action (the 'stick-er'). In an economic and social climate where the state does not/cannot take effective action on all fronts, this is a sign of thinking outside the box, of an 'entrepreneurial' mindset, of making change from the bottom-up, of creative protest, without violence or extremes. It is really a small action in the grand scheme of change, but it's different than what came before and I think its great.

So fair warning: if you are looking for parking in Athens, be careful how creative you are, lest you be stuck with a jack*ss on your windshield.

Until next week,


In this weekly space, keep up with ‘Jack’ as he navigates daily life in Athens… Anecdotes, stories, hits & misses, the good, the bad and, well, the rest…