Some people love to drive. I am one of them. Trouble is nobody else seems that thrilled by my enthusiasm. Five people getting into a car? I usually find myself in the back, in the middle. To be fair, I am usually the shortest and as long as they don’t strap me into the booster seat I really don’t mind.
Two people getting into a car? Well, then I am told that it would be a terrible waste of my skills as a DJ if I were to get stuck driving. “No,” people insist, “you should be in charge of the music.” Momentarily bamboozled by their flattery, I leap into the passenger seat, only to discover some 30 minutes later that the driver has rejected my Shazamed list of Lebanese pop songs, been startled by me singing along with Joni Mitchell, and taken back control of the music (my singing voice is so bad that one friend had to pull off the road and park when he got possessed by crazy laughter following my take on “A Windmill in old Amsterdam”).
The thing is, I think I am a good driver but others claim that I look distracted, take too much interest in passing landmarks and attractive people and, yes, try to be both DJ and driver. On the rare occasions that my partner agrees to sit in the passenger seat, I am subjected to his foot jabbing a non-existent brake and chants of “CAR, CAR, CAR!” if I get even moderately close to a moving vehicle.
But come summer, and come Greece, and I am a free man. While the thought never crosses my mind in any other nation, Greece for me means scooter time. As soon as I arrive I head to the nearest hire shop and select a beast for the week. When I say beast, we’re talking 150CC. Powerful enough to get you back up the hill after eating a roof-tile of feta, not powerful enough to merit even a pootle-on part in Easy Rider.
The first time I hired a scooter, I managed to hit a wall leaving the rental office’s parking lot but wobbled off and away without even a backward glance. And since then there have been no calamities – perhaps a grazed toe – and just a two-wheeled love affair.
Although I understand it comes with risks. One year I had to go to the hospital dispensary in Mykonos (I’ll spare you the details until you’ve finished your eggs) and the waiting room looked like it was filled with extras for a zombie movie with youths from around the world sporting Egyptian-mummy style bandaging. There was blood. There was wailing.
Over the years friends have upgraded to Jeeps and all manner of flashy buggies but I have stayed loyal to my scooter habit. There is something about revving up in the morning and making a leisurely drive to your beach of choice that’s liberating (especially on Greek islands where the number of taxis has not increased since 1908). And coming back at the end of the day, hot skin is soothed by the wind. Bliss. So when people get giddy about the future of mobility and flying taxis and autonomous vehicles, I remain both sceptical (let’s see how many of either are welcomed in Mykonos) and anxious (please don’t take my scooter away).
This year there was also a moment of delicious revenge. On the way back from the beach my partner and I stopped for a sundowner with friends and in our haste to get there neglected to refill the tanks with fuel. As we left in the dark his scooter forlornly spluttered to an exhausted halt and so the only option was to abandon it until the morning and for me to let him ride pillion back to the hotel.
As I sped away along the twisting treacherous roads, I thought I heard a high-pitched squealing voice shouting something like “CAR, CAR, CAR!”. I decided it must be the wind playing tricks. And anyway, I was too busy singing Joni Mitchell to take any notice.