Friday – September 30, 2011 –
After leaving Atlanta last night, I slept during most of my Air France flight before waking up over the English Channel Islands of Guernsey and Jersey outside my window. I enjoyed a delicious breakfast of eggs, ham and baguettes – this was Air France, afterall – before we arrived not long afterwards in Paris. We flew over the City of Lights, with beautiful views of the Champs E’Lyses, Eiffel Tour and the Arc de Triumph.
Shortly afterwards, we landed at Charles de Gaulle, Paris’ main international airport around 14:00. Then I went through customs and had my passport stamped, which is always pretty painless at Charles de Gaulle. I headed to my gate where I met up with Mom, Dad and Jeff as we waited on our connecting flights. My flight would put me in about three hours earlier because I risked a closer connection. Around 16:00 p.m., my plane left for Greece. The views today over the Alps were spectacular as I ate my lunch. About 20:00 p.m., I landed at Athens’ Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport. After collecting my luggage, I took the fast and clean Athens metro to the Sygrou-Fix station in the Ledra neighborhood. From there I walked about 15 minutes to the Marriott Ledra, which Jeff had booked for the night.
After checking into my room, I relaxed on my bed and watched a little Greek television for a while. The jet lag caught up with me and I drifted off to sleep. But the night was about to get very interesting and take a bizarre turn!
Around midnight, I heard the door open. Jeff walked in and I said hello, halfway asleep. Then I heard him say, “you have to get up and check out this view!” Jeff had book this nice room with a balcony and he was out on in checking out the city.
I woke up and joined him on our sixth floor balcony. As I looked down the street, on a hill I could see the beautifully illuminated Parthenon ruling over Ledra from it dramatic perch atop the Acropolis. I never anticipated that I would see the Acropolis like this at night. What a stunning sight!
As I took photos and video, Jeff walked inside to get his camera. I was transfixed on the view when I heard Jeff say “uh oh” after he closed the sliding door behind us. I turned around to see him struggling in vain to open the door. We were locked out on our own balcony six floors up!
Neither one of us had our cell phones on us, and although there were people below, they were not paying attention to us and could not here us even when we hollered down in English below. The traffic noise on bustling Syngrou Avenue below simply drowned out our calls. We looked around us. Mom and Dad had a room two stories down and to the right. We called out to Dad, but even if he were out there, he could not hear us. We even tried the credit card trick to open the lock, but I simply destroyed one of my cards!
After about 45 minutes out on the balcony, we carefully assessed our hopeless situation. Going up or down was simply too dangerous and not an option. The room to our left seemed to have no lights on, but the one to the right seem to have lights on. I called to the right, but nobody answered. We decided with proper caution, one of us might be able to cross the wall/balcony between our room and our neighbor to the right. The wall was not completely vertical, but slanted back from the ledge at about a 110-degree angle. I assessed the situation and decided it could be safe if we took precautions. I told Jeff I would do it because I knew he was afraid of heights. I told him to support me as I prepared to go.
As I stepped over the side, I bear hugged the wall and Jeff held me in place for extra security. After I had one leg over, I lunged into the balcony as Jeff supported me. I had made it, but now was the tricky part. Now I had to knock on the glass and I was prepared that this might scare someone pretty badly. As I walked up to the glass. I noticed the blinds were half open to the left and the door was ajar to the right. Jeff asked, “what do you see?” At first I saw a desk fired up with a MacBook Pro and Nikes and clothing lying the floor. Then I saw the bed, with what appeared to be an America laying on his stomach dress only in underwear facing away from the window. Small bottles of whiskey and vodka littered the floor. I knew by his appearance that he was out of it. But the question was how wasted was he? I didn’t want to take a chance on a fight and him think I was an intruder.
I told Jeff about the situation and he couldn’t believe it. He said, “why don’t you knock on the glass.” I started knocking gently and asking, “Sir, can you help us?” No response. I started knocking louder and again, no response. I did this for about a minute, and nothing. After banging loudly on the window with my fists, he slightly moved his head, but not really any acknowledgement.
I told Jeff the door was cracked and I thought I could may go all the way through the room and exit. Jeff laughed, but I said I needed to be careful. If he heard a fight, just stay put because I could take care of myself. I told him I would back to our room in a few minutes to let him out.
Then it was time to take the leap of faith. I opened the door quietly. The guy never moved. I sneaked across the room on my tip toes, constantly looking behind me. I made it to the door and quietly closed it. I made it all the way undetected!
Then I went down stairs and told the receptionist that my brother had locked himself outside on the balcony. The problem was he put the chain on the door. To my surprise, the Greek receptionist said he would send someone up with bolt cutters. What kind of Marriott has bolt cutters? I waited on the guy to come up and happened to see Dad in the lobby. He finally understood why we weren’t returning their calls. I told him the story on the way to my room.
As we waited outside, the serviceman arrived with bolt cutters. He said in English, “don’t worry, it happens all the time!” Wow, what a crazy first night in Athens. This might have been my best travel mishap ever – better than going to a Cambodian Hospital to receive stitches in my head!