I walked into the deserted Zaga Beach Restaurant in Koroni, Greece. The taverna was dark—coming in from the bright sun it took a few minutes for my eyes to adjust. When they did, I saw a young woman sitting in the back sipping a latte and reading her Smartphone. I approached her. “Kalimera (good morning)…excuse me…are you open for breakfast yet? The owner told me yesterday that you open at 8:30. Thirty-ish with streaked blond hair, she looked tired, not quite awake. Flustered, in accented English, she said: “ah…yes, yes, one moment”.
She went into the kitchen and returned with a menu.
“Thanks, we’re going to be a party of six, we’re bicycling so we want to get an early start…our friends will be here at nine…right now it’s just my husband and me…could we get one coffee and one tea?”
“Black tea and regular coffee”
I sat down at a table for six, at the front of the restaurant, closest to the beach looking over the hazy morning Messinia Bay and up at the Church of St. Eleistria above the beach as the rising sun illuminated it. There was still a chill in the air.
The young woman came to the table without our hot drinks she showed me a menu. “What kind of coffee? “You see in Greece we don’t have regular coffee,” pointing at the menu she said “See, Greek coffee, espresso, Nescafe, latte, filtered coffee… you need to choose.”
“Filtered.” I replied, knowing that my coffee drinking friends weren’t enamored with the thick Greek coffee or Nescafe. My husband, Rich joined me. The waitress brought our tea and coffee and said she’d bring more coffee when our friends arrived. We chatted. Her English was excellent.
“Where are you from?” She asked.
“The U.S. in Virginia, near Washington DC”
She knew her geography. She asked about our ride.
“Where are you going?”
“Oh, Oh, lots of hills.”
She was curious, where else had we cycled, why we had chosen to ride here, and how did we plan it from the U.S. We asked where she was from.
“I’m from Kardista.” She found it on the map Rich had spread out on the table, she pointed to it…north of Athens.
“See it is flat, that’s where you should be riding!”
We arranged with our friends to meet at the taverna at 9:00 AM, bikes packed and ready to go. Rich and I were up early, worried about how we were going to get up the incredibly steep hill to start our ride to Pylos. The others arrived right on time. Our server brought them menus and told us what they didn’t have…“no croissants, no yogurt” and what they did have…“toast, eggs, omelets”. At previous stops, breakfast was included in the hotels where we stayed, usually a buffet featuring cold eggs, cheese, fruit, yogurt, tomatoes, olives and breads. The Greeks didn’t seem to care much about whether the food was hot or cold.
The idea of a freshly prepared omelet appealed. One by one we ordered with some specificity and variation…ham, bacon, peppers, onions, mushrooms…no ham or bacon for the vegetarians…“ please make sure of that”. Each ordered drinks, coffees (filtered and lattes), tea, juices. We chattered away and eventually she returned with our omelets…slowly, one at a time.
Others complained that they didn’t have wifi in their hotel rooms…we did. They were anxious to get online to catch up with family and news. Gary asked her: “What’s the wifi password?” “I think it’s 5555” He tried it. “No, that doesn’t work.” “OK, let me check.” She walked away and returned a few minutes later…”OK, it’s 2222…I just called the owner, they changed it”.
After we were all served, she lingered a bit, asking more questions about our trip and the U.S. She chastised the vegetarians and told them they should have had meat in their omelets, they needed more protein for the hilly ride ahead. Again, she told us that we should be riding in the valley where she was from. She showed everyone on the map where she came from…“See no mountains there!”
We laughed and I said “Thank you so much…you’ve been so kind and helpful” Thinking—despite all our questions and requests.
The young woman smiled. “Oh that’s not a problem…but actually…I don’t work here” She pulled out the lanyard around her neck, showed us the whistle at its end.
“I’m a physical education teacher at the primary school up the road–I just stopped here for my morning coffee.”
“Oh my gosh…I’m so sorry, I thought you were the waitress”.
“Not a problem…the cook doesn’t speak English. I was just helping out. I’m friends with the owner”
She handed us the bill and walked away. Laughing at ourselves, embarrassed, we wanted to leave her a large tip. Before we could get our credit cards out, we heard a car start and watched her drive out of the parking lot in her little red car. Tooting the horn, she smiled and waved.
This was originally written May 2016 responding to prompt: Mistaken Identity. It was revised on May 10, 2017