THROUGH PIER 21 – How Tom Came Home - Alcyonenews

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Posted June 28, 2024

THROUGH PIER 21 – How Tom Came Home

It was back in 1957 that I gave a ride to a couple of Canadians who had missed the bus after visiting the Oracle of Delphi and needed a ride to Levadia where they were lodged. They were teachers, they told me and I told them that I was a newly hatched civil engineer.  Evidently I had pressed the button to the teacher persona and had invited unexpected, fee free,  career advice. Being an engineer, they told me, I should practice in Canada, a country in the process of building itself.

I much enjoyed their company but I took in little of their advice; – demand for engineers was  acute in post WWII  Europe and I was already doing well in my profession.  

A couple of weeks later, as I was walking on Solon Street in Athens I noticed the  Canadian Consulate shield on the building I was walking by. It reminded me of the career lecturing I was given by  the Canadian teachers and since the Consulate door was wide open, I walked in. It was an elongated room, divided by a reception counter. Behind it was a “local” woman and further back, behind her, near the end wall was a man working at a desk.  
I told the receptionist that I was considering going to Canada and I would like an application form. To my surprise she told me that they were already loaded with applications and if I wanted to apply,   I must come back in a few months.

As she was talking, my eyes landed on a poster on the  wall, near the gentleman’s desk. It was a RCAF poster, a simple one: The body of the poster was an expanse of bright blue sky. Immediately under  the top margin was an F-86 Sabre (I think it was) fighter jet in flight – that was all there was in that otherwise empty sky. At the bottom of the poster was the RCAF logo and a one-line caption explaining matters to the onlooker: “We fight to stay on top”, the caption read.

The poster hit me hard. It was like the pilot had fired a missile into my brain. The impact was a big blast.

Upon regaining consciousness (Canadian Air Farce phrase), I told the receptionist that I would like to see the Consul. The receptionist said I cannot do that. With my eyes fixed on the poster, I said I need to see the Consul. The sequence being repeated a few times, each one a note higher than the previous. The gentleman at the desk got up and came to the counter to investigate the incident. In English he inquired what the kerfuffle was about and the receptionist told him: “This man wants to file an application to go to Canada”, she said. I interjected, in English, to the surprise of both, negating that assertion in no uncertain terms.  “I want to talk with the Consul”, I kept on repeating.

The peace-maker Officer picked up a phone and talked to someone. Then he told the receptionist to take me to the Consul. She and I climbed up a flight of stairs and she opened the door to an office. The Consul was sitting at his desk facing us.  I did not move further – standing at the door I asked the Consul   a simple question: “Good Morning Sir, would you please tell me why I cannot file an application to go to Canada?”

There was a silence, a pause, for how long I cannot say. Then the Consul answered me with a question and a greeting in that order:

“When would you like to leave for Canada?  –  Good Morning!”

He showed me to a seat and told the receptionist  that I was the “very kind of person they wanted in Canada”.

That was it.  He blew away the dust of doubt hovering in my cranium after the poster impact. That very moment, he and the poster had made the young man I then was a Canadian.  Appreciative of being so warmly accepted, proud to be in the company of people who fight to “stay on top”, exactly as Aristotle directed we all forever do.

The Consul and I had a long lunch together that day, talking about Canada. A couple of months later I sailed the Atlantic on board the S/S Saturnia and came through Pier 21 to be with those who fight to stay on top. I had already earned my spurs and I felt at home.
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