Friday, October 25, 2013

The Quest for Skye: Chapter 16

Recap: Several months after their last contact with Skye, the Hamiltons are visited by a famous tennis player who is for some reason delivering messages from a law firm in Greece that gives them each a plane ticket and a $5,000 check with the condition that they need to be in Athens by 9:00 Monday morning. The tennis player won't tell them any more. MYSTERY.

The Hamiltons get to Greece Sunday afternoon, and spend the entire plane ride wondering what's going on (as would I).
Fortunately, a few of their questions were answered quickly when two skycaps picked up their luggage and took it to a waiting limo, then ushered them to the same vehicle.
Except, as you continue to read, none of their questions are answered, unless their major question was "Are there hotels in Athens and will we be able to stay in one?" All the driver says is that he's taking them to a hotel, and that he doesn't know anything more to tell them.

They pass a neighborhood where apparently everything has been set on fire. The driver explains that this is... the work of protesters who are mad that the government has been cutting back on government programs? It's all a little hazy in his explanation, and I don't know enough about the economic state of Greece to comment for sure, but surely there weren't that many instance of protesters setting entire neighborhoods on fire because they were upset with this...?
“Our country has problems, too,” Tammy responded with a combination of bitterness and sarcasm.

The sentence by itself could be a sympathetic one, albeit condescending phrasing, but with "bitterness and sarcasm," it gets ridiculous and dismissive and awful and essentially says, "Stop talking about your problems! Let's talk about MINE! Which, as bad they are, do not consist of setting entire neighborhoods on fire in protest."

Gah, I hate the Hamiltons.

The driver's response is super entertaining, though:
“I suspect the entire world is on edge. All of us are going to have to sacrifice a little here and there to work this out. Trouble is most people don’t want to give up their things or wants. They feel they’re entitled to them.”
"Hint, hint. Take THAT, you awful American woman."

That does, however, shut her up for the rest of the drive until they get to the hotel.
As they entered the lobby, they immediately noticed the hi-tech features.
The "hi-tech features" are TVs with stock market and financial news on them. Also, a coffee shop. This completely overwhelms the Hamiltons:
 “Wow!” Tammy said. “I’ve never seen anything like this. I feel out of place.”
They just got off a luxury cruise, for Pete's sake. They should not be completely blown away by a couple TVs, a coffee shop, and some people in business suits. They see a famous actor across the room, and for some reason his bodyguards glare at Morgan and Tammy. This leads to Morgan whining all the way to the elevator about how out-of-place he feels. Then he whines to the bellhop in the elevator, who gives him some weird consolation:
“A little overwhelming, isn’t it?” 
“To say the least,” Tammy agreed. 
“Put yourself in our shoes. We put up with this every day.” The man chuckled cynically.
...So he is overwhelmed every day? And this makes him cynical? Doesn't he ever get used to it? Shouldn't he be praising his hotel instead of deprecating it for some reason? And I'm STILL not sure what's so overwhelming about this hotel. Can the bellhop really not get used to the TVs, the coffee shop, and the occasional celebrity? If not, why is he cynical about it? Are we supposed to dislike and mistrust this place? I DON'T KNOW WHAT'S GOING ON.

Morgan and Tammy get to their room, complain more about being overwhelmed, and then decide to go get food, where finally we get some answers. The waiter tells them that Doctor Layland Leontiou owns the hotel, and then Lance the Tennis Player shows up out of nowhere and tells them that they'll be taken to Doctor L. L.'s island the next morning because he needs their help.
Lance continued, “Everything you do here is paid in full, but please don’t ask questions.”
...Well, that's ominous. Doctor L. L. might be part of the mob. That would be a fun twist.

He tells them they're meeting the lawyer on the island because it's "safer," asks them not to talk to the reporters in the corner (who I'm SURE are there with the sole interest of asking a couple of random Minnesota doctors if they're overwhelmed by the hotel), and then asks Morgan to play a game of tennis with him sometime.

Lance the Tennis Player reveals that they are going to get to see Skye again:
Laskari grinned. “She’s looking forward to that more than anything. She has told me about her adventures with you. She’s very fond of both of you. Now, enjoy your dinner. Oh, another thing, Skye’s right.” 
“What’s that?” 
“Doctors are not hunks,” he chuckled. 
“Oh, great! I’ll never live that down.”

The reporters do indeed approach them as soon as Lance the Tennis Player leaves, though I have no idea why:
“We know who you are, but we don’t know why you’re here. Could you shed some light on the subject?” 
Morgan shook the man’s hand, uncertain how to respond. Even he didn’t know why he was there.
1) These Greek reporters recognize by sight two random doctors from Minnesota whose only claim to fame is that one of them (maybe both, I can't remember) published a journal article once about why rare childhood diseases are bad?

2) They also suck at reporting. This approach is practically an interrogation. They're never going to get anywhere with celebrities if they ask them questions like that.

3) Morgan, you're an idiot. Lance TOLD you to just tell them you were on vacation. How about you go with the convenient excuse given to you? No? Too complicated? Well, you're right, awkward silence ought to be enough to convince them there's nothing weird going on here.

The reporters tell him that it's REALLY REALLY IMPORTANT that the Hamiltons confess why they're here, because there are rumors that a few weeks ago, the Leontious and Skye were all killed in an accident. Though, of course, that does affect the Hamiltons, the reporters have no way of knowing this, making me think they're just going around interrogating everyone they see in the Leontious' celebrity hotel and asking them if they know about the accident. Weeks and weeks after the fact.

Worst. Reporters. Ever.

Whoa. And then we get some sudden and bizarre moralizing, after the reporters say that if Doctor L. L. is dead, Greece will pretty much collapse because he's the only thing holding it together apparently.
Klitou’s eyes were coldly intense. “My job is to report the news, not to create it.” 
“I disagree with you,” Morgan said. “I don’t deal in politics, but I believe the problems of every country are politically motivated. Most newspapers are biased. They either lean toward the left, or the right. They’re not interested in the true news. They are interested in ‘their’ news. In other words, only the news that fits their beliefs, or supports their agenda. My wife and I are interested in one thing. Saving lives.”
Well. Okay. That was a really long speech full of principles when he could just be like, "I'm not talking to you. Bye." I wonder if this deeply-held belief that "the problems of every country are politically motivated" (um... duh) is going to come up in the future, or if J.L. Rothdiener was just writing this section and suddenly thought, "Ya know what I hate? NEWSPAPER BIAS!" and decided to rant about it for a bit.

Morgan and Tammy speculate as to whether Skye is alive (with very little emotional reaction, for some reason) and then decide to go to bed so tomorrow will be here faster.

All right, guys. Is Skye dead or alive? My money's on alive but her parents are dead. Or maybe just Malinda. SOMEONE has to be dead, and, unfortunately, I don't think it's Skye.

(Chapter 17.)

1 comment:

  1. The key to this scene is to understand what has been taking place in Greece the last few years. Just Google "Golden Dawn", but be prepared to be disgusted and infuriated. How and why it has been kept so quiet in the American press, I don't even begin to understand, but you're not alone in not having any idea what's been going on there.

    The Greeks responded to the 2008 meltdown by doing what many conservatives across the world tried to do: they implemented austerity measures, only theirs were by far the harshest of any country. Instead of stabilizing the economy, though, what they discovered is what no conservative wants to accept, and that's that not offering assistance to poor people doesn't make them not poor anymore. They're still there, and they still need help. Rioting has been prolific, and the Golden Dawn movement emerged amid the turmoil to take the lead...which wouldn't be so bad, if not for the fact they're a lot of neo-Nazi thugs. Several key members of the Greek parliament were just arrested a few weeks ago in relation to some horrific Golden Dawn activities. Imagine if the Tea Party openly behaved as the Ku Klux Klan, and both tried to kill the government AND conduct lynchings and you have an idea what's been going on in Greece.

    It's especially troubling, then, that Rothdiener would even dabble in this as a backdrop for his work of fiction. There's a clear condescension toward the troubles of Greece, an attitude that "We've all got troubles, get over yours". You already know what I think of that mindset, but it's particularly obnoxious in this specific context because he clearly doesn't have a meaningful understanding of, or appreciation for, the situation there. He just wanted to seem topical or relevant or whatever, but then rejects even exploring the nature of those problems by having the driver remark about "entitlements" and concluding with Morgan trying to claim some kind of rising-above-it apolitical high ground.