When I entered the police station the second time, there were less people. I recognized 5 faces from earlier. They were waiting for something apparently. The officer whom I had spoken to before smiled politely and knowingly. He must have seen it a thousand times. When it was my turn I paid the €196,5 and I got a receipt for it. With that and the copy of the ticket I was still holding I was to go to another counter. The officer there told me to go get a “paravolo” across the street. It’s a kind of deposit fee, as far as I understood. It would cost 1 euro. The mystery of the 1 euro at long last resolved! Only the woman behind the counter of the copy shop — that’s were these “paravolo’s” were sold — wanted €1,20 in exchange for the note with the appearance and the size of a cheque and showing in BIG GOLDEN LETTERS: €1. I suppressed a violent urge to hurt somebody. Nobody in particular. Just anybody, as long as he or she was Greek and was out to get me. Instead I paid €1,20 and left the shop.
I entered the police station for the third time. I noticed there were a few more people idling in corners and alongside the walls, waiting for something to happen. It had a bit of the atmosphere I once saw in a movie which was set in a dictatorial banana republic with people with sweat stained shirts smoking and looking dirty, pacing angrily like caged animals, kicking a chair every now and then. But there was no chair kicking and it wasn’t nearly so hot as in that movie. Come to think of it, nobody had sweat stains on their shirt either. I presented the “paravolo” to the officer who filled it out. I then signed and he wanted to take my other documents, the receipt for €196,5 and the copy of the ticket. When I said that I wanted to keep those as proof, he gave me a dirty look and answered that he needed them if I wanted my license plates back. I told him to wait, went back outside to the copy shop and asked them to make a copy of the 2 documents. Since they were perfect size A5 (for you metric-challenged, that’s exactly half a A4, comparable but slightly different to the US letter format) I asked to put the 2 on one page. I wasn’t even thinking about the cost, it’s just my seeking perfection in little things, a sometimes annoying streak, I admit. The guy said they were too big to fit together on a single page. I was convinced they were not, but I kept my mouth shut. The Boudha would have been so proud of me. With the 2 copies for €0,10 and the originals I entered the police station again and handed the originals over to the police officers. He told me to wait and pointed vaguely in the direction where the others were hanging around.
Half an hour later a big fat sweating and heavily breathing police man came in and unlocked a door in one of the walls. That’s were the plates were kept. The officer who hand handled my case went in and started calling out the names of the rightful owners of the plates. There were 9 before me. When it was my turn and he handed me the plates he mumbled a vague “I’m sorry” without looking at me. “Don’t worry”, I told him, “this will make an excellent story for the internet”. He looked scared at me. “I won’t mention your name” I added and he gave me a grateful smile. “Kalo taxidi”, have a nice journey, he shouted when I left the room.