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If you want to get on in Athens, steal a waiter uniform

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The Greeks drove me to it. Last night, under the cover of conference quietness, I sneaked into the Apollon hotel store room and stole a waiter uniform. I’m not proud of it, but I am proudly wearing it today one for simple reason - I want my own coffee and water, and I don't want to have to wait 10 minutes for it to be served to me.

It's amazing quite how much animosity a Greek waiter in a posh five-star hotel can portray with his eyes but I was at then end of a full blast when, already late for a workshop, I circumvented the sophisticated system of standing in a three-people-deep scrum waving empty coffee cups, by trying to reach around and fill up the cup myself. I thought that since he was pouring a water at the other end of his domain, he wouldn’t notice or care. Not to be.

Greek service continues to befaddle me. Getting the bill takes longer than cooking the food. And despite the express promises of the hosts that they would make quick grab-food like fruit and sandwiches available for busy delegates - you have no choice if you want food than to sit down to a restaurant meal.

It's become treasured knowledge that the bar (and restaurant on the first floor) of the hotel opposite - the Amarilla - serves food fast. So yesterday a secretive stream of conference folk legged it across the road, braving the rain in order to be able to eat before they had to head back in to a meeting. It's a serious problem: I literally did not eat anything from 8am to 8pm on Monday because I didn't have an hour to spare during the day. On the Sunday, I didn't eat lunch until 4pm.

Cranky

I also know for a fact that a much commented-upon put-down by a panelist earlier this week was because they hadn’t eaten and felt cranky. After they had eaten, this person proceeded to apologise for the remark to anyone that asked why they had said it. I found out because I was planning to highlight the comment in an article. Having suffered the pangs of hunger the same day, I have self-censored myself.

You want a conspiracy theory? The club sandwiches in the main hotel bar area - the fastest food in the hotel with an average 20-minute service (minimum time with scoffing: 45 minutes) - cost 15 euros. Yes, 15 euros. And you can’t even grab it - it has to be held on a plate, speared with a toothpick in a desperately effort to hold it together. Take that pick out and you can add another five minutes.

Why the obsession with time? Because at any given time, there are three workshops going on and a main session. There is one gap for half-an-hour between 1pm and 1.30pm but apart from that it is straight through from 9.30am through to 7pm. Because there are four things going on, you are forced to make snap decisions - and then, having sat in one workshop for 15 minutes and realising you have probably chosen the dullest of the four, you then have to up and leave and try your luck elsewhere.

I can go on and on like this, typing away while words drip in my ears but it might be useful to do what every meeting needs to do: be punchy.

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