Sunday 16 September 2007


On the windowsill in our room in the Sofitel Hotel, Athens, there was a potted succulent and an ash-tray...

And in the ashtray, was a card with this message...

I didn't need to try and make sense of this little absurdity because I was already acquainted with this piece of Greek logic through the experience of my friend, Andy Stokes, who is a smoker and who had encountered something similar on a Greek ferry earlier this year.

Andy takes up the tale...
When we got to our cabin I noticed there was an ashtray on the table, however there was a large red no-smoking sign actually printed on the ashtray. I was totally confused – they had supplied an ashtray suggesting that smoking was permitted in the cabin but there was a no-smoking sign indicating that it was not. If they did not want you to smoke then surely they would not have provided an ashtray and the no-smoking sign would have been on the door or on the wall. If they did allow you to smoke why have a no-smoking sign???

Curiosity got the better of me and I went to the information desk. This is the conversation - verbatim - between the clerk and me:

Me: I have an ashtray in my cabin which has a no-smoking sign printed on it.

Clerk: Yes

Me: Well, does that mean that I can smoke or not?

Clerk: Yes, you can smoke in your cabin if you wish.

Me: So why does the ashtray have a no-smoking sign?

Clerk: Ah, that is there for people who choose not to smoke.

Sometimes people say things that stop you dead in your tracks and you are unable to come up with an answer. This was one of them. The logical extension to his argument was that the no-smoking sign on the ashtray was necessary otherwise non-smokers might feel obliged to start smoking just because an ashtray had been provided.
Whilst it was probably the Greeks who invented logic, as David pointed out to me the other day (when faced with some equally illogical piece of thinking), there is one thing that all those celebrated Greek thinkers have in common...

Yep! They've all been dead for at least 2000 years!


Brian Sibley said...

GILL comments...

Good to have you back!

Another Greek smoking story...

On the Kos to Kalymnos ferry, in the inside cabin, there are no smoking signs.

Because they did not seem to be at every table I asked the barman whether I could smoke at some tables, and, if so, could I have an ashtray.

The answer was "No, no smoking, no ashtrays, so you smoke and use this!"

"This" was a plastic cup with half an inch of water in it. So I did!

The Greeks may be illogical on the smoking front, but at least I'm still allowed to exist over there.

SharonM said...

Welcome back Brian.

I think you might be mistaken about the object in the photo. Might it possibly, rather than being an ashtray, be a dish for putting healthy nibbles into - like olives or grapes. And the grooves at the side are either for putting the stones or pips onto or leaning nice healthy celery or cucumber wedges on?

Brian Sibley said...

Yes, LisaH, that must be it... ;-)