Now there is a crackdown on a treasured symbol of Greek manhood – the ubiquitous komboloi, or worry beads.
No public park, village square or outdoor café in Greece would be complete with at least one or two gentlemen – usually of the older variety – playing absent-mindedly with their strings of coloured beads.
Usually employed as a way to pass the time, or to keep idle hands busy, the rhythmic sounds of the beads clicking and clacking as they hit one another is a sound unique to Greece — as special and particular as an island sunset or a glass of ouzo with friends.
But now a hitherto-unknown pressure group calling itself the Federation Against Loud Sonic Experiences (FALSE) is claiming the kombolois’ distinctive clicking sound is “noise pollution” and a breach of human rights.
It has submitted a study to the European Commission which will issue a directive forcing the Greek government to insist men hand over their kombolois.
In the document — leaked to the Greek Reporter — FALSE Executive Director Joe King writes:
“Our researchers have found that while one Greek grandfather playing with these beads may cause some minor irritation to sensitive ears, several gathered together breaches EU regulations on noise pollution.
“As many of these individuals are past working age, they are not contributing to Greece’s required bailout repayments, adding insult to the very real injury they are causing to people with sensitive hearing.”
The European Commission will suggest an amnesty, whereby Greek pappous can hand over their worry beads for €5 ($6.15), a source told Greek Reporter.
“This small sum will be re-invested in Greece’s consumer economy, ensuring that the elderly are contributing more to Greece’s bailout repayments,” argues the Commission.
FALSE noted that “although we hope no punitive measures would be necessary as part of this amnesty, Greece’s online auction system may be used to sell off foreclosed premises which formerly belonged to komboloi sellers and craftsmen.”
The komboloi has become a symbol of Greece, and its soothing feel and rhythm have been taken up by many foreigners who fall in love with the country.
Internationally famous singer Leonard Cohen, for example, was often photographed with a small komboloi in his hand.
The komboli’s smaller cousin, the open-string begleri, has become a hit worldwide, with dozens of YouTube tutorials showing people how to perfect their tricks and techniques.
However, if FALSE gets its way it may be time for fans of the komboloi — Greek and foreigner alike — to turn over their beads to the authorities … or face the consequences.