Saturday, December 08, 2007

Christmas envelopes for dustmen in Cyprus

When we first moved here, ten years ago, one of Richard's colleagues told us something very important. Every year, in December, the dustmen (garbage collectors) in Cyprus call at everyone's door, proffer a sort of business card with Christmas greetings, and expect to be given a Christmas bonus, or tip. Tipping isn't normal in Cyprus (one never tips taxis, and rarely in restaurants or hairdressers) but this is expected. She said we should put a pound or two in a small envelope, and hand it to them.

Some years, we were out when the card was pushed through the door. Once or twice one of the boys was in, and didn't know what to do since most of the dustmen speak no English. Other years, I scrabbled around for an envelope and the relevant cash, always feeling a bit awkward.

This year, attempting to be more organised, I sorted it out at the end of November. I put two pound notes in a small envelope, sealed it, and labelled it clearly 'For the Dustmen'. Then I put it on the table by the door where we keep general bits and pieces - Tim dumps books there, Richard puts things he wants to take to the office, and we keep a pot of small change for anyone to grab for small purchases.

Several times in the last few weeks I've glanced at the table, impressed by my own efficiency as I saw the little envelope. Whoever was in when the dustmen called, they could simply hand it over.

This morning, there was a buzz at the door. Outside was a man I had never seen before who started talking in Greek. I looked at him blankly. He stopped talking, and (I think) asked me if I was English. 'Anglika?' he asked. 'Anglika', I agreed, nodding. He looked around, helplessly. Perhaps one of his colleagues could speak English.

I saw the pile of cards he was carrying. I guessed it was the dustman. I asked, 'Dustman?' thinking he might know that word. Apparently he did. He smiled and nodded.

So I looked down at the table.

And there was no little envelope visible!

I lifted the pot of change, I shuffled through Richard's papers, I moved several of the books in Tim's pile, I peered under the table in case it had fallen off ... and still, no envelope.

So I rushed into my study, scrabbled around for an envelope, grabbed a couple of pound notes from my purse, sealed them in the envelope, and handed it to the man. He looked a bit suspicious, held it up to the light, saw that there was cash inside, smiled, and handed me one of the cards:

Which, roughly translated, which is all I can manage, means something like:

The Dustmen
of Larnaka town
wish you:
Happy Christmas and
New Year

When he had gone, I had another look. I found the envelope - of course - right at the bottom of Tim's pile of books.

Ah well.

I put it in the drawer with my cards and envelopes. Now I am organised a WHOLE YEAR IN ADVANCE for the dustmen, for Christmas 2008.


itsboopchile said...

Funny!! It would be nice to be a year ahead in something!!
I'm always trying to catch up. Not just in money, but in writing letters, calling friends, keeping my budget, and on and on, always behind!!
Betty G

Anonymous said...

Brilliant! This made me laugh.