Friday, 11 April 2014

Two Rip-offs, No Less...

 Friday April 11th.

Went out for our daily coffee this morning. Getting into a nice little groove now and starting to really feel like we're on holiday. Like the old days. We've been selecting a different café/bar each day and this morning we went to one at the far end of the harbour, almost as far as the KTEL ticket office [buses] and the causeway out to Apollo's Portal.

I was a bit miffed to find out after five minutes during which no one approached to take our order, that it was a self-service establishment, something that we normally avoid like the plague. But the chairs were comfy and the place was full of Greeks, always something which makes it hard to drag the other half away 'cos, like all women (oops, some offense sure to be taken somewhere there!), she's an expert eavesdropper. C'mon fellas, at least you know what I'm on about. You've just finished one of your fave anecdotes and she's miles away. You ask her why she hasn't heard what you've just said and she says "Ssssshh!! I'm listening…" Yea? Yeah? Mind you, it works the other way around too I suppose. "Will you look at me when I'm talking to you?" is one of the expressions I hear often. Quite what connection such occasions have with women walking past I'm not even going to go into here.

Ahem!! To return to today's events.

Having decided (well, having had it decided for me) that it was I who was going into the scrum inside the establishment in order to procure us a couple of frappés, I checked that I had some cash in the purse and crossed the walkway between the tables and the front door and went inside. It's a kind of bakery-stroke-cakeshop really, rather than a regular café. Smelt amazing in there. The trouble was, I could see that you had to first queue up to pay for what you wanted and then, if it was hot drinks, you'd have to take your receipt with you along to a further area of the serve-over where they'd knock up your order. Of course there was a queue at both places and so I was rather a long time inside and found myself occasionally glancing out through the windows through the melée of clientele to see what my beloved was up to.

The second time I glanced out there it was to see a woman sat in my chair and evidently engaged in an animated conversation with Y-Maria. "Hmmph!" I thought, "where did she turn up from?" I didn't recognize her as anyone we'd so far met since arriving on the island on Tuesday morning. She had long, lank, dark hair and wore a dark-coloured floor-length skirt and light coloured cardigan. Tell-tale indications that she was a street vendor of some kind. She had the Romany look about her. When I finally emerged with an iced coffee in each hand (in those transparent plastic dome-topped cups that you always get at a take-away) I approached the table through a maze of carrier bags all scattered about the paving slabs around the table and all spilling over with tablecloths and throws made from that slightly off-white lacey stuff that old grannies like to drape all over their furniture.

Yup, the woman had spotted my better half, thought for some reason that she looked affluent enough to be worth pitching her stuff to and got stuck in. Her face was almost in my wife's and so she didn't notice me until I stood above her, a coffee in either hand and politely told her that she was sitting in my chair. She jumped up all apologies and stuff and then proceeded to sit down at one of the empty chairs on the other side of the table. Off she went with all this "Your wife is very beautiful" stuff, which she capped with the old "you're such a fine looking couple, you are both very lucky" gambit and thus we realized that, even when told directly, she wasn't going to give up and go away without a fight.

We replied with polite thank you's and assured her that, whilst we weren't questioning the quality of her merchandise, it simply wasn't to our taste. Realizing that she wasn't going to make a sale, she  decided to change tack and went for the jugular. She asked us directly for ten Euro because and I quote, "I'm hungry" she said plaintifully. I made an executive decision that if we were going to be able to sup our frappes in peace then it would require a small cash outlay, so I slid a two Euro coin across the table toward her and told her that was a small gift and would she kindly leave us please. Immediately she grabbed the coin and was across the pavement and in through the bakery's front door faster than you could say "Zorba's dance".

My wife turned to me and told me that she'd been trying in vain to get rid of the woman the whole time I was inside trying to buy our iced coffees. She also told me that the woman had started off with a price of €50 for a lace tablecloth. Anyway, it appeared as though we'd finally seen the last of her when she emerged from the store munching a spinach pie, which prompted my wife to suggest that she may have been telling the truth when she'd said that she was hungry. Yesterday we'd paid €6.50 for two drinks (I'd had the iced mochachino) and so today, knowing exactly what would put a smile on Y-Maria's face I asked her how much she thought I'd paid for our serve-yourself frappes. Boy did she smile when I showed her the receipt for 2 x €1.30, totalling €2.60. Immediately she decided that this was her favourite establishment and that she'd be happy to come here all the time from now on. My arguments to the contrary would serve no useful purpose being further discussed here.

No sooner had we seen the woman with her spinach pie, when a Greek fella with what we theorized was his teenage daughter came striding along the pavement and began sweeping the woman's plastic bags full of lacey wares off the ground from beside our table. Aha, we remarked, he's going to evict her for causing a nuisance to the clientele. Wrong! Instead he and his young companion - making a couple of trips - marched the bags over to a waiting hatchback car and dropped the bags into the already open rear of the vehicle. As if from nowhere another Romany-looking woman joined our would-be friend and the two of them walked over to the car, where we assumed they were going to remonstrate with this bloke and the girl but no, what actually happened was that once all the bags were in the back, the man shut the rear door and all four of them climbed in and he drove off!! The car wasn't more than four or five years old either, it appeared to be quite a smart compact hatch.

Now, make of that what you will, but my ever-sage other half immediately remarked, "Well, looks like we paid €4.60 for two frappes today then."
Spilt milk are two words that sprung immediately to mind.

Anyway, since we've decided that tomorrow we're going to take the bus and make a trip to the hinterland of the island, we decided that, before walking off for our daily constitutional, we'd nip along to the nearby KTEL (Bus company) office to check the timetables, since we knew that there was an A4 photocopy of such sellotaped to the glass door. We'd already noticed the other day when we'd had a glance that one could catch a bus to a village up in the hills on weekdays at either 9.30 or 11.00am and then take the return bus at 4. But as tomorrow is a Saturday we wanted to be doubly sure that the timetable was still the same.

Arriving at the front door of the KTEL office we quickly scanned the timetable for the Saturday schedules and were pretty disappointed to find that it didn't show a bus coming back at 4.00pm, which meant that we'd have to postpone the excursion until one day next week or risk being stranded up in the hills. Well, pooey mooey. Mentally my mind was already playing duelling banjos.

"Hold on," I suggested, "why don't we go in and ask, just to be sure?" The beloved agreed and so we pushed open the door to the compact office and once inside were greeted by a smiling young man seated behind the desk.

"Can I help you?" he asked.

"Yes, please. The timetable shows that on weekdays we can get a bus up to Filoti village at 11.00am and take the bus back at 4. But it doesn't show the 4.00pm return bus on Saturdays. Are we reading it right?"

Immediately, if not sooner, he leapt up from his chair, came around to our side of the desk and crossed to the glass front door, whereupon he grabbed the edge of the A4 photocopied timetable and ripped it from the door. We assumed that he was going to take a good look at it himself, but instead he glanced down at the bus times for Saturday, promptly screwed up the piece of paper and tossed it into a waste bin near his desk.

"You can come back the same day. Look…" he said, directing our attention with both hands to another A4 timetable which lay on the desk beside us. We both scanned this other sheet, which at first glance looked to be the same as the one he'd screwed up and tossed in the bin, but on closer inspection, it showed a bus returning at 4.00pm also on Saturdays. Yay!!

"Glad you came in," he said with a grin, "because I'd completely forgotten to post the new summer schedules on the window. Anything else I can help you with?"

We assured him that we were now fine and exited the office well satisfied.
It had been an interesting morning. One rip off we didn't like, another we'd been well happy with.

More photos to follow next post!

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