Once, more, I am getting tired of commenting on the bad policies of our government. They are not all very bad, only the vast preponderance of them. So, here is a story while I catch my breath. It’s about Greece, sort of!
My wife says that women are stingy; nothing you can do about it, and nothing they can do. Anyone who has ever worked for tips, anywhere in the world, will recognize the boulder of truth in that blanket assertion. Oh, the precious minutes wasted while six women co-workers search for the exact penny change at the bottom of their purses! Oh, their collective awkwardness in computing 15%; their total inability to compute 20%! And smart, taste-maker millionaire Martha Steward went to the Big House for the equivalent of fifty of my dollars!
One summer, we took a trip to Turkey. In the weeks before our departure, my wife spent many happy hours buying elegant summer clothing, appropriate for a hot climate, on sale and at a discount outlet. Her declared intention was to “kick ass” with her appearance, among the thousands of probably haughty and possibly malevolent European women we were sure to bump into on the way and within Turkey itself. When we reached Athens, at four in the morning, a catastrophe awaited us: Her suitcase could not be found. As an experienced male, I immediately knew I was in trouble. I seriously asked myself what the perfect husband would do under these threatening circumstances and I made sure I did not let myself off easily. I devised a prudent plan.
As soon as we were in the hotel room, I laid out on the bed all my still-impeccable laundered shirts and offered her any and however many she wanted. She practically spat at me with contempt, a strange reaction, given that my wife routinely confiscates any shirt I buy for myself that she likes.
After a few hours of sleep, and knowing it was Saturday in the European Union, where ordinary business is treated as a criminal activity, I got up, ordered coffee and woke up my wife. I convinced her that it was better to go out and shop than to wait for her suitcase (because any action is better than inaction in times of grave crisis). I informed myself about likely shopping locations with a lady hotel receptionist I judged elegant. (I am pretty proud of my discernment in that respect.)
We took a cab, my wife beginning to steam redolent in the hundred-degree humid heat. Within minutes, we were in the middle of what was evidently a shopping district, but one that was in the process of closing for the weekend. Once more, I had underestimated, Old Europe’s resistance to the idea of earning a living: In a major city and a capital then preparing for the next Olympics, shops close at three or before, on Saturday.
Although I knew better, I humored my wife in her desire to shop around to compare prices. After four of five futile attempts in shops whose names she could not even read (in Greek characters), she was rebutted by the poor quality and high prices of everything she saw. In my mind, this was all to be expected, in the European Union. Yet, I had the wisdom to keep my mouth shut. My wife’s annoyance became like a thick fog enveloping both of us. I am proud to say that in that moment of peril, I acted like a real man and decided to do the obvious and to throw money at the problem.
I grabbed my wife by the wrist and dragged her to a branch of Marks and Spencer’s, the hoity-toity London clothier I had spotted two blocks away. I pushed and forced her to the second floor, Ladies Garments. There, quickly, with my own eyes, I spotted a superb Irish linen blouse for less than one hundred Euros, a little more than a hundred dollars then. I knew there was nothing she could say about the elegance of the item. It was chic itself made fabric! But she was bitter about the price, arguing that it would cost no more than twenty dollars at Ross-Dress-for-Less, at least on a good day. I prevailed, nevertheless. Then, I used nearly ungentlemanly arguments to force her to the third floor to buy underwear.
The bill came to something under two hundred dollars, total. Not bad, given the nature of the European social-democratic state, its protected market, its high taxes, and the six weeks vacations it awards everyone. Amex Platinum had solved the problem, as it so often does. Having averted complete horror through my virile decisiveness, I allowed myself to be pleased with myself; I let down my guard.
I drew my wife to a bench, half expecting thanks. Instead, she was as somber as ever, with the closed, tight face of really bad days.
“You still don’t understand,” she blurted heinously, “Losing her wardrobe is the worst thing that can happen to a woman.”
“Worse than losing a child?” I asked.
“Yes,” she retorted without hesitation.
The next morning, her suitcase arrived, intact.
Then, we moved on to Turkey. Throughout our otherwise enjoyable vacation in Turkey, that linen blouse stood between us, as if it were a kind of silent but tangible evidence of adultery (mine, naturally). She wore it only once more, and reluctantly. When we returned home to California, she put it away it in her deepest closet.
One day, a month later, one of her female friends, a world traveler, remarked to her that she could probably get reimbursement from the airline. My wife dropped everything, listened like she had never listened in her life and took notes. The next day, she had contacted the airline. A week later, she received a check for full reimbursement. At last, she forgave me for giving her the elegant Irish linen blouse. Alleluia!
© Jacques Delacroix 2005, 2008, 2010