Since it was my day to “cook,” I called Janice while waiting in the longer than desirable line at the bank. Just as she answered the phone, the electronic “Of course-your-are-waiting-in-line! That-is-not-our-concern! You-can-just-learn-to-like-it-or dislike-it!” sign-board lit up number 128; I was holding tightly my sequence number 150!
When Janice answered the phone, I told her that, since it was my day to “cook,” I had changed my mind about lunch. Instead of going to the Greek souflaki “joint,” to fetch two gyro pork sandwiches, I had unilaterally made an executive decision; since it was my day to “cook,” I was choosing to go to the KFC place around the corner. She seemed to handle my mid-course cuisine change with little bother, indicating in some less than enthusiastic tones that whatever I chose, as long as she did not have to cook it, was fine by her.
Fully confident now, that both my initiative and my selections would be honored on the “home front,” thirty minutes later, I completed my business transactions at the bank and proceeded toward the KFC store. As I walked in, the attractive, young, behind-the-counter attendant smiled and welcomed me to the store in perfectly good English. It is not at all unusual for young, minimum-wage employees at fast food establishments in Athens to speak English and to want to practice on those of us who, despite our best efforts, always look like non-Greeks.
Emboldened now, by her alleged English language fluency, I confidently approached the counter and said, in a clear and distinct articulation: “I want an order to go!” With a forlorn look of disdain on her pretty face, she frowned and said: “So sorry, our machine is broken!” Sensing that Greek would serve us both better, I shifted to my Hellenic glossary and said: “Den perasi!” (the rough equivalent in Greek of “It’s okay!”) Without missing a beat, she looked at me and said: “Thellete Coca Cola?” (Do you want a Coca Cola?)
Walking out later, with my order of hot wings and chicken strips (with a Coca Cola) under my arm, I smiled all the way home, just thinking about that interaction with my new Greek, teeny-bopper friend. This mixed up dialogue has now become a part of the lexicon of our lives. When I say something that Janice either doesn’t like or doesn’t understand, she says back to me: “So sorry, our machine is broken!” In response, I now say to her, “Thellete Coca Cola?”
I’m thinking that when it comes my turn to “cook” again, I might just say: “So sorry, our machine is broken!” or “Thellete Coca Cola?”