Thassos Postal-System

by Hilary  

Feeling unwell after last nights indulgence of food and drink, and lacking sleep from indigestion I awaited the alarm going off so that I would make the arrival of the post at the Café Neo.

Its been 3 weeks since I bought the car and agreed the insurance with the Agent, they phoned to say it will be at the post office, and the post office will ring me when it arrives. ?which post office? I say, ?Limenas?, so I give it a couple of days, check with Limenas and tell them to keep it here for me when it arrives.

Its all very vague, and the log book is coming from Thessalonki in the same manner, my address being CANTOR HILARY, POTAMIA, THASSOS. There is a postcode, but as that is for the whole island, it doesn?t exactly pin point an address.

There is a chance that one of the letters will come via the Postman to Potamia and I don?t want to miss it. I?ve been informed about the collection process, but nothing prepared me for the theater I was about to experience, and that happens everyday, exactly at 10am.

A small group gathers outside the café neo in the village square. There are two café neos, one a male bastion situated in a prime spot where the postman delivers the letters and the other, next door, where it is permitted for women to enter, and sit whilst waiting for the big event.

Unsure of what to do, I look towards an old lady in black that tells me gently to sit down next to her. From that point she has become my guardian in the post office ritual.

An air of excitement runs thought the group, ?Tachidromeio? (post) she says, and stands up to move next door to the forbidden male domain.

Its vast inside, bentwood chairs lined up against a wall, marble chip floor, paintings of the sea over the wooden bar. Two formica tables are pushed together, on one side a stool next to chair, and groupings of chairs around. I sit on the stool: everyone looks at me horrified, mutters to themselves in confusion. The able old lady in back gestures to me, and tells me to come around the other side of the table, that side is for THE POSTMAN. It?s a bit like being in church.

By now there are about twenty people gathered around the desk, mostly elderly, mostly men, and some determined old women, in black. Men with nothing better to do, wonder in and sit along the wall.

Then he arrives at the table like a professor about to give a lecture on medical ethics. He puts a large leather brief case on the stool, deposits 3 identical boxes on the table, and pulls from various sacks purposefully sorted bundles of letters and magazines.

He starts the calling of names, commanding total silence as he reads each name with melodic intonation.

He is not young but his is not old, perhaps 40, with curly brown hair, like a youngish Bob Dylan. His eyes miss nothing, he knows everyone, not just in Potamia, but the whole of the north of the island.

These postman groupies are his hands and feet, collecting mail on behalf of the families. He starts with the important mail, calling out their family name, their Christian name and their father?s name. When someone recognizes a name they make a small sign and he passes the letter over. If they make a mistake, it questions it, ?son of Georgos? he will say again, and they sigh in acknowledgement of his greater wisdom.

Some people have moved, at ?Krambousa? someone says, and he puts it into another pile, ?At hotel Steki?, ?Gone to Theologos'...

At 10.15 some people have mail, and the lady who showed me the way has the biggest collection in her blue plastic bag.

Then he opens the first of the boxes, each holding 500 envelopes. It is the electricity bills for the island. The only address on bill being their name and village. The roll call is endless. Old men shuffling forward from the terrace when they hear their name called.

Into the 2nd box of electricity bills after an hour and I am not hopeful of getting my insurance. I lean on my elbows, feeling faint, admiring the stoicism of these elderly ladies, the event not half over yet.

The he looks up at me, and speaks in English, ?What are you waiting for?. ?My name is Hilary Cantor? I say. Silence amongst those who had started muttering, new information for the post office groupies. ?You are waiting for insurance?? ?Yes, I am waiting for insurance from Kavala?. ?It is at the post office in Limenas, you said to leave it there?.

His godlike stature is enhanced. ?You can collect your post there or here, what ever you want.? He now knows me, I exist on the island, my mail will now never be lost. Within his control the world is safe.

'Efaristo poli' (Thanks very much), I say, and stagger out, to leave him calling a further 500 names from the 3rd box.

When I get to Limenas post office, this time the lady behind the counter recognizes me and smiles, ?Ethe' (its arrived). It just needs me to pay, in cash off course and take the opportunity to send off the sky card. Now I am confident to put just my name and village as the return address.

The day peters out by 1pm and in the blistering heat the next few hours are lost as the shops shut and everyone, including me, goes for a lie down.

Back there again later for the hair dressers to touch up my roots. I brought my own hair dye so there would be no problem over stripes. For half an hour I wait while she finishes a birds nest affair with several layers of hair spray, then after she has done my roots she indicates I sit under this astronaut looking helmet. I think it is a heater to speed up the color and refuse, saying they get very hot. 'Its not hot' she says ?Atoms?. Not quite understanding, but in no hurry, I say '30 minutes without the machine', but this is not acceptable, she has another appointment and is running very late.

So she puts me inside and turns on the timer. My head starts to smoke and there is no heat. My head is microwaving, I think. I try to slide out of it, and she comes over and firmly pushed the helmet thing down, and adds on more time. Smoke is pouring out of 3 escape holes at the front and I just hope it doesn?t make me anymore forgetful.

After 10mins I?m done, thank god, and the color is truly cooked. ?We don?t have those things in England,? I say, 'they don?t exist.' They are probably against health and safety. ?Oh, we all have them here, this is old? . Even better, I think, probably leaking ?Atoms?.

Anyway, I feel a lot better now that its done and drop by to see the boys on Go-Thassos web site. They feel like an extension of my team, and that I?m their boss already.

?Have you done any user experience testing?? I say. Sebastian looks sheepish, ?I?ve heard of it?. ?Its something you need to do if you are developing a new site? I add. So there is plenty to do there if I get bored.

Tomorrow Nicos (Elenis son) wants me to help him with his web site. Word travels fast, although I?ve no idea what he wants, magic I suppose. I?ll take the dictionary; a pity I cant take you as you are the one that makes it happen.

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