The International Man of Intrigue and I often chuckle about what I like to call "The Synonym Game". Sri Lanka was a former British colony and English as a language got deported but never went home with The Crown, so many people speak it as a second, but very familiar language. The funny part comes in when these people, who most days are very fluent, look at you like you have nine heads if you use a word they aren't familiar with. Last week we were asking our driver about getting a ticket for traffic violations. It took him a few minutes to figure out we were talking about what he calls a "chit". If someone asks your phone number and it is, for example, 700-549-332, you have to say "seven, double zero, five four nine, double three, two." If you say "seven zero zero, five four nine, three three two", I swear to you, your phone number will not be understood. (I also swear to you that I made that number up, and if you try to call it, I don't know what will happen or who you'll talk to.)
All that is to bring me to the point of my post, the garbage service. Don't say trash, or refuse, or rubbish, or poopy diapers (poop again!) and empty Diet Coke cans and dirty tissues, or no one will understand you. The garbage in Colombo is partially privatized, but the government took it over after the end of the thirty year civil war to give soldiers something to do, and to see to it that it actually got done instead of not done, which was apparently the case. (I'm not sure how close to the truth this last sentence is, but I'm sure that if you asked seven people who would know, you'd get seven different, but similar answers. That's Sri Lanka, Fellow Adventurers.) ANYWAY, here's the crazy part about our garbage men. (And they are all men. I have seen women sweeping streets with a garbage cart, but all the people who come to actually pick our trash up from the curb are men.) They come several times a week. One of them runs ahead and rings all the bells, because no one leaves their
All of this only happens because we "tip" the garbage men each month. We moved into our house in mid-February, so we didn't tip them right away, but we did give them more than the typical monthly tip to haul off our boxes. At the beginning of March, they showed up, asking for a tip more than three times the going rate from The International Man of Intrigue. When he gave them the amount that is the going rate, the foreman rubbed his belly and said, "But we're hungry." Since the dude looked like he might actually be eating for two, it was hard to be sympathetic. The International Man of Intrigue was even less likely to be sympathetic when the head garbage dude asked if we were Russian. My husband is a child of the 80's and loves the movie "Red Dawn," so you could say he didn't exactly take this as a compliment.
The kicker of all this is, after we paid them, the garbage collectors refused to come back and didn't pick up our trash for over a week. The International Man of Intrigue was ready to climb our wall and scream "WOLVERINES!" every time they passed us by. This is one of the reasons we have employees like our driver, who is five feet five inches of awesomeness. He went to straighten things out with the garbage men and when they tried to tell him that we hadn't "tipped" them this month, Kumar called BS. The guys have never missed our house again and are extra polite and carry all the trash out for me if Kumar isn't around. Of course, the first thing out of their mouths on April 1st was "Money, Madame?" which proves what I have been saying all along. If I have to pay it or you don't do your job, it's either a salary or a bribe. Since I don't get a bill and I'm just supposed to know how much to give them, and they are supposed to technically pick it up whether I pay them or not, I'm going with the latter. Anyway, it sounds so much more glamourous and fancy to tell The International Man of Intrigue over dinner that I remembered to bribe the garbage men this month.