Greek-American Stories: Diplomacy

September 15, 2018
Phyllis “Kiki” Sembos

Vasili (Bill to you!) and I were on our way to St. John’s church where a dinner dance was being held; a table being reserved for us by friends. Being a very cold evening, it was a while before the heat in the car made it comfortable. On our way the car started making a funny sound…sort of sputtering. “Something wrong with the car, dear?” I asked him. “Nothing’s wrong with the car.  Why should there be something wrong. It passed inspection last week.” We went along for a few blocks when it sputtered again, coughed and rolled to a complete halt. “Something’s wrong with the car, dear,” I insisted, calmly. Bill gets upset very quickly. “There’s nothing wrong with the car!” Then, he ordered me to push the car toward the curb while he, placing the car in neutral, steered it to the curb. Once at the curb, he lifted the hood and looked inside at the various parts, studying the interior,tapping at the various metal parts as if doing so will bring it back to life.Everything under the hood wasas familiar to him as they are to me. A complete puzzle.Looking like a generalplanning his next offensive he prodded here and there, brooding over the innards like a gastro-entomologist doctor. “Let’s call AAA,” I suggested, calmly. “We pay to be members, Bill. We’ve hardly ever used them.” “Nah! They take a long time to come and when they do they’ll want to haul it to their garage. We’ll be there all night. It can’t be anything really bad. It passed inspection last week.” He continued to probe and pick and ponder when, suddenly, to our left an automobile – a Lexus – sporting a small Greek flag on the side mirror, came to a slow halt. “Trouble?” asked Stavros, our neighborhood repair man, whose wifewaved and smiled at us. Bill looked up and I can sense his growing irritation at seeing the man who charged exorbitant fees for the repairs he’d done in our house. Pretending not to notice the Lexus, he tells Stavros, “Nothing major. We’ll be along, shortly.”

Stavros got out of the car and approached the hood; his wife, graciously, invited me into her warm car. I, graciously, accepted. We chatted, exchanging news in the warm carwhile the two major engineers hovered under the hood like two surgeons pondering a heart transplant. Then, Stavros went into the driver’s seat of our car and tried to start the motor – then burst out laughing. “Hey, Bill!” he called out, waving him to come over. “I found your problem.” Ruffled, Bill looked up, his face reflecting doubtandwith a tiny bit of sarcasm, said, “It can’t be anything to do inside the car, Stavros. My car passed inspection last week. It’s not my boiler or the freezer you’re dealing with here,” he said, muttering under his breath, ‘that you charged a ransom for.” Aloud, he said, “I’ll call AAA and wait. You go ahead to church.” Shrugging, Stavros got out of our car.I got out andI asked him in my usual reasonable tone, “What did you see wrong with our car, Stavros?”

Smiling, he said, “It’s out of gas!” My face flamed. Gee! I was supposed to fill it up yesterday. It was my entire fault. It wouldn’t take long for Bill to figure that out. Then, I’d hear it! What to do? I, quickly, explained it to him. Stavros saw my distress and whispered, “Keep him busy.” From the back of his car he came back with a red container of gas and emptied the entire contents into ourdeposit while Bill, slowly,shut the hood and wiped his hands on a handkerchief. Then, I ushered him over to talk to Stavros’ wife, keeping watch to see if Stavros had finished. It was dark and cold and traffic was steady along that street. Finally, Stavros came over and said, “You’re right, Bill. It was nothing. You’ll make it to church.” Wrinkling his brow, Bill said, “I told you nothing can be wrong. But, what did you think you found?”  Shrugging, Stavros said, “Your carpet was jamming the brake pedal, that’s all!” Bill nodded. “Oh! I knew it had to be nothing serious. But, thanks for stopping by.” Stavros nodded, waved and went off. Driving along, Bill says, “Mr. know-it all!But, notice theLexus? We made a few payments on it, I’ll bet. I told you nothing’s wrong with the car.” I grinned, squeezed his hand. “Yes, you did, dear. I’m especially proud because you used diplomacy with him.” Bill smiled all the way to church.



This article is part of a continuing series dealing with reports of Greek POWs in Asia Minor in the Thessaloniki newspaper, Makedonia in July 1936.

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