Greek-American Stories: Labor Disputes

That Sunday, Dixon’s five were discussing the time when Yiannis’s daughter Barbara had given birth to twin boys, now eight years old.  “I remember,” said John laughing. “Then came the question on naming them. Of course, they had to be named after both ‘papous’. Timotheos was Barbara’s father-in-law, and he stood aside while the big decision was being discussed.” Grinning, Kipreos said, “That’s right! And, George was the one who came up with a scientific solution of choosing which one was Yiannis and which, Timotheos.”

Dimos, nodding enthusiastically, recalled that event. He turned to George and said, “What a day! I remember Barbara, her husband, and all of us stood watching and wondering when you announced that there is a scientific way to choose.” John continued. “That’s when George placed a rolled up ten-dollar bill in the one tiny hand and nothing happened. He just laid there in his crib and slept. Then you placed it in the other baby’s hand and he woke up and grabbed it and held on tight. Then, you raised your head and announced, ‘Hdou o Yiannis!’” They laughed aloud recalling the incident. Turning to George, Dimos asked, “I wonder if the choices were wise and deserved. Do you know, George?”

Setting down his coffee, George explained seriously.  “Oh, I believe science did the job well. Let me give you the proof.” Everyone’s attention was pinned on George as Yiannis sat unperturbed, drinking his coffee, letting George say his piece. “Last week, my wife went to see Areti for something and came home and told me what she witnessed in front of the building where Yiannis lived. She noticed the two boys in front of the building having set up two separate lemonade stands with Yiannis sitting in a folding chair between them, to watch the kids while he was taking toll, pencil and pad in hand.

Grinning, John said, bet he drank some lemonade to see if it was good quality and didn’t pay for it.” George shook his head. “Right! Then, he just sat and watched. A few customers came and went as Yiannis kept count at twenty-five cents a cup.” They turned to Yiannis who sat listening but not responding. “That right, Yiannis,” asked John. Yiannis nodded and reached for a donut in silence. “An hour later, he went up to both stands and checked if the money was safe and then drank his second cup of lemonade from little Yiannis’ stand.”

“Well, sitting in the sun, all those hours, you can get pretty thirsty,” pointed out Kipreos, sympathetically. George smiled. “That’s when little Yiannis stuck his hand out and told him, ‘two cups! That’ll be fifty cents, Papou.’” Again, laughter. “The apple doesn’t fall far from the apple tree,” said Joh, wiping his eyes. Dimos asked Yiannis, “did that bother you?” Yiannis shook his head. “No! Hey! He’s a chip off the old block, that’s all. It proves he’s a good business man like his Papou.” Setting down his coffee, he added, “but, what bothered me was, at the end of the afternoon, when we added up the profits,” said Yiannis, a little peeved. “What happened?” asked Kipreos. Shaking his head slowly, Yiannis explained, “Timotheos’ cup was full. He had three dollars and some change. I checked and it was right. Then, I checked Yiannis’ cup and It didn’t match with what I tallied. Yet, he had more customers than Timotheos, having placed himself near the busy corner.”

Everyone listened intently, waiting for the results. Finally, he told them, “when I showed him my tally, Little Yianni, jiggling his pocket, says to me, ’Papou! What about my labor? I charge fifty cents an hour for my time working. So, I took what belongs to me plus the two cups of lemonade you drank. I earned it!’”

George’s head came up, reflecting pride. “There’s your proof, gentlemen!  Didn’t my science do a good job?  Einstein couldn’t have done a better job choosing who is who.” Laughing, all heartily agreed with George. After a short silence, Yiannis lifted up his hand and said, “But, he who laughs last, laughs best.” All attention was pinned on Yiannis. Kipreos asked, who laughed best?”

“I did! Like one business man to another, I took out of little Yiannis’s cup one dollar for services rendered.” Confused, Dimos asked, “what services?” Picking up his cup of coffee, Yiannis nonchalantly, said, “what about my labor! I charge fifty cents an hour for babysitting services. I earned it!”


My fellow TNH colleague Theodore Kalmoukos often uses the word “tragicomedy” to describe phenomena that are pitiful and laughable all at once.

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