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Greek-American Stories: Yiannis Takes the Gold

October 26, 2019
Phyllis “Kiki” Sembos

The guys had made ‘Aghiou Dimitriou’ – the Feast of St. Demetrios – a yearly special occasion by taking their wives out for dinner as an expression of gratitude for all the hard work they do keeping house. Dimos, proudly described the dinner he and his wife enjoyed on Saturday. “Best dinner I’ve had in a long time,” he told those sitting around the table in Dixon’s, adding, “It was real expensive but worth the money.”  John, smiling, told them, “I took Penelopi to a very nice dinner in upper Manhattan. Greek cuisine at its very best. The chef is famous for his eggplant yiaxni. I could have had another serving.” George too had taken his wife out as a special treat. “She likes Italian! So, I took her to Bella Roma.” Dimos, John, and Kipreos looked up at him. “BELLA ROMA!” said Dimos. “Now, that’s real special! How did you get seats? That place is always jammed. You have to get a reservation in advance, I heard.” Smiling, George explained that he knew one of the waiters. “He’s my neighbor. And, he arranged for the reservations. My wife was so pleased. It was a real treat for both of us.” Only Yiannis remained unimpressed. Sipping his coffee, slowly, he told them, “You guys spent a lot of money on stuff your wives can make at home for half the price. Areti makes eggplant yiaxni, too. And, I don’t care where you went, there’s no better than hers, I can tell you.” Dimos replied, “I’m sure Areti makes a wonderful eggplant yiaxni, Yiannis, but, it’s having someone do all the work and serve it with some class that makes it special for the ladies.”

Yiannis still remained unimpressed. Kipreos described how the hotel where he worked had their priest, Father Apostoli and his wife in for St. Dimitrios. “They ordered the house special and dessert. I sat with them and we had a nice talk. They were very pleased.” Yiannis, taking up a sprinkled donut, wore a satisfied smile and told them, “It may surprise you but I took Areti out for dinner and a movie, too.” All heads turned toward him, very surprised that the most frugal person in existence had taken his wife out for dinner. “And a movie?” John looked speculatively at him. “You took Areti out for dinner AND a movie? How…nice!” said he, almost disbelieving, wondering how he’d decided to be so generous – but, being a good friend, he contained his comments.

“I see you’re all surprised. But, I can be generous, too. Just that I’m more inventive and careful how I spend my money,” shrugged Yiannis. “Of course, I took my hard-working wife out for dinner. But, I didn’t spend as much money as any of you did. In fact, I, probably, spent half the cost of any of you.” George nodded. “I’ll believe that!” The others agreed with George but didn’t say so. Only Kipreos, in his quiet way, asked him how he managed to treat his wife to a movie and dinner at half the cost. Sitting back, savoring his donut, he began, “first, I happen to have a coupon to a restaurant that gave out coupons that stated, ‘Order one dinner and get the other one free.’ That’s where we dined. It wasn’t bad, either. She had an omelet and I had the steak special.” George, asked, “Why didn’t Areti order the steak special?” Yiannis raised his brows, “She had no choice. That was the second free meal, that’s why.” John asked about the movie. “Movie tickets cost a lot nowadays, Yiannis. Don’t tell me you got away with two free tickets at the movies!” Looking smug, Yiannis responded, “No! One free ticket!  I bought Areti’s ticket and she went in. Then, I went up to the ticket agent, took out my glasses and held them up and told her, ‘Ahh, I found them. They were in my car.’ And I walked right in.” “You don’t own a car, Yiannis!” George complained. Pausing, sipping his coffee, Yiannis said, “I know! But, the ticket agent didn’t.” When he left, the others remained speechless when a wide smile crossed George’s face and, ruefully, he announced, “Well, he’s got us all beat in one way.” The others looked at him, questioningly. “What do you mean?” asked John. “Look at it this way,” George continued. “We’d be the big losers if there were Olympics for ‘cheap!’  Yiannis would have, easily, taken the gold.”

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