I now regret just a little the conversation held with the women at our local garage on the morning of the 24th.
It was fun, actually. The convenience store where you pay for fuel has what all good Portuguese establishments have: a coffee machine. I paid for €15 petrol, bought cigarettes, and one or two other things – and, as I quite often do, asked for an espresso, at much the same time as the only other customer in the shop at the time, a gym instructor, I learned, who obviously had just finished a particularly gruelling session.
The woman gave us our coffee, and proffered a plate with little squares of cake on it, telling us that today, the coffee was on the house, as a special for special customers. She started laughing at her overuse of the word “special”; there ensued a silly play on this word and variations for a while, and the obligatory comparison as to which type of cake traditional at Christmas time was the nicest, in this case, the one that had been offered us. Happy girl-talk chatter which makes chores a pleasure.
I return to my vehicle and start filling my tank. It was that characteristic change in the sound of the gurgle when your tank is close to full which made me look at the fuel counter. Normally, the fuel stops flowing when you reach the amount you have paid for. This time it did not. I had unwittingly put another €14.90 in my tank. I toyed with the idea of rounding that figure up to €15, but I had already heard the gurgle, so left it.
The garage woman was on the forecourt at the time, so I hailed her and explained what had happened, and went inside to pay for the difference. She tells me then, that the time on the fuel pump had expired, and that was why such a generous refill had been possible. I do believe I learn something new every day.
I left the garage with a tank full to the brim, a dent in my budget, and a chance reminder that I had been wasting time.
I decided that I had spent enough money for one day, completely forgetting that I should have purchased a ream of paper to deal with all the end of year admin. We “independent workers” in Portugal have a few changes to comply with issued by the tax department at this merry time of year, so paper is necessary.
This is why I regret the filling station conversation. The reason is this: had I not spent extra money on fuel, I would have spent the “extra” money on paper. Today, my office is paperless, and I need some!
The reason for this post is in the photograph below, with the old wrappers of reams of paper I have used in the last two and half years. You can tell from their multi-coloured glory just how brand-insensitive I am:
Why would anyone keep old wrappers from reams of paper? I had to think for a few seconds to rediscover why it was that I had this strange habit.
Faulty photocopiers in the corporate world of my past flashed before my eyes. I still cannot understand what most people around me found so intimidating about loading paper into a machine. My expertise in this area was often required.
In those days in Zimbabwe, pretty paper was expensive. If one took apart the outer wrapping on a ream of paper carefully, what you got was an excellent sheet of paper to line drawers with. This was especially true back then, when the wrappers themselves were much bigger – until paper-making companies realised what a huge waste of paper this was. No one else was interested in this rubbish, but I did have secretaries from several floors of a high-rise bringing me their neatly folded contributions too, which meant that I had more than enough for my needs for years.
The wrappers are excellent for desk drawers, wardrobe drawers, kitchen cupboards (often the reverse side used to have a waxed coating) – and even on occasion when all else failed, as gift wrap.
While I berate myself for not folding the ones in the photo nicely, I remember that there is a reason for this too: I shall be using them to archive papers currently bulging out of my lever arch files, so that I can re-use the latter next year. There is no point pulling wrappers apart just to stick them back together again, is there?
I thought I might just add a little note about how cereal boxes, cut up to size, make good file dividers, but then you might go off me in a big way.