Have times changed? It is Christmas Eve. I was sitting reading, when I heard the garbage truck pull up. The workers went on with their normal activities. “It’s customary at this time to offer them a little something.” Cash came out and conversation flowed. I’m not sure if the willingness to talk was a direct function. But, I wondered where the calling crew had been during the week. I remember when every service worker that visited a neighbourhood during the year took the opportunity during Christmas week of knocking on doors, greeting every household, and getting whatever good cheer was offered.
In England, this was part of the Christmas tradition, no less than singing carols. Newspapers, milk, and mail were all delivered to each address. Garbage was collected from each individual home. Every worker who dealt with those services, even the children, if they were the paper deliverers, would look forward to getting their Christmas envelope or something else. I reflected on the times in England when I used to work as a mail delivery worker in the academic holidays. Christmas time was always especially busy, so the need for extra workers was there, and students could fill that. Back then (the early 1970s), it was common for people to offer drink, food, cash, gifts, or whatever took their fancy. It was understood, therefore, that delivering the mail would be slower during this period, as postmen socialized with people on their rounds. Drinking was always a problem: the first glass of sherry or wine was always welcome on a coldish day, but more than two glasses and there was a good chance that the mail bag would seem heavy. I remember stories of bundles of mail being found discarded and often wondered about the circumstances. Around Christmas time, I figured that a few bundles of undelivered Christmas cards were victims of an excess of Christmas cheer. Getting slices of cake and mince pies was nice, but again, after a few of these it was difficult to contemplate getting more. Money was no problem: pockets could hold as much of that as could be offered. My memory is not clear, but I am sure that we did not compare what we got monetarily, though we would share stories about food and drink offerings.
Many of these service workers did not used to get great wages, and while views differed about what was appropriate, money was often regarded as what would be most welcome. Given that this is the first visit from a service worker during my week here, should I presume that they have been too busy in other neighbourhoods, or they have had no need to come soliciting for favours?