Last year, a couple of weeks before Christmas, the doorbell rang. I looked out over the patio to see who was downstairs and saw a bicycle with a big basket in the front, which was full of mail. Hmmm. This doesn’t look like another annoying solicitor, I thought, so I went downstairs.
Juan the Mailman proceeded to introduce himself to me for the first time, handed me some mail, and then an empty envelope. “Por Navidad,” he explained. (For Christmas). I had no idea what he was talking about, but said OK and took the mail and the envelope back upstairs and immediately emailed Brendan.
Brendad informed me that this was for his Christmas “bonus.”
“But we’ve only lived here for three weeks,” I said. “And today was the first time we received mail.”
Brendan’s answer, “I know, but do you want to keep receiving mail or not?”
After much deliberation over what was an appropriate bonus, we left Juan 100 pesos, or about $10 U.S. dollars, on the chair in the apartment building lobby where he sets our mail — or that’s how we thought it worked.
The next time Juan had mail for us, though, he wanted to know where his Navidad was. I tried to explain in incredibly crappy Spanish that we left it on the chair for him, where he places the mail. He insisted he never received it. So I had to go upstairs and get him more money. And hand it to him, without the envelope.
Not the least bit awkward or awful, right?
Since then, we realized that Juan doesn’t leave the mail on the chair — he doesn’t have access to the building at all. He just slides it under the garage door, unless it’s a big package, for which he’ll ring the bell. Whoever comes home next will grab the mail under the door and put it on the chair. Since we didn’t and still don’t have a car, we didn’t realize that’s where the mail first arrived. We assumed Juan had a key and put in the lobby. Naive, yes we are. Thankfully, all other encounters with Juan have been pretty brief, and we’ve received everything we’ve been mailed (or so we think).
But yesterday, well, Juan had mail to deliver and another envelope, stamped with this:
“November 12: Mailman Day.” (Apparently the dog-bites-mailman stereotype is alive and well in Mexico, too.)
Because I seem to be the only non-maid resident who is home during the day and ever bothers to answer the door, Juan also handed me all the envelopes for all the residents in the building, and I had to stand there while he wrote everyone’s door number on each envelope. He also had some random problem with his eye, which he kept rubbing furiously between scribbling on each envelope. All I could think was “what’ the word for conjunctivitis in espanol?”
So, now we have the envelope on our dining room table, and two looming questions: How much? and How do I get the envelope to him without anyone else stealing it? I’m assuming, like with Navidad, he’ll ring the bell in a few days, and simply ask for his bonus, and so I better be ready. Awkward, yes, but at least I know I have to hand whatever amount we come up with directly to him, or it will mysteriously disappear.
And if it disappears, our mail might, too.