Did you know that it’s customary here to serve your handyman, plumber, and electrician a cup of tea? This seems a little surprising to me, since in the US you’re never expected to do more than offer a worker a glass of water. When the washing machine repairman came over, I felt pricked with guilt for not having any black tea on hand. I don’t get many visitors, and although I know I should have tea available, I have so much trouble brewing it with the terribly hard water here in Bury, that I let myself run out. I was pleased to discover that this repairman was from Italy, though. I could tell by his accent, but the way he whistled and hummed his way through the work also gave him away. I offered him an espresso, but he declined. He was so cheerful and friendly, and meticulously tidied up after himself, even hanging up the towel he used to mop up that stale water spilled from the machine. What a gentleman.
Yesterday, another man came over, hired by our letting agency to make a few repairs. This time, I was ready (or so I thought.) I waited until he was working indoors, and made him a cup of the tea I had just bought. I realized as it was steeping that a burly guy like him might not be a fan of “Lady Grey,” but hoped he wouldn’t notice. I offered him the cup, and simultaneously realized and apologized that I didn’t have any milk– we don’t drink it, and so it would just go bad if I tried to keep some in the fridge! He shrugged that off and said he’d take two lumps. Huh? Oh! Sugar! I didn’t have any sugar cubes, but I brought him the jar of sugar I had, and a spoon. It was awkward– I’m definitely a novice at something that should be really, really easy. By now, especially. But he drank it, and I didn’t feel like a jerk, like I had when I’d realized that I hadn’t been serving the repairmen tea all year. I’ll get some sugar cubes, too. I’ll get it right. And I don’t mind, either.
Something I have noticed about every person that has come by to fix something is that they are all perfectly punctual, courteous and considerate. Everyone cleans up after themselves, not even leaving a trace of the job they just did. They call me by my first name, instead of Ma’am. No one tries to smoke cigarettes in my house or even in my back yard. It is really, really nice. I am happy to make them a cup of tea. It’s all so very civilized.