This morning I went to the local post office to send off three packets. It’s a tiny narrow place, about the width of one telephone box and the length of four, and as well as myself there were six other people, a man, a very tiny little woman, and four simple people. I am sorry that I do not know the politically correct term, I am sure it is not simpletons, but that is what they would have been called at one time. They were not seriously mentally handicapped, as far as I could see, but they were just a little simple. They had been delivered in a large van, and were there to withdraw their money, I imagine for their weekly spending.
The very tiny little woman was their guardian, and watching her trying to control/help/shepherd her flock put me in mind of my efforts with a Rubik’s cube. It wasn’t easy. Full marks to the cashier – known to her colleagues, for some mysterious reason they cannot or will not explain – as The Turkey. She showed unlimited patience as her customers laboriously read every single word printed on the receipts, turned the papers upside down, back to front, counted their notes several times, asked questions and then stood wondering what to do next. The shepherd did her best to organise them, but as quickly as she took each processed customer out to the van and turned to the next one, the previous one was back in the door with another question.
It was obviously going to be a long morning, so I crushed myself into a tiny space behind the man ahead of me, and waited patiently. One of the simple people, who had been served and placed in the van managed to slip back in behind the shepherd who was dealing with one of her flock who was getting rather frustrated over something or other and had just been quite rude to The Turkey, who was wagging a finger in a warning way.
The escapee forced herself through the throng until she was next to me, and thrust a handful of paper at me. What she wanted to do, she explained, was to divide it equally between her two purses. As far as I could understand there was no reason for having two purses except she had them, and it was important to her to fill them equally. She had five 10-euro notes, a receipt, and a leaflet about postal tariffs.
While we pondered upon her dilemma, she told me about a dog called Chippie, who is a cross between a chien de la chasse and a Setter, who runs very fast.
The seven pieces of paper would not divide evenly between two purses, no matter which way we looked at it. I suggested that she could abandon the leaflet and pick it up another time, but she clutched it possessively and shook her head. I felt her frustration, and my own inadequacy in not being able to gruntle her. The shepherd, having succeeded in getting all the rest of her flock into the van, came back and persuaded my new friend to join them, promising to sort out the division problem in the van.
It was only after they had gone that the solution came to me. All we had needed was another leaflet.