WHEN I first arrived to work in Spain I got the job of supervising and paying the workers. This was really a cover-up for making sure they showed up for work and continued there all day.
Worse yet, on payday Friday, if you did pay them all they were owed they wouldn’t come back for 10 days, or until their money ran out. In the meantime you were left occupied pandering to their complaining wives who had no money to eat and feed their children.
When I became depressed enough I would drive to other villages and look for the lost boys and threaten to tell their wives where they were. That didn’t do much good as since they had spent all the money they knew they were gonna’ get beaten to death or something worse.
The most itinerant offenders came from the ‘gypsy village of Turre.’ My brother returned some years ago to continue taking ‘oral histories’ of those characters only to discover that the same folk he had known 40 years earlier were no longer proud gypsies but just ordinary Spanish peasants. It wasn’t a heritage that they were arrogant about any longer. I suppose they all had become visiting Catalans from the far distant past.
On my work listings I had noted the two most frequent culprits constantly MIA (missing in Action) were a Paco and Jose. To make sure they completed a full shift I had noted down their names and family names. That was of little use as no matter how I entered them in the ledger they always became; Santiago Santiago Santiago.
Both nice guys that loved singing and shared an identical wicked streak of constant and perpetual wandering. If a circus came to town they’d be automatically missing from work but could easily be found amongst the scantily clad girls under the big top or riding the elephants.
Those two characters I decided to award them the additional moniker of ‘feo’ (ugly) and ‘muy feo’ to make sure when they were paid one didn’t get the other’s pay. The elder of the lot was a very good brickie and earned much more than the common day labourer.
My system worked well until another circus showed up in distant Vera wherein I had to plan the time for a quick journey there. Friday came and went and on early Sunday morning their wives had made the journey to my house and were outside throwing stones at my dog and having a picnic on the terrace. Loud enough, of course to alert me to their plight. They needed money and quickly, for bread and nappies and weren’t leaving EVER until they got something.
Therein I had the delicate task of trying to discern from them whose partner was the uglier. Delicate questions were asked and finally I gave in to the mujer that swore the most and made the most threats. Both were paid but I got it wrong.
And until this day, judging from the continued gossip of the Turre fair the wife of the day labourer has not returned the overpayment to the other.