Friday, April 15, 2016

Here's a tip

I learned recently that the Latin word from which we get the idea of tip in Spanish, propina, comes along the lines of "for a drink."   Hearing that made me stop what I was doing.

Tips are handled differently in different countries of course.  Some do not tip at all, some encourage generous tipping for great service.  Honduras sometimes seems to do a bit of both depending where you go and with whom you talk.

A very common phrase though by those working in impromptu work...washing the windows of your car, filling holes in the road with dirt, cleaning things up, is "para fresco!" which is essentially..."for something to drink!"

Hearing the origin of tip and then the common everyday phrase also used informally struck me.  It also strikes me that many times I have been asked to provide a bribe, it has been also in that vein, para fresco.  Once, many years ago when two policemen stopped me and threatened me with jail for an infraction that I brazenly committed (I turned left where it was not allowed) I had to give them a ride to take me to jail as they were on foot, and after driving around for some time, with them presuming I was going to crack and just offer them something I suppose, they mentioned how hot it was and how thirsty they were.  I continued to play stupid and offered to get a drink with them.  They eventually got mad that no cash was no forthcoming and told me to go away after we had gotten out of the car.  I even yelled after them "What about our drink together?" But they could not be bothered.  Several times I have offered to buy a policeman a water or other drink...but that is not the kind of thirst we are ever talking about in those situations.  The amount of money though in those bribes being sought is just about that much money...a dollar, maybe a few at most.

The irony for most people working in the streets asking for money for something to drink for their labor is that they are usually lucky to get the equivalent of a nickel or a quarter, when someone happens to come by...and then when some of them happen to want to help.  Sometimes I see people doing this in rural areas on roads, leveling poor roads with shoveled dirt.  These are roads where I can drive an hour and not see another car sometimes.

I guess what caused me to stop what I was doing hearing all this was the reminder that, for what some might be a tip, or an a livelihood for many Hondurans.  The CIA world factbook says 60% of Hondurans fall below the poverty line, and depending on the website you check determines how many millions you find live here making $2 or less per day...working for tips, or just something to drink.

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