A Votre Service!

At Your Service

The three word title above was emblazoned on the side of the delivery truck that arrived in front of our apartment this past Friday. That’s French for “at your service.” The driver was bringing a new mattress for a double bed in one of the bedrooms of our apartment. Denise decided early last week that the old one needed replacing. Happily, we have company a-coming this weekend!

To that end we made our way to Marjane, the big-box store here in Fes, the Moroccan counterpart to Super Target. Denise located the one she wanted, having already made a couple of trips there to perform the due diligence that any committed shopper must complete in order to maintain the expected level of self-esteem the true shopper enjoys. The store was happy to accept the same credit card regularly employed at retail outlets in the states, the official guarantee was completed and presented, and an appointment was made for the actual delivery. The best time-line estimate we could get from the clerk as to when delivery would occur was “tomorrow morning.”

The next day at about one o’clock pm, we decided we would risk going to a little restaurant about three blocks up the street, one of several rotisserie chicken establishments within a short distance, assuming that the delivery would not happen for at least a couple more hours. Generally speaking, not much business occurs between 12:30 and 2:30 p.m. here, perhaps a holdover from the idea that a siesta contributed to good health. Many of the schools here still send students home for a couple of hours during the middle of the day.

We decided on the Katia Restaurant, took a table located on the sidewalk, and had placed our order. Before it was delivered my phone rang, and the caller told me he would be arriving with our delivery in a few minutes. Changing our meal plans on the fly, I started back to the apartment. Denise changed our order from “sur place” to take-away, and waited for the food to be prepared.

Snack stand

Within a couple of minutes or reaching the apartment, the van appeared and evidently this was the driver’s last delivery, since he had only our mattress. There was one problem; he was by himself and we live on the fourth floor. I might have been able to actually help the driver, but I have to admit I have reached the age where I neither desire nor am able to schlep a double mattress up three flights of stairs.

But as is often the case in this culture, there is an expedient solution that I had failed to consider. A young man, maybe in his mid-twenties, happened to be walking down the sidewalk. The driver called to him and asked for a hand and the gentleman agreed. He appeared to me, based on his dress and his aspect, to be one of the many undocumented immigrants here in Morocco. At almost every major intersection there will be men of this person’s approximate age walking among the cars stopped at the traffic light, with hands outstretched. They are often recognizable on the street, given the difficult conditions under which they live.

Most of these immigrants arrive in Morocco from sub-Saharan countries, making an effort to get to Europe. Spain is only about 11 miles away and if they can get on the continent and in an EU country, they have pretty much free access to any of the other European countries. The Straits of Gibraltar is a formidable obstacle however, and every year there are hundreds of people who die trying to make that journey. I am sure I am projecting far too much; I didn’t have a chance to talk to this person (and might not have known his language) but it did make me feel better to be able to give him what I thought he might consider a serendipitous gift, even if only a paltry one.

new mattress

After carrying the item upstairs and removing all the packing, they came back downstairs. The driver had requested that I serve as sentry on the street, insuring that no one took anything out of the cab while he was upstairs. Denise had arrived by that time and accompanied them to the correct door. I gave both the driver and the conscripted helper a 20 dirham tip. That’s only a couple of dollars each, and the going wage for about an hour of that type of work. For the helper though, I am pretty sure that might be his only opportunity of the day.

I am not too sure that “a votre service” accurately reflects the policy of Marjane. I think that better service might be provided without the expectation that additional labor is readily available, and that employed additional assistance for the delivery person might be appropriate.

Nevertheless, we felt a sense of satisfaction in being able to purchase what we wanted and actually put it in place. Cleaning up the packaging material that had been removed was left to us for disposal. Then we sat down in our house to complete the meal that we ordered some time earlier, without the service of a waiter.

March 13, 2017

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