What is the point of selling Christmas cards without envelopes? I mean, really. Even if you’re writing the card for someone you see every day, and will just be handing it to them in person, they’re still going to expect it to be in an envelope with their name scribbled across the front, perhaps in decorative curly writing. With a glitter pen. (‘Tis the season.) And you’re going to be even more likely to require an envelope if you’re buying the sort of cards that have touristy pictures of wintery Tallinn scenes on the front, surely? So why would those be the ones that are sold without envelopes? It makes no sense to me.
That was my first strange discovery today. The second was when I saw Santa standing at the edge of the Old Town, smoking a cigarette and urging passers-by to throw money into the large jar at his feet. This upset me slightly, partly because I didn’t know that Santa smoked (although I suppose it must be a stressful job, particularly at this time of year), partly because he seemed to have lost an awful lot of weight (possibly due to aforementioned stress), and partly because I never expected to see him begging for money. I mean, I know the world has plunged into financial chaos, but I just kind of expected Santa to be immune to all that. You know, maybe have some sort of emergency savings fund. Too many people are counting on him for a happy Christmas – what will happen if the people of Tallinn do not give him enough money to employ the elves to finish making all the toys? One shudders to imagine.
I tried to escape my Santa-related worries by going to see a film with Riho – there’s a film festival on in Tallinn at the moment. Tonight, we went to see Sina Olin Siin (“I Was Here”), as I really wanted to see an Estonian film. Yes, I have become so fluent in Estonian that I can now go and see Estonian-language films! It was very good (although the constant presence of writing in some other language at the bottom of the screen was a bit of a distraction).
The film was followed by dinner in a nice Italian place, where I couldn’t finish my exceptionally delicious meal and once again bemoaned the absence of doggy bags. Someone once told me that restaurants aren’t allowed to give you doggy bags any more because if you take food home and don’t reheat it properly and get food poisoning or something as a result, you might sue them, and they don’t want to take the risk. Which is just ridiculous, because surely if you’re that sort of person you’ll just blame a restaurant anyway if you do happen to get something resembling food poisoning? Anyway, I’ve never asked for a doggy bag since I heard this (which was years and years and years ago) – but then I went to the US a few years back, and upon expressing my horror at the size of the portions in restaurants, was informed that you’re not expected to eat it all at once. You just say “box it up” and they’ll bring you a little box with the rest of your food, so that you can have another meal the next day. It’s great! So surely if the doggy bag ban thing was true, the US would be on board? They’re more into the whole lawsuit thing than the UK, after all. So now I’m doubting the validity of the information I was given all those years ago, or wondering if I dreamt it, and I’m pretty annoyed at the amount of food I’ve wasted by not asking for a doggy bag, and indeed the number of times I’ve made myself feel ill by forcing myself to finish a far-too-big meal. Do you see? Do you see the enormity of the issues I face in my day-to-day life?
Anyway, I couldn’t ask for a doggy bag here, just to see what they’d say, because they would most likely think that I was literally asking for a bag for my dog, or a puppy in a bag, or some such thing. It would all be horribly embarrassing. Instead, I wrapped up my leftover cannelloni in my napkin and smuggled it out of the restaurant in a furtive sort of manner, Riho laughing at me all the way. “What do you think they’re going to do to you if they see you?” he demanded, not understanding my secrecy. I couldn’t really answer him, as I was trying to conceal my dismay at the feeling of warm spinach and ricotta seeping through my napkin into my coat pocket. Once on the street, I removed the disastrous cargo, realised that I was never going to eat microwaved cannelloni with added pieces of napkin and coat fluff, and threw it into the bin. “You’ll never make it in the world of petty crime,” said Riho astutely, through his laughter.
And so I must rely solely upon honest work to earn a living. Which is more than can be said for Santa, whom we passed again on the way home, still smoking and apparently doing nothing other than yell at pedestrians in order to earn his pennies. “I mean, he’s not even fat! He is basically standing there on the street corner, smoking cigarettes and wearing a costume.” I said increduously, getting really quite agitated about the situation. “Who on earth is going to give him money for doing that?”
A passer-by rather irritatingly chose that moment to enter into friendly conversation with Santa and stooped to put money in the jar.
It is a strange world.