In the days and weeks that followed, I got to know much more about my job with Costa. He taught me all the requirements of the big Italian Cruise ships companies and the contracts that he had with them. He did not actually explain how much he made from these companies but he told me what was required of me. Mostly we received the proposed shipping dates when the cruise ships actually called into Iraklion and they usually came about once, sometimes twice per week from May until September and then would start again the next year. My job was when Costas gave me the years dates (each spring we were told the dates of arrivals for the year) I would make sure to book the Mann Deisel busses from Dimitrios and dream up a way to show the tourists some aspect of the island or a days tour or somesuch, get each confirmed with Costa, and make the arrangements necessary and act as the tour guide or courier for the group. No group would exceed fifty persons and I was also expected to answer all questions and spend the day on the bus microphone making sure that each tour was successful. I had to read up on the history and folk tales of Crete to be on top of my job and any tips I got I should share only with the coach driver. I knew I could do this, after all Costa had done it for the last year or so since he got the contract and I was his star performer. Now I knew why I had got the job so easily.
I knew I had a lot of work to do, and a hell of a lot to learn. I had to obey the rules ( ie all the drivers would be professional Greek drivers and be fully licenced, usually ex or moonlighting bus drivers who I trusted. None of whom spoke any English) as well as to be at the ship at 9 am for collection and return them to the ship no later than 10 pm. These rules must be obeyed to the letter and I could expect fine bonuses for my genius on each trip.
Once I started to think about all this and make my plans it scared the life out of me.
But this was my job and I was going to be good at it. In theory.
As the months went by I learned that when I said I had to have a bus and driver at the port at 9am, it may or may not happen. So after a while I had to go see dimitrios who rented us the busses. In the end I had to stand up and lay down the law with the company. I knew the contract we had with him and I threatened to cut the prices severely when he messed up the times. In the end he agreed that because they were Italian ships and I could cut the pursestrings at anytime he make absolutely sure that the times were kept without an error at all and he promised to fire any driver that didn’t match up to my expectations. This is a thing about Cretans. Stand up to them and you will get respect as long as you honour that respect yourself. From then on all busses came on time and I was addressed as Costas man when he threatened the drivers. They were good as gold from then on. Phew! After this happened, Costa agreed I could carry out my threats as long as I didn’t lose the only bus for hire company in Crete. I didn’t.
But there was more to it than that, I had to learn the folklore as well as the history. The History was covered by books and so on which I studied for hours, but the folklore?
The answer came to me from working in Freedom Square in Iraklion. Outside the office were dozens of the Iraklion Cab Company cabs. Most cabbies spent most of their days sitting in the cafes on the square chatting to other cabbies, and they were a friendly lot so I got to know them. It didn’t cost much, a few Rakis etc but because I was English, I was a bit of a novelty myself. As the weeks went by I got to know many of them, they talked about everything from their families to the price of cheese and they knew all the local stories which I lapped up. Amazing what you can learn from Cretan Cab drivers . . .