Friday, August 11, 2006

A Story About Postcards

Yesterday I mentioned how every afternoon, around 3pm, I like to cross the dusty parking lot beside my office building and buy a cupcake from the grocery store. I go, one for the cupcake and two, for the excercise but I usually get three, hassled by this one guy URGENTLY selling batik postcards.

It goes something like this:
Me: (big white girl minding her own business walking across dusty parking lot, thinking about cupcakes)
Man Wearing Stocking Cap: (makes a beeline for me regardless where his is - usually from the grocery store steps)
Me: (still walking, pretending not to see him)
MWSC: Madam, Madam, you see I am very hungry. I have children. We have not eaten in four days. You see I am very hungry. (Takes out postcards)
Me: (I glance at him)
MWSC: I am very hungry, I haven't eaten in four days. I make these cards to sell.
Me: No, thank you.
MWSC: But Madam I am hungry! I made these myself!
Me: Not interested, thanks. (Kind, but firm)
MWSC: Hungry! (Pointing at mouth, expectantly)
(He trails me across the parking lot until I walk out of his jurisdiction (for some reason he won't follow me into the store or out of the lot))

This has happened atleast six times. Same scenario, same outcome. If at one time I was interested in buying his postcards, I most certainly wasn't after the following:

Once, I stopped and asked him how much for a postcard and after going through the hullaballo of saying stuff like "I'll give you good price", he quoted me an outrageous sum (like 4$) for one postcard. I'm sorry to say but I started laughing at him, and told him I'd seen those same postcards at a hotel for fifty cents. He played incredulous. "But Madam, I made these myself!" I peered at the cards, they were photocopies of batiks pasted on a single slice of cardboard.

He was obviously giving me the "mazungu" price, trying to squeeze as much money as he could from my pockets. I smiled politely and walked away. (Rule 1 of bargaining: if you engage in price haggling in anyway, then you are verbally bound to purchase the said product. It's the height of rudeness. I once got kicked out of a Bedouin marketplace by the heels of a screaming merchant for doing it. I wasn't about to rile up this guy.)

So, now knowing for sure he's not on the up and up (if he was atleast a nice guy I'd chat with him, but he mostly just yells and breathes down my neck), I feel no obligation to even look at him.

But still, I give the guy credit for persistence. Yesterday he approached me again by saying "Madam I am very hungry, I haven't eaten in four days." (I wonder if he thinks a) I can't distinguish who he is from all the grifters or b) he can't distinguish me from all the wazungu. Little does he know his opening line gives him away)). I stopped at poked him thoughtfully, "You ask me to buy these postcards every day. If you haven't eaten in four days you should be dead by now!"

Without missing a beat he said, "Well then, give me some money."

Cheeky bugger!

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