Checking today’s vegetable and fruit prices. I sauntered past the stalls, mentally making notes on what to buy where. Comparisons finished, the buying started, till I had everything except lettuce.
I strolled to the last stall on my mental list. A Chinese gentleman, the very image of a happy and content Buddha, was negotiating and stocking up in bulk. Prices flew back and forth across the loaded trestle tables between him and the Mediterranean macho, who was helping him.
I went to stand next to the Chinese smile to await my turn. Macho just handed Smile a large carton box full of vegetables, while the stall-owner told Macho: “Oh well, for the Chinese gentleman, make it … Euro.”
I started to inspect a mountain of lettuce. Smile discovered something else he wanted: a long, large, pastel yellow and pink pumpkin. I decided to watch and learn. Not that I’d ever dare to negotiate down on already priced-off food.
Smile started: “How much?”
Macho warily mentioned a price.
Smile inspected the giant pumpkin, then shook his head politely and handed it back.
Macho looked upset. He handed the pumpkin back and mentioned a lower price.
Smile took a minute, then bid lower.
Irritated, Macho called the boss over.
The pumpkin changed hands from Smile to Macho and from Macho to Boss.
Boss and Macho mumbled. The pumpkin was handed to Macho and back to Smile.
“He dropped it”, Macho explained.
Smile had a look and bid even lower.
“Give it back!” Macho ordered angrily.
Pumpkin changed hands, but Smile bypassed Macho and loudly called an even lower price to Boss.
Boss had distanced himself from the scene. Two ladies had arrived at the far end of the trestle tables, where prices for vegetables were far higher. They were willing to pay through the nose, without disputing quality or prices. Boss was wrapping up his deal, so without checking what was going on behind his back, he shouted to nobody in particular: “Okay!”
Macho was deeply insulted and with a dark look, he put out his hand.
With the satisfied smile and the magnanimity of a conqueror, Smile counted out the money.
Looking sourly, Macho turned around and walked away.
“Hey!” Smile called after him. Nothing happened.
“Hey!” he called again. “HEY!”
Macho turned around surprised: “Hey?
Smile pointed at his bargain, lying on a stack of boxes, well out of his reach.
“Oh – thought you gave me a tip!” Macho remarked drily, ensuring we felt what he thought about the whole business.
The pumpkin changed hands for the last time.
Chinese gentlemen hurried off.
I paid Macho the asking price for lettuce.