Sunday, February 01, 2009

Sometimes I am rude

The doorbell rang this morning, or maybe early this afternoon. All I know is that I hadn’t gotten out of my pyjamas yet. I don’t like answering the door in my pyjamas because, even though my pyjamas are modest (a t-shirt and yoga pants), they aren’t modest enough. Not here, anyway.

I was worried that it might be Carolee, though. She said she wanted to come do laundry today. I peeked through the door. It wasn’t Carolee, but it kind of looked like the gas man.

The gas man comes around to look at our meter every month. If we aren’t home when he comes around to collect our 3 pounds there is a danger our gas will be shut off. So I opened the door, just a little bit so I could take a closer look.

It looked like the gas man. He had a messenger bag of sorts, the kind the gas men can be seen carrying, and he was holding a paper, which he held out to me.

For some reason I took it thinking that it was the gas bill, even though the gas man hands me the bill after he looks at our meter and not before, naturally. I guess it was a reflex or something.

“Oh, he’s handing me something. I should take it.” I thought.

So I stuck out my hand and took it. Oh, dopey me.

It wasn’t a gas bill.

It was an identification card of sorts. His identification card, to be precise.

I couldn’t figure out why that had ended up in my hands, so I looked at the paper under it. It was a leaflet about the deaf and mute population in Cairo, at least I think that’s what it was. It was all in Arabic so I couldn’t read much of it.

I tried to hand it back to the man.

He put his palms up in the air and took a step backwards, refusing the return of papers. Then he held his hand out for money.

“Laa,” I said, and tried to give him the papers again, failing once more.

He pointed to his ears and then to his cupped palm, asking for money again.

“Laa,” I repeated, shaking my head just in case he really couldn’t lip read the word “no.”

Again he pointed to his palm, demanding money.

I was in my pyjamas and wasn’t about to invite him in while I went to go find my wallet. Besides, I had already purchased that same leaflet from another deaf man who was equally adamant that I pay for something he shoved in my hand while I was walking past him, even though I can’t read it well enough to have it be of any use to me.

So instead I tried to give it back to him once more, while still trying to stay mostly behind the door so that he couldn’t see I was in shorts.

“Laa, laa, laa!” I said, jabbing the air between us with the papers each time I said “laa” to let him know, through body language, that I really didn’t want the paper.

In return he jabbed his palm three times.

I had had enough.

I dropped the papers in the hall and closed the door.

Unfortunately, the only way to close our warped door is to slam it, hard, so it probably seemed a little ruder than I intended it to be.

I must say, this is one of my least favorite marketing approaches, but people do it all the time, especially on the metro. You’ll just be sitting there and someone will walk by and drop a chocolate bar or a tube of super glue in your lap. Then they’ll make a round asking for money or whatever they gave you back. It’s terrible when I ride with Rachel because they always try to give her whatever it is they want to sell and then she wants to keep it. It’s just a horrible marketing strategy. Sometimes the metro stops before they can collect all their money and people start filing off, either dropping the product or taking it with them.

Most locals are amazingly good at ignoring these “salesmen” and will let the item fall wherever it lands and just sit there with chocolate and super glue on their laps, shoulders, and hats, until the “salesman” comes to pick it up again. They don’t even seem to notice when the object is plucked off their person again.

If only I could be that stoic.


  1. That reminds me of the trains and buses in Argentina. Saying no only seems to make you a target. I had to practice acting like they didn't exist. Though I once DID get something because I thought it was cool and it was like US 0.13. I actually felt a little bad I got away with it for that cheap. LOL It's a little woven ribbon of the Argentine flag. I use it as a scripture marker.

  2. Heck, they do it here, too. More than once this semester, we've had people come around with their sob stories about how they are selling magazines to pay for their tuition and if you don't buy one, you're effectively killing my education. Welcome to the club. haha.

  3. Yeah, when Grant was younger, he'd just light up when someone dropped a candy bar or gum on his lap and then throw a freakin' fit when I had to give it back. I hated it. Do you have a boab? Not that it is always a deterrent strategy (i still get the knocks at the door) but sometimes they can run interference at the threshold.