When no can’t possibly mean no, apparently

by Alex on Apr.28, 2009, under Blog

There are lots of street vendors here, in Granada (Nicaragua). Those who have stalls and those who walk round the streets selling their wares. Some of the wandering ones sell goods for the local market such as wallets and mobile/cell phone chargers, and cheese. Well, I guess that primarily they are aimed at the local market but that doesn’t stop those eager to sell from touting their goods to all on Sunday (mum, I know you’re wondering – that’s a bastardisation of ‘all and sundry), irrespective of whether they are local or tourist.

‘Do you want cheese?’ exclaimed a guy sporting a large aluminium pot atop his head. I assumed it contained said cheese though couldn’t be sure as it had a large piece of muslim draped over it. OK, you might be thinking that that’s not altogether a ridiculous question but in context I was reasonably incredulous. I was sat in my Spanish class, trying to come to grips with the fact that the compound gerund tense simply didn’t exist in the subjunctive mood and this dude is asking me if I wanted cheese. And I knew his question was directed at me as he’d said it in English. What did he think my likely response would be? “Ah, I’m glad you turned up mate as I’m currently out of cheese and was worried that I’d not be able to get hold of any in the next half hour at for example, one of the tens of shops within a three minute walk of here, or the enormous market with 57 cheese vendors. I’ll have two pounds please, just put it in my bag on top of my computer, nah there’s no need to wrap it and whilst you’ve got your knife out, cut us off a slice cos I’m ‘kin hank marvin over here”. Odd!

Others sell touristy stuff. There are some lovely ceramics to be had, some of them actually to my taste which surprised me as it is fairly specific. There are hammocks and little bird shape pottery whistles too and for some reason cashew nuts are purveyed with a vengeance. The people who sell these wander ’round the cafes and restaurants, the main plaza and the now touristy Calle La Calzada which is very different to when I was here last, in 2000. There are ten or so bar cum restaurants (all owned by foreigners) aimed at the tourist, along with a beautiful colonial hotel that I guess must have always been there but undergone a face lift since my last visit.

The first time a small girl approached my table, whistling her whistle, I looked up and smiled. I looked at her stuff, told her it was nice and that I didn’t want to buy one. That was fine. By about the tenth time, it starts to become a bit of a pain in the ass and my wanting to be polite wanes, being outgunned by the fact that I want to eat my dinner in peace and not have to explain myself to a child whose trying to sell me shit stuff that I don’t want. What annoys me more than the persistence is the lack of any common sense. Clearly I know that she just wants to sell her whistles, but on the other hand she knows that on average a table gets visited by a whistle blower every two minutes and therefore if I wanted a whistle it would be there, on the table, already bought. In fact, if I wanted them as much as she thought I must want one I’d probably be struggling to eat my food as I’d not be able to move my arms to eat for fear of knocking all the lovely whistles that I’d recently bought and now taking up 75% of the table space on to the floor.

I know that it’s impolite to not meet someone’s eye when they address you and that we’ve evolved to be an extremely gregarious species whereby frequent communication is the norm but I’ve got to the stage where I can’t be arsed any more, it’s an imposition.

I had an interesting conversation with a guy the other day:

Hammock guy: Hammock
Me: No thanks, I have a hammock
Hammock guy: It’s cheap, I give you a good price
Me: Thanks but I have a hammock, I don’t need another one
Hammock guy: Seven dollars
Me: My friend, the price is not important, I do not want another hammock
Hammock guy: Six dollars, it’s cheap
Me: Yes, that is a good price and it looks a lovely hammock but I’m not going to buy one
Hammock guy: It’s very strong
Me: (Feeling the hammock) Yes, it looks good quality, but I don’t want it
Hammock guy: Five dollars
Me: I don’t care how much it costs, I have one and am not going to buy another
Hammock guy’s mate: That is a good price
Me: I’d not pay one dollar for it as I do not want another hammock
Hammock guy: (Looks disturbed at the prospect at selling the hammock for one dollar) Go on, buy it
Me: Mate, you may as well be trying to sell me this table, I don’t want it, similarly, I don’t want your hammock
Hammock guy: Buy it for a friend
Me: My Friend, I really don’t understand what you don’t understand here. I have a hammock, I don’t want another, I don’t have any space in my rucksack to put another hammock even if I did want another and I’m not going to buy it for a friend
Hammock guy: Go on, buy it
Me: (Slowly reach to my plate, pick up my fork and stab him in the neck) See ya later

OK that last bit clearly didn’t happen but shit, some of these guys can be persistent!

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