Monday, October 29, 2007

A Strange Shopping Experience

Street vendors are a way of life here. Pretty much everywhere, day or night, if you are out and about you will see all sorts of people selling all sorts of things right off the street. Need some cheap DVDs or CDs? Go over to that corner. Watches and umbrellas your thing? Then head down to this street. Whether it is food or socks or books or turtles that you need, you can probably find it being sold on the streets of Shanghai.

Right outside the living quarters gate is a little Sichuan place that pretty much all of us frequent for supper. Right outside the restaurant usually resides this adorable old ma selling various potted plants. He has a small selection of mums, cacti, aloe and other things. We have purchased from him before because he is cheap, the plants are nice, and he’s just darn cute.

Like so many things in China, actually purchasing or plants is a source of frustration and amusement. We stand there for twenty minutes trying to decide which plan is for us, the old man does an interpretive dance to try to persuade us to buy half a dozen and then we both haggle over price while neither of us understands what the other is saying.

The other evening we went to dine inside the restaurant and were placed by the large window which happens to be right next to plant guy.

My wife made the mistake of catching plant guys eye.

I can’t blame her really as he was right outside, the plants were looking nice, and who doesn’t look out the window when they are sitting right next to it?

Still, mistake it was.

Plant guy first smiled then lifted up a plan to give my wife a better view. Then he began lining up plans beside the window to offer us an entire selection. There were four of us eating and we each laughed, shook our heads in the negative, and tried ever so hard to not look at him again.

Plant guy moved more plans into the sill and lifted them up for us to see. Let me tell you it is quite difficult to not look out a big window while there is an old man waving plants at you. But we did good and didn’t look, or at least when we did look we shook our heads to indicate we weren’t interested.

All the while we were all eating our food and engaging ourselves in conversation. Just as my wife was in the middle of giving a long schpeel on how her graduate work is going, plant guy enters into the restaurant carrying a little cactus. For a moment, my wife simply couldn’t understand why everyone thought her dissertation on participles in old French was so amusing.

Then she saw plant guy and his cactus. When we were through cackling we assured the old man as best we could that we had no need for a cactus, and he left. Not one to take no for an answer though, he soon entered in again with an aloe plant. In order to show us the aloes great usefulness, he began rubbing the plant against his old, wrinkled, unshaven face. My grandmother swears to the wonderful effectiveness of the aloe plant, but I’m not sure it could do anything for that mug.

Once again we assured the old man that we didn’t want such a thing and again he left. By this time we were done with our meal and we got up from our table. But the old man wasn’t through he already had another plant and was headed inside. As we paid we entreated him that we weren’t interested and he let us be.

Once outside, we stopped by his shop and bough a little flower.

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