The Vendor and the Beggar: It’s all About Attitude

Attitude trumps ability every time.

The Border-line is Up to You – Part II

If you missed part one of The Border Line Series, you can find it here: 

The T-Shirt Vendor and The Beggar – It’s all in the Attitude

I’m stingy. That’s what started this. I was only a few yards from my own country, but since I’d crossed the border, my phone wanted to charge extra, and I was lost. My husband and son had set off to find an item and I got distracted by something else and in just that quick moment, we were separated. I could have texted them, but I was too stingy to pay extra. Besides I wasn’t worried, they had to pass back by in order to get back across the border.

The hot sun beat down and my feet ached almost as fiercely as my head. I was tired of tramping up and down the sidewalk where every vendor offered something I didn’t need. I spied some faux marble steps leading out of the dust and into a corner farmacia where I would be able to see anyone walking by. Welcoming the shade and the relative cleanliness, I settled to await my errant family.

Several of the men and women who had already offered me items to buy swarmed over, apparently thinking I was getting comfortable in order to spend money. I thanked them all politely and gradually they drifted off to find other targets. A gentleman standing nearby held four of the ugliest T-shirts I’d ever seen. The strong young man had been holding those four T-shirts on four hangers when we first walked down the street earlier in the morning and he was still holding them. He wasn’t as outgoing as other vendors and when I seated myself, he just sort of waved the T-shirts in my general direction and turned away when I smiled and shook my head.

And that was his method. He stood dejectedly against the side of the farmacia and in front of vendor stalls, waving the T-shirts at anyone walking by. He didn’t smile nor initiate conversation. I puffed my hair off my sweating forehead and closed my eyes for just a second. Man it was hot!

“Oh!” giggled a high-pitched voice, “Check this out, isn’t that hilarious?”

“Chelsea would love that!”

I opened my eyes to see T-shirt man, wrap-around-grin splitting his handsome face as three women pawed through his T-shirts. He struggled to hold up all four so that each hideous design could be viewed simultaneously. It was the first bite of the day and he was excited.

The ladies chattered in English and he tried to follow and anticipate their interest by waving the right shirt in their direction. Still chattering, they wandered on, apparently never noticing the man holding up the T-shirts. His gaze followed them, the wrap-around grin fading with each step they took away. When they reached the other side of the street, they still chattered happily, while the T-shirt vendor sank back against the wall. Defeat pushed his shoulders down and his chin rested on his chest.

A gray-haired lady pushed an old gentlemen in a wheelchair to the corner right in front of me and just down from the T-shirt guy. The wheelchair man shifted his position and the lady patted his arm, straightened his cowboy hat, and left him sitting in the hot sun with a Styrofoam cup shoved down next to his amputated leg. His deformed left hand waved to the T-shirt guy and in Spanish he blurted, “Well, here we are…we have to get something today!” He grinned. T-shirt man waved and his chin came off his chest a bit. A couple walked by and dropped a couple of coins in the cup. “Gracias!” the wheelchair guy yelled happily.

I watched as person after person, both tourist and local, came by the corner. He smiled and laughed and joked with each person who came by. A salesclerk brought him a tortilla, “Extra” she said. Another patted his wheelchair and asked if he had water. More money went in his cup.

Finally, during a lull, with the heat still pounding down, the T-shirt man asked the old man if he could move him out of the sun and into the shade. “No!” replied the man, “This is where people expect me.”

“Pfft” shot back the other man, “you don’t even have to do anything. You just sit here and in 10 minutes make more than I have all morning.”

“This is the life,” replied the smiling old man, gesturing toward his missing appendage, “we just do the best we can do. But…I’d trade you if you wanted…”

The man with the T-shirts straightened his shoulders and pushed off the building. “No,” he replied, “I can do this!”

The wheelchair man laughed and waved at someone across the street.

My husband and son bumped around the corner right about then and we walked back in to the USA. The words of the old man are probably the best souvenirs I brought back with me.

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