So it finally happened. The day I always knew would come. The day I gave into a pushy pirate.
I was left alone and helpless – a single impressionable figure in the midst of a crowd. I did the right thing. I buried my face in my phone, didn’t glance his way, barely mumbled thank you when he shoved the dime-sized sample into my hand.
“Just let me show you one thing.” he pleaded. And that is where I made the mistake. Where I normally would have shaken my head and hurried on without bothering to be polite and responsive, I looked up. “No thank you, I am in a hurry.” I said. I don’t know what came over me. If I was feeling vulnerable after having battled the crowds at the store I had just left. Or, more likely, if I had been away from a mall for too long and had forgotten that the only way to say no to pirates, also known as salesmen, was to be rude.
“I know, I know – really quick, just one thing.” With a skeptical glance around me, I turned off the screen to my phone and he knew he had me. I feel like the hands motioning me toward his stand were more like tentacles drawing me towards my death.
I reluctantly took a couple steps forward so he could show me the “one quick thing”, and next thing I knew, his hands were in my hair. “What are you doing?” I wanted to demand, but my polite upbringing provided a barrier against the words coming out. He purred and simpered over me, as he showed me the flat/curling iron that would make perfect curls in my hair that wouldn’t fall out. “When you curl your hair, it never stays, yes?” He asks. I nod, truthful to the end. “You have thin hair” He says. “No, I don’t!” I defend myself, offended that the thick hair I am proud of was called thin. “Oh, you have thick hair” he quickly corrected himself. “It is just the strands – they are thin.They will stay this time.” He brings the attention back to the curls. He shows me how to straighten it out, assures me that it is the one product that doesn’t damage my hair. I think about just pulling away and running, but envision that going badly with a steaming hot flat iron entangled in my hair.
“You like it? You like it?” Again, I politely nod. “Normally $300, but today is [insert some random anniversary], so we have a special sale! We will sell it for only $189!”
“No thank you.” I am proud of myself for getting the words out. “The price is too high?” I nod again, looking wistfully at my hair clip placed just out of reach and the myriads of people passing us, oblivious to my desperate situation.
“Tell you what, tell you what. Just for you, I will give you [insert special person] price! I will bring it to [rapidly typing numbers on his calculator] $120!!” He flourishes, expecting hallelujahs and angels. “Uh. No thank you.” He looks as though I have just crushed his entire world, and feeling appropriately guilty, I let him straighten my hair out again, grab my clip and step away, my hair now my own again.
I begin walking away. “Wait, wait – one minute!” He calls after me. Once again, I ask, what came over me? Have I been away from crowds too long? Did I have an aneurysm? Did I just zone out? For whatever reason, I stopped and turned back. He hurriedly whispers to the other guy at the stand. I glance stealthily behind me and begin inching back, thinking I should just walk away, and then thinking how rude that would be after I had already stopped.
He motions me back and, I will say, I pursed my lips to show my intense displeasure at being detained even longer, but politely step back towards him.
“I have asked my boss for permission.” he tells me in a low voice as if telling me a magnificent secret. “And – just for you – because I want you as a customer – I will give up my commission and give you this product for [pause for dramatic effect] $89.99.” He looks at me as though expecting me to break out in a wide grin, all my wishes and dreams come true.
I feel tired and defeated from all this human interaction. “Um. . .”
“But! But, in exchange, you must promise to recommend me to your friends! Pinky promise!” He holds out his pinky finger for a pinky promise. With confusion I look at it, and at him, my brain telling me to run, my imagination instantly amused at his quoting Despicable Me, my hair-that-never-curls looking at the curling iron, and the rest of me bursting with the need to be kind and polite.
I barely shake his pinky finger. In ecstatics, he shows me the multitude of colors I can get, types up my sale, and holds out his hand for a credit card, which I shamefacedly hand to him, sign the receipt, and rush away, hardly able to believe I just let myself get sucked into that, and looking angrily at my $100 purchase, thinking it had better work, and trying to think of the best way to tell my husband that I just spent that much money on a hair product I never use.
Husbands reaction as I begin telling him the story: Uncontrollable bursts of laughter, as he assures me that my story itself was worth the $100.