Saturday, June 23, 2012

At the roadside

An old man is crouching at the roadside. Beside him, a very young woman with a small child is sitting. His daughter? His wife?

It’s seven in the morning and temperatures under the umbrella put up are still pleasant. Two wood boxes are set up on the sidewalk: a cloth is spread over it and on it neatly arranged are some bags with kernels and nuts, paper tissues, cigarettes and chips. Things that nobody needs but everybody buys.

While passing by on my bicycle, the man is greeting me and waves his hand. I smile and greet him too.

But my smile freezes. This scene is neither in the middle of the city nor in a residential area. It’s outside on the ring road before a huge roundabout. It’s seven in the morning and there are already 30° C. Who would stop here to buy anything from these people? How long can they bear up with the heat on the sidewalk with the child? What would they do at noon, when the temperature in the shadow climbs up to 40° C? From where can they get cold water?

Anyway: how did they get there? I calculate: a bag of kernels costs about two or three pounds. Maybe they add 50 piasters or a pound. Or maybe even two. What would remain at the end of the day? Given that they are able to sell something, the turnover might be 20 pounds. That’s the value of 3 kilos of rice, a big pile of subsidised pita bread, a chicken, 300 g of meat or a bag of vegetables. It’s more difficult with fruit, melons are cheap but they would get only one and a half kilo of mangos.

This smile… can’t get it out of my mind… so friendly… so satisfied… and so honest…
And remembering the scene, there is again this strange feeling in my stomach that so often happens to me when I’m out and about. I wonder if this also happens to the Mercedes Kompressor and BMW drivers?

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