“I would like five carrots,” I told the market vendor as he weighed the other produce I had collected from his stall.
A moment later, he breezed back with a bag bulging with considerably more than five carrots.
“No.” His coworker pointed to the bag and looked at me. “That’s too much, isn’t it?” He had overheard my tiny order.
I remembered the first time I had bought produce at this stall. It was the coworker who had pretended to forget to give me my change and then came back, minutes later, surprised that I was still standing there–neither oblivious nor angry. He quickly handed over the correct change without my reminding him of the amount.
Now I found it refreshingly ironic that he was the one looking out for me.
Long ago, I wrote about how I tend to be a loyal shopper, shopping in the same places, even when I know other places have better prices. I still do that today. On market morning, I make sure to stop at my normal vendor stalls first before picking up what I couldn’t find at other stalls.
You may think my loyalty is blind, but that’s not fair. And this is why…
One day I was meticulously selecting the brightest pomegranates from a pile. My produce vendor noticed what I was doing and slipped over to show me how to tell when pomegranates are ready–and it has nothing to do with how rosy they were!
Sometimes I’m offered samples of special fruits. And when I ask if new apricots are sweet, they answer honestly because they know I’ll be back even if they’re not.
The first time I made puchero, I ordered my bones and cuts of meat. The shopkeeper happily filled me with advice on preparing the dish. “Boil these bones for 15 minutes before putting them in your soup or they will make the soup too salty.”
One day I bought semolina flour for harcha. “You like harcha?” the shopkeeper asked. At my happy sigh, she disappeared to the back of the store and came back with harcha, still warm from breakfast. More than once, she has given me handfuls of mint leaves from her personal stash when there wasn’t any to sell.
Another shopkeeper refused to sell me a lone chicken breast. He quietly shook his head until I understood that it probably wasn’t the freshest chicken breast north of the Mediterranean.
Sometimes when the fabric vendor sees me coming, he pulls out the bolts he’s pretty sure I’ll like. And if I stroll into his stall wearing something homemade, he spots his fabrics with delight.
Just the other week, my shower curtain rod was repeatedly falling down. Finally, after several days of clattering, banging, readjusting, and scratching my head, I decided a new rod was in order. But the store down the street didn’t have any. “Come back this afternoon,” he said. But that afternoon, he still didn’t have any. So he opted to get to the root of my problem–what was the problem exactly?
As I was still making feeble attempts to explain without the proper vocabulary–”The thing in the middle of the stick…”–he began to work on something he had dug out of the dusty depths of his under-counter. Then–pop!–out came a yellowed suction cup and he told me precisely how to position it to keep the shower rod up. “You can even trim around the edges if you don’t like how it looks.” And my curtain rod has stayed up ever since. The yellowed lip of the suction cup is a happy reminder of the resourceful people who are looking out for me.
My meager loyalty has been rewarded so many times over that it has been crowded out by their generosity. In fact, I’m not even sure that my loyalty has much to do with it at all!