Haggling For Boxers

Katie’s getting married in May, and so it’s been shopping shopping shopping. Zappos for shoes, Starlet for dress, the Kenwood church for the ceremony, Canaveri’s for catering, and on and on. And we haven’t even ordered the invitations or thought about flowers and centerpieces and all that happy stuff. What a production this all is! Busy busy busy.

So I think it would be appropriate to insert this passage about Richard’s and my shopping for clothes, in particular underwear, one night in Cairo. The airline had lost his bag–the second time this has happened to him–and after these sweaty days astride camels and in sketchy taxis he definitely needs some clean undergarments. So here we are, strolling down the main avenue crammed with the Egyptian populace that sensibly waits until nightfall to take in the cooling evening air.

“We head back toward the hotel, scanning the rickety tables along the sidewalk piled with cheap goods. I know we will find Richard some underwear here, and so we do. Two young guys are hanging around their table stacked with knock-offs of Nike and Hugo Boss boxer shorts. We’re all business, heads down, flipping through the layers of shorts, looking for Richard’s size, hoping not to get the hard sell. Ha, ha.

“The guys eye us dispassionately. ‘You want shorts? These are very good shorts.’

“I pull out a pair that is among the least hideous of designs. ‘Do you have this in a bigger size? Bigger?’ I say straight-faced as I widen the space between my palms. ‘They are for my husband,’ and I gesture in Rich’s direction. Man, it’s that XXL problem again.

“’No problem,’ says one of them. He digs about, then whips out a pair completely different from the pair I hold in my hand. ‘This will fit.’ Hardly. They look even smaller.

“Heads down, we dig around some more, finally coming up with a pair that should work. ‘How much?’

“’Ten,’ he says. Ten Egyptian pounds? Bargaining is called for, as is always the case.

“’Too much. How about five?’

“’Not five. Ten.’ He’s a stubborn dude.

“’Five,’ we insist.

“’Okay, eight,’ he grudgingly replies.

“’Six,’ Rich counters. Then he has an idea. He digs briefly through the piles, then comes up with another identical pair, just in a different color.

“’Okay, how about two for ten?’

“The guys are momentarily at a loss. We wait for this to sink in, then drop the shorts back on the table. “Okay, thank you,” Rich says, and we turn and continue walking down the street. Whatever you do, don’t look back.

“Five feet, ten feet, fifteen feet. Then we hear over the crowd: “Mister! Mister! Okay, two for ten! Two for ten!”

“We walk back, smiling now. The bargaining game is over, and we fork over the ten pounds. Never mind that ten Egyptian pounds is the equivalent of about two U.S. dollars; if you don’t bargain, you look like a fool, a hick.

“Off we go, but you know, those guys never did crack a smile, as is supposed to be the accustomed outcome in these dealings. I know things are pretty tough these days in Egypt, and selling and bargaining is taken a little more seriously if one is to make a living. Perhaps we were wrong to drive a hard bargain, but we get our comeuppance shortly thereafter: back in the hotel room we discover the flies in the shorts are sewn shut.”

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About Holly J. Pierce

You thought vacationing with small children was hard? Try traveling with your two daughters in their 20's, yet be glad that you have your peace-mongering husband along. Put it all together with your own laser vision of an epic journey and you have the basis for my book. Will I ever see it published? Will those self-published volumes ever move out of the garage? We'll see, won't we.
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