By Jack Handley - Diplomate, Curmudgeonology
I live in a small town facing a big river. Until the middle of the last century it had been a busy river port for timber schooners and barges carrying hay, grain, fruit and produce downriver from Sacramento to the big cities of Oakland and San Francisco.
It has escaped total dereliction only by also being the county seat. It's a fine, old American small town with alleys, vacant lots, an operating train station and barking backyard dogs.
It is also graced with a farmers' market held on blocked-off Main Street every Sunday (year-round, this being the West Coast).
I walk the town nearly every day and one Sunday several weeks ago while zigzagging between the double rows of market booths, I witnessed this interaction at a fruit stand. I suppose it was an exchange, of sorts. But not nearly a transaction, of sorts:
Old man: “I'd like a pound of the sweet peaches, please.”
Booth lady: “You choose them.” She points to the tray, and ducks down below the market scale to attend to something beneath it.
Old man stares at where she'd been standing. Looks at market scale. Looks at peaches, then walks off.
The booth lady rises into view, looks after retreating old man, then turns to her booth partner and mouthed, “Crazy old geezer.”
Me: “I suppose he wanted to buy some peaches.”
Booth lady: “Well, why didn't he, then?”
Me: “I mean, I suppose he wanted you to sell him some peaches.”
She stares at me. “Say what?”
Me: “Sell, sell. He was expecting you to sell him a pound of peaches. Like weigh out a pound of peaches and exchange them for his money.”
Booth lady: “This is a booth. You pick what you want — it's your choice, that's the idea — and put them in a plastic bag. I weigh the bag to find out how much, you pay, I hand you the bag, done, yes?” (pause) “I guess he was confused.”
Me: “I think he was just trying to simplify things. He wanted a pound of peaches, perhaps he only had two dollars, anyway the scale's on your side, so he can't weigh out a pound, he doesn't know how many peaches to a pound. So he thinks that, rather than put a bunch of peaches in a bag and hand them to you, and you weigh it and take out some, and then hand him the bag and take his two dollars, he'll just give you the bills and ask you to put two dollars-worth in the bag. Done.”
Booth lady: “Are you pulling my chain?”
Me: “No. Look. You go to France. You visit a local market square. You see a pile of nice peaches in a stall and decide to get a few to taste, not too many. You don't know French, you don't know a Euro from a franc, so you point to the peaches and hand the seller a one Euro note.
“He weighs out a Euro's worth, puts them in a plastic bag and hands it to you. See? Easy. No hassle.”
She rolls her eyes and makes a face to her partner. She turns back to me. “This ain't France.”
I walk away. I feel foolish. I sense her mouthing, “Crazy old geezer!”
EDITORIAL NOTE: You are a prolific bunch of writers and there is now a backlog of reader stories to carry us almost to summer. So for awhile, I am not accepting new stories until we work through some of the ones already on the list.