e-mail me at billdeg@umich.edu


wacky wednesday

Each Wednesday, the Arab-owned produce markets in Dearborn offer their cheapest prices. We're talking about really good sales: cucumbers for forty-nine cents/lb., three heads of romaine for a dollar, and so on. If big crowds and loud kids don't bother you, the experience can't be beat. Feels like being in another country, and not just because most people are speaking Arabic. From what I can tell, giving children food that hasn't been paid for is perfectly acceptable. I've seen kids in shopping carts eat bananas, grapes, bags of chips.

Yesterday the lines were especially long. I had almost gotten to the registers when a little old woman with a very large bag of rice approached me and spoke Arabic for perhaps two minutes. From gestures and my imagination I intuited that her point was something like 'I was at home cooking when I realized I needed rice. Can I jump in front of you, my good man, so I can purchase my rice and be on my way?' Flattered by her imagined use of the phrase "good man," I gestured for her to take a cut in line. Immediately I heard dramatic sighs from behind me and knew trouble was coming.

Another woman approached my rice-loving new friend and absolutely berated her (in English, which she clearly did not understand) for cutting: "you're getting in front of everybody, not just this guy." ('This guy'? I'd much rather be referred to as 'my good man'!). They went back and forth in two different languages. Finally the old woman got the message and began to mope toward the back of the line.

Now, the customer behind me in line was too busy feeding her toddler a meal's worth of unpaid merchandise to notice the argument. When she saw the old woman walking away from my cart, she offered the woman the place in front of her and then with a sneer looked me up and down as if to say 'what kind of a jerk won't give an old woman with one item a cut?' At this point, I had one customer mad at me for giving cuts, one mad at me for thinking I don't give cuts, and one under the impression that I speak Arabic. The anti-cutting advocate got in front of the woman with rice and said that if rice lady was going to get a cut then so was she. Nobody stopped her, so I guess in the end everybody was happy, including me with my cart full of good and cheap stuff.


bonnie lenore kyburz said...

ouch. sounds brutal. i love a good sale, but there's a limit :)

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