The sun is quite hot today, I muse sweatily. The heat is making the load on my head heavier than usual which is hurting my neck.
I want to sit, but I cannot. I have been shouting Buy Oranges at an interval of 3 minutes for over 2 hours to the long distance travellers who happen to stop by to buy things to snack on. I’ve drank water to prevent losing my voice as I will still do this the next day and the day after that and the days after that…
A car with one occupant has pulled over; the driver wants to buy something from one of us hawking. There are hawkers selling plantain chips, roasted plantain, cold water and oranges too so I am not sure what he wants exactly. However I know anything edible would appeal to a traveller so I try to make sure he notices me. I go closer, repeating my mantra over and over again, shoving other hawkers in my path as I make my way to the driver’s window. I have other hawkers selling the same thing as me, therefore I cannot lose this opportunity.
The driver notices me at last. He picks one of my oranges and coolly assesses it. I’ve seen buyers do this numerous times and instinctively I know what is coming next and prepare myself – bargaining.
“How much?”, he asks dropping the one he picked before and picks another.
“N200 for 5 Oranges”, I reply.
“Ha!”, he exclaims,” I thought it was N100 for 5!”.
Immediately a bout of anger and irritation rushes over me, but it is quickly replaced with desperation.
I am angry that as tattered and wretched as I am, that this man can still try to buy these oranges for less than they cost.
I have heard of how people go to big shops and don’t bat an eyelid to pay obscenely for clothes and shoes not worth their prices. People like him!
I force myself not to frown. “No oga”, I manage to reply politely, “that is the last price”.
He shrugs, drops the orange and makes a show of wanting to patronise the other orange seller. My heart sinks.
I hate when people do this. I hate when they are not considerate. Can’t he see I need the money? Can’t he see how hungry I look? Can’t he understand?!
But who cares?
I get his attention again by saying, “Oya last price for N150, last price!”.
I need the money. It’s what my family will use to get something to feed on. The competition is steep as I am not the only one selling oranges, and if this is another unlucky day, he may be the only customer that buys from me.
He regards me then glances at my oranges. He then shoves his hand into his pocket and hands me a N500 note which makes my heart sink further. I have no change to give him. I have not had a lot of people patronise me today. Infact he is my first customer. I tell him I don’t have change. I know the other hawkers prefer smaller denominations of currency so I don’t bother asking if they have.
He smiles saying, “But I have N100”.
I nod, implying I will accept the money and hand him the oranges while he hands me a rumpled 100 naira note with a stupid smile on his face that literally screams, ‘I win, you lose’.
I watch as he drives away, shaking my head and thinking just how terrible and inconsiderate human beings can be.
Fortunately I do not have the time to think about my loss as another buyer has come. I run towards the car which has three occupants almost shoving my oranges into the face of the person sitting on the passenger seat. “Buy Oranges!!!”, I cry again and again.
Hopefully, I pray inwardly, this customer will not only buy but will also not bargain…