• Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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Once upon a salesman


 He walked in with a song. In one hand was a bunch of books, and under the armhole of the other another set of slim-like books. Everyone in the salon seemed to know him. They bantered, guffawed, shook hands and laughed out loud.

I was buried in a magazine and barely noticed him but this was about to change. He approached me with a knowing smile and began his pitch.

“Good afternoon, madam,” he chirped.

“Good afternoon,” I replied.

“I have good books for your children.”

“No, thank you,” I said, shaking my head as best as I could under the circumstances. “My kids are all grown.” I was sure I was rid of him but he lingered.

After an awkward silence, he said unexpectedly, “They are still your children, buy books for them.”

“Sorry,” I said, my voice rising. “I do not have young children for the kind of books you have and I thought I already told you that.” A hint of irritation was creeping in. I could not continue with my book and he was drumming up a drama in a salon where I had previously been largely anonymous.

“I have books for every type of child, no matter how old,” he said with a smirk. Then he began to drop them on the table in front of me. While doing this, he would call out the title of the book loudly. “How to interpret your dream, you see,” he continued. “Your child would need this. How to date the right man; Miraculous prayer book with 250 prayer requests; How to break the mathematical code.”

I raised my hand to bring him to a stop as he was distracting me and preventing me from continuing my reading, but he just ignored me and continued: “How to get that elusive job; Beauty treatment. You know this maths book, it’s very useful. People don’t know maths because they don’t know the code. This book breaks it down.”

I was not sure whether to bludgeon him or scream. I tried to block him out of my consciousness but his irritating gavel, his familiarity with the salon and the giddiness of the staff that were giddy with his antics made the salesman soldier on. I, on the other hand, was not amused.

“Listen Oga,” I said to him earnestly, “I am not buying any book today either for me or for my children.”

“See,” he deadpanned, “no matter how old they are, they are still your children.”

I was not sure what this was meant to do, perhaps make me feel a sense of guilt for not purchasing books for my children? I was not sure. I decided to be more emphatic and show my irritation more forcefully.

“I don’t buy books for them; they are old enough to buy their own books. I believe I have made that point loud enough, sir!”

Seeing that he could not buy me over, he decided on a new strategy. While still dropping the books in front of me, he said, “Madam, no be only you dey this salon, there are other people here and they will buy, so I am not showing them to only you. Whether you buy or not, there will always be people here who will buy my books.”

I sensed anger, but by now I had made up my mind to ignore him.

“How to be a success in life,” he continued, shouting at the top of his voice as he dropped it on the table with a loud thud. One of the girls in the salon wanted “Miraculous prayers when in trouble”, a slim nondescript book. He placed it on the table and described its qualities to high heavens.

“How much?” she asked.

“Only N200.”

“Aah… no,” she said, “too expensive.”

“See, because of you I will give it for N150; you are my person.”

The girl insisted on N100.

“No problem,” he said. “Take it!” Then he tried to convince her to add one more book. “How to interpret your dream is a good book,” he told her. She pondered. He pulled it from under the pile and raised it up for her to see. She continued plaiting her client’s her, acting like she was uninterested.

“It’s N200,” he said, “but you know, I will give you for the same price with the other one.”

There was silence. The salesman hummed to himself for a while and decided it was time to go. He tried to market a few more books but hairdressers became too busy and paid no attention. So he turned to his only customer and said, “Ehem, oya now, take the books and bring the money.”

“I want only one,” she said, “250 prayer points.”

“Okay now, bring the N100.”

“I am not carrying money today,” she said, twisting the weave on the customer’s crown.

“Ah, ah, so after I gave you araha, big discount, you want to owe me?” He picked up his stash of books from the table and stormed out of the salon.