I hate to admit that there have been not quite many blog-worthy incidents in my life for sometime now, but what happened today just left me aghast. Ok, considering that I have been harping about how other people are the not-so-good ones, going by my previous posts, you might expect this one to be the same. But NO! This time it’s ME :(
I did something unwittingly that has been at the back of my mind, ever so slyly pricking my conscience and questioning my supposed humane demeanor; something which I did in the name of trying to be ‘practical’ and ‘worldly-wise’ and not get swindled. Here’s what happened…
My building manager called a few of us and told us that our drain was clogged and we needed to get someone to do the dirty work of unclogging it (Yes there are people who actually get down into the **it to clear it). Since most people had to head to work and college and I (along with a few other seedy building characters) were the only ones who were left, I volunteered to get the job done. (Come on! Those seedy characters would only land up in deeper **it, so to speak). I had to head to one of the corporation centers, get a BBMP cleaner, watch over him and see that he does the job properly and then bargain a proper wage for the job. Sounded pretty simple.
Now when it comes to bargaining, I SUCK at it. But I thought I had been getting away saying that a lot of times and did not want to let the thought obstruct my ‘sense of duty’ right now. So I waited till the work was done, all the while making up the ‘negotiation’ conversation in my mind, plotting to get the best ‘deal’. The waiting was hell…
Ok, he’s taking too long; does that mean he’ll ask for more????... The stick’s not helping in clearing the debris completely so OMG he’s shoving his hand into the drain to clean it!! Now he’s DEFINITELY going to ask for more!!! (At this point I feel a LITTLE bad for him, but no, the negotiation ordeal needs much more thought)
I make the first move; I go over and casually say…
“Ok, looks like the work’s almost done. How much?”
He thinks and mutters
No way!!! The manager just gave me three fifty!! What will he think of me if I tell him I was not so tactful and managed to save only fifty bucks! I pitch the age old bargainer’s line
“What? The other cleaner who came last week took only one twenty”
He does not listen, goes to the road to tie up the long bamboo sticks. I just turn to look at something for an instant and I hear a cry. It’s the cleaner. He’s writhing on the ground with fits.
I react - Ho ho ho, I know this trick! A nice way to swindle more money out of me – the darned sympathy trick! He’ll probably be alright in a minute, walk up to me and say that the noxious gases from the drain caused this and I had to pay him more! No way am I going to fall for this!
So I just stand there and not do anything. People gather. Somebody from the building runs to him with the iron rod he used to open the drain. I move closer lest the people think I’m some sort of hard hearted ass. I keep wondering what the fuss is all about, all the while waiting for the guy to get over with his act. I am more worried about the money.
Finally he becomes still. I wait. He gets up groggily, looks around not knowing what to do. Ok ok ask damn it! I know how to deal with you! He goes back to tying his sticks. But an old man from my building stops him, thrusts a cup of coffee in his hand and makes him sit down. Ok, so now he gets more money AND coffee. He finishes drinking it, throws the plastic cup and begins to walk away. Where is this dude going??? I call out to him…
“Hey! Your money”
I only take a hundred rupee note and ten five buck notes, and slowly thrust it into his hand, wondering if he still had energy to bargain after wasting it on that little skit of his.
He takes the money, does not count it, does not even look at it, thrusts it into his pocket, totters towards the sticks, ties them up haphazardly and walks away groggily. As he leaves I notice a bruise on his foot, he's bleeding. He must have grazed himself while having those convulsions. That’s when I realized that…
He was not pretending… he did get fits.
I am too disgusted to notice at that moment that I did indeed get the better deal after all.