The traveling salesman
A few days ago we caught the bus from Puno to Arequipa, Peru. It was our third bus since leaving Sucre, Bolivia and would put us about a third of the way to our destination in Ecuador. Now in the past while riding on the buses through South America it has not been uncommon for the bus to stop to let people on board to sell fruit, juices and potatoes. Unbeknown to us, this time we were in for an extra special treat. This is the tale of the traveling salesman.
We were and hour or two from our destination in Arequipa. Jen was sitting on the aisle side right next to the stairway to the bottom floor. As usual the bus had stopped just outside the terminal to fill the rest of the remaining seats for the locals, and as they usually did they had overfilled it so there were a few men sitting in the stairwell. On her way to the toilets Jen had discovered one of the stairwell dwellers was becoming increasingly inebriated. Jen struggled to make her way in to the toilet tussling with the old man who surprisingly spoke English. When she returned to her seat Jen was disgusted to see the other stair dweller spit on the floor just in front of her.
Thinking things could not get much more “interesting” the third stair dweller ascended the stairs with a large suitcase. The man proceeded to open the case and remove a tangle of cords with which a microphone was attached. Placing the case in the centre of the bus and returning to his spot right next to Jen the man held up a clear plastic file filled with newspaper articles. Flipping through them and speaking only in Spanish it soon became clear we did not need to know exactly what he was saying. As they say: “A picture speaks a thousand words”. The presentation began with images of a gringo on the toilet with a most uncomfortable pain written all over his face, followed promptly by an article titled “Colon Cancer”.
The man talked for a solid hour before presenting his product, as any good salesman would do. He had to create hype and a fear in these people that they may in fact be constipated or worse, at risk of colon cancer. The only problem was half the bus was asleep. Up front the only person looking mildly interested was a young boy of about 16 years old, and to be honest I think his iPod had just run out of battery. As the sales pitch went on, the man pulled out all the stops including sound effects and facial expressions. One thing you never need to see in your life is a forty-five year old Peruvian man imitating constipation on a bus. Nobody needs to see that shit.
The mans last trick was to pull out the most gruesome images. Haemorrhoids! Again something nobody should be subjected to while trapped on a bus. Now it was time to send out the product for inspection and purchase. Handing Chris (our travel buddy) a bottle of the magic pills for beating colon cancer, haemorrhoids and constipation we inspected the package and eventually decided against the 8 soles ($2.85 US) purchase. The salesman was however lucky enough to pick up one sale, a man who’s face I never saw. Clearly he was not embarrassed in the slightest about buying haemorrhoid pills in front of a bus load of people.
Finally the man packed up his suitcase and took back the unsold merchandise and returned to his post in the stairwell. Minutes later we arrived in the Arequipa bus terminal where I attempted to use the toilets with little success. Where did that salesman go…
What was your strangest bus encounter? Let me know in the comments below.