Tuesday, May 26, 2009

City Irritants

I didn't grow up in the big city (or anywhere near one). It is because of this that I am still easily amused and/or irritated (but not duped) by all the begging, hustling, and trickery that goes on in the streets. Rome, like Paris or London or New York or Chicago or thousands of other cities, is full of these things.

In every city there are the classic beggars who flop down on the sidewalk. Rome has plenty of these, though it's better business for them to loiter outside a church and pretend to be entry-fee collectors. This evening, an even more clever guy busily extracted the most valuable coins from Trevi Fountain with a nifty homemade tool.

There are also plenty of goods sold on the streets of cities, and here in Rome it's mostly the usual stuff. There are fake handbags and sunglasses on every corner. Roses or tripods are seemingly shoved in our faces ("Want to buy?") a dozen times a day. Other sellers demonstrate the crappiest battery-powered toys ever made by man. We would never purchase any of these things - lest we encourage them to continue the selling - but I can at least understand why a particularly dopey tourist (or their particularly dopey children) might be interested.

But then there's the guy that approached us today at Trevi Fountain, who has seen an entirely new market opportunity. As we sat eating our gelato and quietly admiring Trevi Fountain around dusk tonight, the product shoved in my face was a ... stress-relief squeeze ball?

Yes, this particularly brilliant street entrepreneur is prepared to serve the many tourists so stressed out, they can't live another moment without their very own squeeze ball, complete with stupid painted-on face. Surely no tourist can resist the demonstration squeeze, after which they will eagerly part with their money. Not wanting to be frugal, they'll even buy one for each hand! Why, the stress is gone already! What would they have done without this buying opportunity?

Oops, got lost in the seller's fantasy land there for a second. What I meant to say is that this particularly street entrepreneur should pack his bags and head home, because I don't think things are going to work out for him.

No comments: