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The Bus Salesman

Posted by Marco Antonio Mendoza Friday, January 29, 2010

While slowing sweating under the bright summer sun in what can only be described as a mobile sauna, I was pried from my heat stroke induced slumber by a loud and vivacious portly green-eyed man. The middle aged man dressed of a business casual fashion with a black suitcase hanging heavily from his shoulder, did not hesitate one second in starting his pitch. 

His dialogue echoed loudly as it traveled down the aisle of the aged bus.  His voice was deep and strong making it hard to ignore,  we were all captives to his speech (all but a few lucky souls trapped in their deep sleep) and his poetic words held our attention as we listened with anticipation.  The man strutted up and down the moving bus handing out booklets as he continued to entertain our minds and sway our wallets.

When it was all over 15 minutes of our lives had been spent giving our undivided attention to this stranger and some of us had even bought his product.  In my experience moments like this one are rare, the man who stepped on our bus was a professional in my opinion with a true gift. 

In Lima, the bus salesman is all too familiar with the citizens of the city.  They come in all sizes, age groups and sexes with one goal in mind, to make money.  If you closely examine the layout of a bus you will see that for a salesman it is the perfect playing field.  It is an environment that allows you to sell not just to one potential buyer but to several all in one performance.  It does not matter whether your selling candy or the latest novel, all you need is a little charm and a convincing sales pitch. 

Most Limeñans would consider these individuals to be an annoyance, an argument which is understandable when you take into consideration the sheer volume of salesman who board the thousands of buses operating within and around the city.  It´s that all too common story we've all heard a thousand times before, "please help me, my mother is in the hospital...blah, blah, blah!"  It´s hard to want to give out my money to someone who seems to be lying.  How can you trust someone whose story is identical to all the others you hear?  It´s not hard to see why so many commuters are cynical towards the bus salesman. 

I myself admit that I find it hard to just hand over my spare change to a man whose story sounds dodgy from the start, needless to say there have been moments where I have genuinely been convinced about an individuals needy situation and have happily handed over a few cents. 

The bus salesman is just one of the many characters of Lima´s diverse urban culture and whose daily prose should never be taken lightly.

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