Sunday, December 23, 2007

Stalking the doughnut man....

The doughnut men are elusive creatures. At about 6am they hit the streets; honking (tooting...whatever!) old bicycle horns and generally making their presence known. They are usually small-ish, wiry men who carry two heavy glass cases filled with doughnuts on either side of a pole that sits on their shoulder. They speed walk up and down the streets hawking their wares. At about 6am, if I am in bed, I loathe the doughnut men. I hear go up our street, down the side street, and then make their rounds on the street opposite. I'm convinced they are in league with the mosques to disturb my sleep. (The first lone Mullah begins his prayer call at 4:30. He goes on for about half an hour until joined by all the other Mullahs who don't end until 5:30) Half hour of blissful peace and quiet and then the doughnut men are out.

But this morning, as I follow my mother's management advice (1. guilt; 2. bribery; 3. blackmail; 4. extortion; 5. begging), I reach point 2: bribery and so I need doughnuts for the staff meeting at 8am.

At 6am I jump out of bed as I hear them surrounding the house. I try to make myself Shari'a law presentable and run out of the house...but the gate is locked...and the guards is nowhere to be found. I have to hunt him down and get him to open the gate and when I peak out - guess what? They're gone. I don't mean down the street but I can still hear them. No, they have evaporated.

Defeated, but not deterred I grab my stuff, lock up the house and hit the streets. I'm trolling around Meulaboh in an NGO car stalking the doughnut man. I feel like someone should be filming for a National Geographic film special. Nothing.

After about three neighbourhoods I decide to roll down my windows and troll very slowly hoping to hear, instead of see, one of them. My diligence is rewarded. Just as I drive by one road I hear the quarry coming down a small dirt lane. (And when I say small I mean, very small...one down which I'm not entirely sure I can navigate a vehicle...[see post on ditches]...and there's no one in Meulaboh to bail me out if I get stuck. Doughnuts vs. getting stuck in a ditch. The call of bribery is too strong so I navigate a four point turn and head down the lane. Alas, the doughnut man has completely disappeared.

Driving slowly enough I eventually see him come out of an even smaller dirt lane and I promptly make his day by buying about half of his doughnuts. While doing this I consider the implications of my actions. Staff being happy little workers [short term gain] vs. encouraging the early-morning doughnut industry [long term pain]. As I leave with my 40 doughnuts I'm still not sure I've made the right choice.

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