Since the decline of everything we thought we knew (aka the global economic whatever) things have been pretty hard on us humans. It’s like this constant feeling of, “Shit, I really wanna buy that useless thing over there on that shelf, but I can’t because I’m too fucking poor.” It totally sucks.
An example of someone who is prospering from this whole global meltdown thing, however, is The Man who owns the ultra-cheap, ultra-shitty food stall outside my house. Literally, the guy sells nothing but out-of-date food and useless crap like novelty ties and chocolate bars in the shape of feet, yet as of late his stall has been swarming with eager shoppers, all fighting over the last dented can of 15p sardines or rotten sack of potatoes. They don’t even seem to mind that most of his goods have decorative stickers strategically placed over their sell-by dates, disguising the fact that they expired light-years ago. These days, people will do anything to save a penny.
Still, I can’t rat on him too much. The Man has been a daily figure in my life since I moved to this area of south London four years ago, and over that time we’ve become pretty good friends. He also has a crazy eye that never stops wiggling, and one time he told me he thought ‘indie’ music comes from India. This is what he has to say about stuff:
Hey The Man! How long have you worked at this stall?
The Man: I’ve been working here since I was a kid. My dad bought it back in the 70’s when it was busy ‘round here. It’s not like it used to be. In the 70’s and 80’s this area was kickin’. All the Turks and Greeks brought loads of fresh fruit and vegetables, but they’re all gone now.
What do you think of this area now?
One word: shithole. This whole place is a giant shithole. It used to be nice, but now we’ve got every Tom, Dick and Harry living in this borough.
What do you mean?
You know what I mean. Foreigners.
Random Turkish shopper: Oi! Fuck off, you English bastard. I’m more English than you are. I’ve been living in this country forty-seven years! That’s longer than you’ve been alive.
The Man: Fuck off ya Turkey!
Uh, awkward. Anyways… umm… as a cheaper alternative to chain supermarkets, have you gotten more business since the credit crunch?
Fuck knows. All I know is I’m still poor.
But your stall seems so busy lately.
I’ve been wearing this jacket for over ten years. What does that tell ya?
That’s gross. So, like, do you get bored working here every day?
No, you get used to it. It’s a job, innit?
What do you do to keep entertained?
I read books—detective books, murder mysteries, that kind of thing. And I keep the kids from nicking.
What do you do for fun?
What time do you have to get up in the morning?
5am on most days, and 4am on the days that I have to buy goods from Borough market.
Are you aware some of the food you sell is out of date, and that you cover up the expiration dates with decorative stickers?
Excuse me? What did you say? You better rephrase that or I’m going to give you a slap, missy. I’ve got my reputation to uphold here. That was heartless. Next question.
Is there a lot of gossiping that goes on around this area?
Yeah, course there is. It’s like Eastenders ‘round here. Everyone knows everyone’s business. You can’t talk to a bird without everyone thinkin’ you’re shaggin’ ‘em.
Are you shagging them?
Nah, you’ve seen ‘em. They’re all big things who’ve only got one eye or somethin’.
Do you have a favorite celebrity?
Nope, not a favorite.
What about Paris Hilton? You like her?
I know her. I don’t like her. She’s a slag with plenty of money whose dad’s a fuckin’ multimillionaire. I know her because I read about her in the paper. Stuck-up bitch, she is.
How long until you retire?
Fuck me. I’ve got another forty years. I’ll be pushing the daisies up.