The $3 shoe shine

He asked me if I would care for an awesome shoe-shine. I politely refused and walked briskly toward the parking lot. And he walked right behind me saying, “you won’t regret it.” I turned back and looked at him. There was something in his eyes telling me that all he wanted a chance to prove that he was worth my time. And perhaps, he could feed himself tonight.

I looked at my watch. It was 1703 hrs and in about 30 seconds my time would be up and the exit gate had two other cars waiting to check themselves out. I’ll have to pay for the 2nd hour. No reprieve or exceptions. I turned to this guy and said, “sure, go ahead.”

He sat down beside my car and gave me a pair of slippers to wear while he shines my shoes. I just kept looking at this person. This was the first ever time I have asked someone else to shine my shoes. I’d always done it myself. And was too proud to have anyone else touch my shoes, let alone shine it. I guess I gave into this man’s subtle persistence.

Nonetheless, he got onto polishing my shoes. And a full 11 minutes and 26 seconds later asked me to wear my shoes. I did. He then pulled out a piece of white cloth and flossed it across my shoes for that final touch, giving them an awesome shine! They looked (and still does as I’m wearing them right now while writing this at a coffee shop) as good as new!

“How much do I owe you?” I asked. “A hundred and twenty rupees,” (about $3) he said without missing a beat. It was a little surprising. Probably because I never thought a shoe-shine would cost this much but then, I did get the best shine I can ever give to this 5 year old pair. It sure was worth it.

I pulled out money from the wallet and gave it to him. He it, gave me the balance, thanked me, looked up for a brief while and walked away.

I knew what that meant. His first sale of the day.

I was speechless. I didn’t know what to say or even think. I was just glad I didn’t bargain, which is something we Indians instinctively do. That would’ve been moronic! Of course, there’s a time and place to do that but not when someone’s literally pouring their sweat to give you their best. Even if it’s just a shoe-shine.

I guess life gives us many opportunities to live the human experience. This was one of them, for me.

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