Lessons Learned The Hard Way – No. 67

5 02 2009

istanbul-3-mw

“It says: beware of man with shiny shoes for he has empty pockets.” (Istanbul, Turkey)

 

Never look where you’re going.

 

A friend and I were heading back to our hotel late one afternoon in Istanbul. As we rounded the final corner someone dodged the heavy traffic and hurriedly crossed the road just ahead of us. As his feet landed on the sidewalk and he jogged away, something fell to the ground with a clatter. My friend reacted quickest, bent down, picked up the shoe-shine brush and shouted after him over the noise of the cars, but he kept hurrying forward. My friend shouted again and this time he stopped, turned around and came back.

 

“You dropped this” my friend explained, proferring the brush.

 

The shoe-shiner looked at the brush, then into his wooden box and stepped towards us.

 

“Thank you so much” he said, with a big smile. “I don’t know what I would have done if I had lost it. You are good man. Honest man. I give you shoe-shine.”

 

My friend protested that there was no need, but our new chum was already kneeling down with his box beside him and moving towards his brown shoes, rag in one hand, brush in the other. My friend resigned himself to the service on offer.

 

“Where you from?” the entrepreneur asked, as he polished and buffed.

 

“Canada.” we answered.

 

“I have cousin in Vancouver” he explained, his hands working at lightning speed.

 

“Have you ever been?” my friend asked, attempting to make conversation.

 

The shoe-shiner stopped mid-buff, raised his head and inclined it to one side. Looking him squarely in the face he soberly said: “I am shoe-shine boy” and resumed his cleaning in silence.

 

We uncomfortably gazed at each other somewhat embarrassed.

 

The shiner put away his cloths, polish and brushes, stood up and extended his hand.

 

“That will be 10 lira” he said.

 

“But I thought it was fr….” my friend began to stutter before realising that there was no room for negotiation. The service was complete. His shoes gleamed…and he still felt guilty asking if a shoe-shine boy could afford a long-haul flight to the other side of the world. He reached into his pocket and handed over 10 lira.

 

“He dropped that brush on purpose, didn’t he?” he asked as we watched the shoe-shiner skip away back across the busy road, tucking the notes into his pocket.

 

 

Photo and post by: Simon Vaughan

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