A year and a half ago I wrote a post called ‘A Story of Two Nickels’. It was actually two stories that took place within just few miles of each but separated by some 40 years.

The first story involved a nickel that was asked for, freely given and then surprisingly blessed.The second story involved a nickel that was asked for but most stingily refused.  .

I was recollecting on this as a roadside food vendor willfully and most deliberately beat me out of five pesos. Five measly, stinking pesos. But I already ordered the roasted ear of corn and the man had already doctored it up with chili sauce and placed it in a plastic bag so when I got five pesos back in change back from my twenty I called him on it.

I told him they were ten pesos. He very matter of factly told me that the little ears were ten and I was holding a big ear; those were fifteen. I didn’t say anything more.

I walked across the street and talked to the guys there who were also grilling corn over charcoal burners. I asked just when did corn go up to fifteen pesos?

They said, ‘Nah, they’re still all ten pesos.’ They shouted at the guy across the street and said in so many words, ‘What gives? You’ve seen this guy. He lives here.’

The man replied, ‘He’s not Mexican.’

My guys looked at me and shook their heads like, ‘What an asshole.’

So the moral of this particularly insignificant tale of such a paltry sum of money is just how differently some of us view money, possessions, and entitlement. Like in this case, if I am too stupid to ask what something costs before ordering then the vendor is certainly entitled to taking a few extra pesos off me.

Forget the fact that I walk by these guys every single day of the year and I might only get an ear of corn once a month – but now that I think about it – generally from the guys on the west side of the street. I still know that the damn things cost ten pesos. Just like ice cream in the plaza is 10 pesos a serving. And the fruit vendors sell their bags of chopped up fruit covered in chili sauce for ten pesos.

So the corn vendor guy beat me out of five pesos. To him he felt entitled. To me he’s just a insignificant little worm of a thief. Who is more right? Him or me? I can certainly understand his point of view. But the whole buyer beware argument is morally sketchy at best.

So what am I going to do about this? Easy, just simply ignore it and never buy from him again. Getting angry over anything while you are a long term visitor in another country is to mark yourself as a complainer or a troublemaker. But to get gypped out of money – that is pay more than the locals – time after time is to mark oneself as a fool which opens on to other troubles.

Five cents or five pesos. What the insignificant sometimes tells us about ourselves as human beings. Someone very wise once said something to the effect of “Show me what a man does when he thinks no one is looking and I’ll tell you who that man is.”

PS – I came to the conclusion years ago that no one can ever argue with correct behavior; unfortunately that is postulating something that is easier said than done.

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