Thursday, June 14, 2012

In which I buy a cowhide I could have bought in San Antonio for less money

We’d had a boring morning trying to find food in Salta. The farmers had left so the scenery at the hostel was not so great. The Handbook mentioned a great tourist market, so Jeff and I decided to check it out.

I wasn’t impressed with the very expensive wood carvings and twice-as-expensive-as-in-Bolivia Bolivian imports. We were leaving, just minding our own business when I walked past a black and white cowhide (I think it was a Holstein) stretched across a rack. I kept walking, but within a few steps, realized I had to turn back. Something about the hide haunted and drew me. Visions of my weekend house at the ranch flashed into my mind. I saw the rug lying on the hardwood floor in front of the fireplace with me and Mr. Right sitting on it -- naked -- drinking a nice red wine (well, you wouldn’t drink white in those circumstances, would you?).

Jeff walked up and admired it with me. But what would I really do with a cowhide, I asked him? He agreed that it was not really a necessity of life and we started to walk away. Then I decided I should at least know how much it cost so I would know how virtuous I was being in turning it down.

I found the saleslady and asked the price. One hundred twenty-five dollars. That decided me. I couldn’t spend all that money, I told her.

She paused thoughtfully. “It’s $125 for most people,” she said. “But I haven’t sold anything all day. For you, I make it $110.”

No, I didn’t need a black and white cowhide, I told her firmly and crossed my arms.

She looked at me shrewdly then looked over her shoulder before stepping closer to me. She was no novice to this game, I could tell. “One hundred dollars,” she whispered.

I bit my lip. I wavered. Jeff’s gaze swung back to me. “No, no, I just can’t,” I said regretfully.
She moved in for the kill. With a sigh of deep sacrifice, she said, “Ninety dollars,” and looked at me expectantly.

Jeff sucked in his breath. The ball was in my court. How would I respond to this challenge?
I considered the offer. Suddenly, the dynamic of the game shifted dramatically. Jeff decided he was a player. He hurled down the gauntlet and said, “If you don’t buy it, I will.”

Did I have any choice? Really, there was nothing to do but go into the back room where lifted up my skirt, unzipped my money belt, and counted the money out. I was now the owner of a cowhide.