5-3 Grumpiest Shopkeeper EVER


 

There are several shops in Melsisi.  The are universally one room with a few shelves.  The big one, known as the Magic Shop, is a large room with about 9 shelves.  The smaller ones are the size of a closet and have one shelf.  In all of the shops, you tell the shopkeeper what it is you want and they walk to the appropriate shelf and put it on the counter.  Once they’ve run laps around their shop getting all your purchases, you pay and take your things.  I’ve seen more efficient systems, but this one works here.
One of the main shops in Melsisi is the Priest’s Shop.  (We have colloquial names for all of them.)  The shopkeeper at this shop is the grumpiest shopkeeper ever.  Seriously.  Let me relate a few recent interactions with him.
We were trying to find milk powder to make pancakes for Jason and Alexandra’s birthday breakfast.  The Priest’s Shop is about 40 feet from Hannah’s house, where we were making the pancakes and we were pretty sure it had milk powder.  It wasn’t open.  No surprise, he opens late and closes bang on 4:30, usually after taking an extra long lunch.  Hannah walked to 4 other shops, covering more or less all of Melsisi in the process.  As she was coming back, she met the shopkeeper on the road.  The conversation went something like this:
“Good morning.”
“Grunt.”
“When will the shop be open today?”
“I don’t know.”
“Do you have milk powder?”
“I don’t know.”
“Would you mind checking?”
“Grunt.”  He goes and sits under a tree about 30 feet from the shop.
Hannah comes back to the house.  We watch out the window until he wanders a bit closer to his shop.  When he goes in, we send in Alexandra.  She’s his favorite.  That conversation goes something like:
“Good morning.”
“Grunt.”
“Do you have milk powder?”
“No.”  He doesn’t even pretend to look at the shelves behind him.
Alexandra stands, blocking his shop line while she examines each and every shelf for the milk powder.
“What’s that down there.”
No reaction.  He pretends he can’t hear her.
“Bubu, what’s that down there?  In the blue plastic?”
Continuing to pretend he can’t hear her.  There are now three other people waiting in the shop.
“Bubu, I think I see something in the blue plastic on the bottom shelf.  What is it?”
He glares at her, sighs dramatically, stands up, shuffles over, picks up the sachet of milk powder and throws in on the counter.
“How much is the milk powder?”
Another dramatic sigh because he has to turn around on his stool to check the price. 
“150.”
“Thank you.”
I could understand if he was just having a bad day.  We all have those.  Some days you just don’t want to deal with people.  To make it clear that this is not a bad day, let me try to relate some of his more classic moves.
One of the women from the Health Center went to get toilet paper.  He gets the toilet paper and throws it at her.
For the first 6 months I was here, he would pretend he couldn’t understand me.  I would ask in Bislama for say, noodles.  He would turn to whoever was in the shop and shrug at them.  They would repeat, usually verbatim what I’d said.  Then he’d sigh and get me my noodles.  Usually with a dirty look thrown in for a tip.
Every once in a while, he will be in a very good mood.  This means that he will simply grab your items and place them on the counter.  Happy does not mean smiles.  Happy means a lack of sighing, eye-rolling, and slamming items on the counter.
It makes you wonder how that job interview went. 

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