Sunday, 9 February 2014

A Romanian Couple Have a Shopping Trip Adventure in Bucharest

Signs of the crumbling economy were all around. [...] His eye caught sight of a straw man dressed in old jeans, a T-shirt and a checked jacket propped against the wall of the Church. The figure looked like a scarecrow, he said. Someone had sketched eyes, nose and a mouth on his cardboard face. And as a final touch, had drawn a tear in blue ink, trickling from one eye. On his lap was a sign, ‘No job. Wife and kids to feed.’ Apparently, there were a few coins in a collection bowl beside the straw figure on the pavement! [...]

After paying for the metro ticket, another item on the government’s list for price increases, they waited for the train. With the sound of wind rushing through the dark tunnel and headlights shining on the tiled wall, the train arrived. However, as they got on, they saw a straw figure seated in the carriage. It was dressed much like the first one and also had a face made of cardboard. The sign around its neck said: ‘Tax hikes! Give generously.’ There was a cap on the straw figure’s lap, empty.

“Do you think there are others?” Maria said.

“Might be.”

I can just imagine Mitică shrugging and looking around, curiously.

Sure enough, just as the escalator reached street level at Unirii, there was another straw man propped against the window of Unirii Shopping Center, he said. Hung around his neck was a notice,’Petrol price hike! I’m broke’ In fact, as they looked around, they saw more and more straw figures with signs like, ‘Can’t afford medicines,’ and ‘Loan sharks to repay. Deep in debt.’ Not only that, they noticed large flags on roof tops as far as the eye could see. The flags were red with a large, yellow star in the top left hand corner, and four smaller stars in a semi-circle around it.

“Whose flag is that?” asked Mitică, puzzled. “They’re everywhere. Look!”

“Didn’t you see ‘Enter the Dragon’ with Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan?” said Maria, in a superior tone.
“What’s that got to do with the flags?” countered Mitică.

“It’s the Chinese flag, tâmpitule!” [...]

They went into the big store at Unirii Shopping Center and found a shop selling expensive bags. One bag, he said, was made of crocodile skin and cost a fortune. It was on display, high up on a glass shelf. Mitică said he was praying that Maria wouldn’t see it. But, of course, she headed straight towards it like a guided shopping missile, pointing.

The assistant stood on a chair and took the bag. It seemed strangely heavy, because she struggled to hold on to it as she got down from the chair. She handed it to Maria, who clearly loved it. Mitică said he was getting ready to fork out an obscene amount of cash when Maria opened the bag’s silver clasp to look inside. And that’s when something unbelievable happened.

As she opened the bag, the mummified fingers of a hand and then a fore-arm appeared. Maria shrieked and dropped the bag. The fore-arm rolled onto the shop floor. Mitică said that as God is his witness, it was a man’s fore-arm, still with pieces of ripped and bloodied shirt sticking to it. The assistant fainted. Then the manager appeared. Mitică said that the manager was desperate to prevent a scandal and urged them to take the bag for nothing. However, he made them solemnly promise they would never mention the incident to anyone.

They left the shop in a hurry, and as Mitică glanced back, he saw the manager dragging the unconscious assistant to a chair while calling for a glass of water. The fore-arm still lay on the floor. [...]