ON MY WAY to Ocotlan from Oaxaca via bus several years ago, I watched as a young man of about 20 boarded at a bus stop near the edge of the city. Carrying a black satchel, he made his way to the middle of the bus and, holding tightly to the overhead railing, he began to speak.
“Señoras y señores,” he said. “Forgive the interruption but I would like to inform you about this wonderful cream.”
With his free hand, he took a small jar fom his bag and held it up for all to see. No one appeared to be interested in what he had to offer. Conversations that had been going on continued and new ones were initated. Undaunted, the young man proceeded to deliver an energetic litany on the benefits of his miracle cream.
“Back pain. Feet pain. Neck pain. Pain at the waist. It gets rid of them. Coughs, too, especially in times like these when the weather is uncertain. As you know, one minute it is cold, at the next it is hot. Very hot.
“This cream penetrates the skin. It penetrates muscle tissue and tendons, and it gets directly to the source of the pain.
“There are times when a housewife spends hours ironing and at the end of the day she cannot stand the pain in her feet. This cream takes that pain away.
“There are times, when young women spend all day on their feet at work, until they have so much pain in their legs that they feel like crying. This is the cure.”
On and on he went, pausing only occassionally to make reom so persons who’d just boarded the bus could squeeze by him.
At last, he paused, and I thought that he was through. But he was not. Instead, he reached into his bag and pulled out another jar. This one, he explained, was a cream for the skin.
“It gets rid of wrinkles and scars and eases burns and sunburn,” he said. “It makes them disappear.”
As he spoke, he kept stealing glances out the bus’s windows. Obviously, he had planned to get off at a particular bus stop and did not want to risk missing the stop.
After one of the stops, he announced that he would be going down the aisle to see if anybody would buy either of his creams.
“Lots of luck,” I thought. “Nobody has been listening to you.”
I was wrong. At least two women were listening, and each bought one container of each cream, at 10 pesos apiece. He thanked them, profusely, then asked again if anybody else was interested. With no more takers, he made his way toward the front. As the bus was slowing down, he spoke one final time.
“Señoras y señores, muchas gracias por su paciencia,” he said. “I beg forgiveness, again for this interruption but, you see – you understand – this is my job. This is how I feed my family. Have a good journey and a very pleasant day.”
The bus stopped and the vender of relief and beauty was gone.