Tuesday, February 03, 2009
They have a gift.
They can smell you, perhaps even sense your presence in their vicinity. They are predators alright, but skilled ones at that. Their regular hunting grounds are the milk and the canned tomato aisles at Walmart. The moment they spot you in the cereal aisle looking confusedly at Kellogs' Chocolatey Delight and Vanilla Almond, they lock you in their sights. They don't follow you, but somehow 'accidentally' bump into you in the next aisle. And then they go about the kill, slowly and softly.
Yes, I am talking about the 'Amway' Desis.
My friends had adequately warned me about these creatures, more so now that I'd moved to Texas. And after two encounters in 3 days, I am now seriously contemplating doing my groceries at 1 AM on a wednesday.
Why, you ask? Allow me to cut to the flashbacks.
On the way home from work, I remembered that I was running out of cereal (now that I'm guzzling 4 boxes a week!). So I decided to stop by the friendly neighborhood Walmart. Navigating my way through the friendly stray shopping carts, I parked at the closest available parking spot which was only half a mile away from the entrance. Actually, in one of the great ironies of life, I feel jealous of the handicapped every time I go to Walmart.
Anyway, I was at the milk section when I noticed a decently dressed 'Desi' being awfully polite to all and sundry. Hmmm.. something fishy, I thought. Well, actually I was walking by the seafood section when I thought that. But anyway..
So I was in the chips aisle doing inky-pinky-ponky between regular and jalapeno cheetos when I heard a voice.
"So, looking for Indian Chips aa?"
It was the aforementioned Decent Desi. I don't know where he came from because the aisle was empty when I entered it.
"Missing Indian Chips aa?" he asked again.
I was startled, only for a second. Then I was actually disappointed.
Missing Indian Chips? Really?? You're looking to get unknown people into your business network and that is the best pick up line you can come up with?
"Hehe" I let out an awkward smile, avoiding making eye contact for more than 2 seconds.
"You are Indian, right?" he asks. I was impressed.
"Hi, I'm LKB" (original name withheld), he offers a handshake. I return the favor.
"Where are you from?" enquiry begins.
"Oh.. my sister lives in Bangalore".
Sister? Riiight. Hundred bucks says your dad got a 'Nasbandhi' after you were born, I thought. Couldn't say it to his face though. I blame it on my upbringing.
"I know Brigade Road. Nice place" he continues, beaming with confidence on his knowledge of Bangalore.
That's nothing. Visit Okalipuram once. Another awkward smile.
"Where in Bangalore are you from?"
"Jayanagar" I answer.
"Jayanagar.. Hmmm.. I don't know that place. I only know Brigade Road".
Really? You don't say! I'm just glad you asked that question anyway.
"So, what do you do?"
Oh, you mean besides engaging in such stimulating conversations? "I'm an IT Consultant for XYZ company"
"Ohhhh! That's cool"
That was followed by 2 more minutes of enquiry about the domain, technology and cubicle I work in.
"So, how long are you gonna be in Texas?" Finally, he's coming to the point.
"Hmm.. I'm not sure at this point of time" I'm proud of myself.
"Hehe.. IT consultant right, situation is bad here for you folks"
Aah, he's also a scholar and an economist. Maybe I should just give him my phone number.
"Hey, why don't you give me your phone number?" Here it comes. "I'll give you a missed call and you can store my number". Bullseye!
Okay, you know what's a perfect example of an amateur mistake? Carrying your cellphone in your hand while walking around in Walmart.
I was cornered. I had to give him my number and pretend I was saving his name while I went through AT&T's free spam in my inbox.
"What time do you come home in the evening?"
Huh? Are you planning a surprise birthday party or something, coz my birthday's not due for months.
"I dunno, its pretty hectic at work these days". Indeed it is.
"No worry, I'll give you a call soon. And we can meet sometime in the evening. I live close by"
"Okay, bye" I rushed out of the aisle even before completing that sentence.
Five minutes later, I was walking towards checkout and bam! I saw him again, walking towards the same set of checkout counters as me. With a combination of great speed and supreme cart dodging skills, I turned the other way and ran towards the ladies lingerie section where I took a very forced refuge for 5 full minutes.
I lived to fight another day.
That another day came sooner than I had hoped for. My mistake this time: I waited till the very last moment to do last minute chips & dips shopping before the superbowl game and hence let my guard down at the battleground.
This time it was a couple, in their mid 30s. They sneaked up on me while I was unsuspectingly looking at some cheddar dips. I shall refer to them as 'Dumma' and 'Kulli'.
"Hey, you look familiar. Are you from Chennai?" Dumma asked. I instantly recognized the genuinity in his voice.
"No", I responded, without a smile.
"But you are from South India right?", he expanded his horizons quickly.
"Ohhh Bangalore!", Kulli exclaimed, again, genuinely. "We lived in Bangalore some time back. In BTM Layout"
They then followed the standard questionnaire template (job, domain, technology, how long in the US, what time you come home from work) before Dumma finally came to the point
"Hey, why don't you give me your cell number? We can meet sometime."
This time, I was ready. My cell was safe in my trouser pocket, and the crease it created was barely visible.
"Actually, I don't have a phone yet. I've been here only for a week"
Nobody call me now. Nobody call me now. Please.
"Ohh. Okay, take my number at least"
I shrugged my hands indicating I don't have a pen or a paper. And I obviously don't have a cellphone.
"Hey look, I have pen and paper", Kulli smirked as she plucked the pen and paper out of her purse.
I took the piece of paper and was about to take my leave when Dumma decided to make a last ditch attempt.
"Hey, at least give me your hotel phone number man"
Wow. I didn't see that coming.
"I don't remember it off hand. Sorry".
I'll kill you and your wife if I miss the kickoff.
"Hmm.. No problem, I'll look it up online. Just tell me the room number".
My god. He must be getting a really fat commission on this. There's no other explanation.
"Its 108", I said.
"Okay then, we'll see you soon".
I sincerely, desperately, faithfully, 'on-my-knees-god-please-have-mercy-on-me'fully hope not.
As I was leaving the place, a wierd thought entered my head. What it was, you shall soon find out.
Fast forward 4 hours:
Its the fourth quarter, Arizona's just scored a freakin' unbelievable touchdown. The two minute warning has just been sounded. Big Ben is driving the Steelers down the field. Can this get any better?
Yes it can. (Its the catchphrase of the season!)
My phone rang. Unknown number. I contemplated for 10 seconds and then picked it up.
"Hi! This is LKB. How are you?"
Incomplete pass. 2nd down at the Steelers 45.
"Hey, this is LKB. Remember, we'd met at Walmart a few days ago".
What. The. Fuck.
(Lesson Learnt: When an Amway douchebag gives you his phone number, Save it. At least you'll know when not to pick up the phone)
"Oh Right. Whatsup?"
"Hey, I was wondering if you wanna come down to my house tomorrow"
"What? Hey, are you not watching the game?"
Roethlisberger sacked. Do or die 3rd down now. Why in the bloody world am I still talking to this guy.
"Oh. I don't really follow all these sports"
"But I do. So, bye."
And I cut the call. That's the first time I ever hung up on someone I knew. It felt sooo good.
It was then I started giving my aforementioned wierd thought a little more er.. thought.
I was so proud of the way I wriggled myself out of the hands of these creeps twice in a row, I felt I should take this up as a night job, you know like a super hero.
'Harassed by pain in the arse business networkers? Do not fear. Blade Bhadra is here.'
My super power would be distracting these crooks from victims by using their own 'blading' methods, and then slipping out of the situation with blade like smoothness.
I am not kidding. In fact, at this very moment, I am stiching my superhero outfit. This is what I'm gunning for.
Well, if it doesn't work out, I always have my wednesday 1 AM plan.
And by the way, Room 108 is the room next to mine, currently being inhabited by a big black guy who's making an unusual amount of noise.
(That was the sound of a blade. A smooth blade. Its gonna be my alter ego's signoff.)