Here’s the thing: I needed a cap – my head was burning – so I started pedaling slower hoping to notice a shop at some point that sold something to cover my head. There was nothing for a while then – bam! – a street vendor selling nothing but caps. It was perfect, so I stopped, got off my bike and went to have a look.
There were yellow ones, red ones, black ones, white ones, leather ones, cotton ones. It was like she’d read my thoughts somehow, and set up shop knowing I was on my way. I half-imagined her whisking the whole set-up away as soon as I’d bought mine to follow someone else’s thoughts, and set up just where they needed one.
The vendor was wearing one of those conical hats made from bamboo, and her face was covered with a flowery, red and white bandanna. I didn’t care which one I bought, so I picked one at random, and she got her purse out and looked at it, I think, so she could show me how much I was meant to give her – my Vietnamese wasn’t good enough, and her English was non-existent.
When she couldn’t find the note she was looking for, she raised her head and lifted her index finger – 100,000 – and I gave her the money, no bargaining, it seemed fine to me, who cares, it was only five dollars, I needed it.
As I got back on my bike, though, I saw the vendor walking off to talk to two men, who looked at me and smiled, and I knew I’d been fleeced. Locals would’ve paid 50,000, if not less. They were ecstatic. They could have an extra beer or five on the way home.
For a moment I thought, you fuckers, but then I thought, who cares? I had a hat, and she got some money, we both won, so I got on my bike and smiled at them. They could congratulate themselves all they liked. I was happy to have been robbed, even if it did make me a dick for not caring about something that clearly meant so much to them.