Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Retail therapy

I’ve read that people sometimes go shopping to lift their moods. I don’t remember that I’ve ever tried it because I don’t really like shopping anyway. Except that I really like to go to Komarovski Market, a big produce and grocery market whose name translates to something like “Mosquito-infested.” (This historical name relates to swampland drained in the 1920’s.) I love this place because I can buy just about anything at better prices than anywhere else in the city. Hundreds of vendors rent stalls, and many of them compete with each other. As at Boston’s Haymarket, quality varies a lot. I’ve solved the quality problem by picking out two or three favorite vendors, to whom I always return. Knowing that they’ll see me again, they take good care of me and won’t sell me bad stuff.

For different reasons, I’ve given little gifts to two of them. Last winter Arminya saw me eating a croissant and teased me about it, telling me it looked pretty good to her. Actually, it was good; so I went back to the French baker and bought another one, which I brought to her. She responded by giving me a free pepper the next time I came back and big smiles every time.

During the spring transition period, after she gave up her indoor stall but before she took possession of her outdoor stall, I introduced myself to another vendor. She saw me looking for Arminya and suggested that I should buy from her instead. I told her I’d do that, but that I wanted her to take good care of me from the beginning and she could count on my loyalty. She does take good care of me, and keeps giving me discounts on the stuff I buy. Once, after a little misunderstanding, I brought her a very small house plant. Oops. The discounts suddenly got bigger and I think she gave back the value of the house plant in my very next visit.

Anyway, today I saw Arminya at the market and she gave me a free pepper for no reason at all, or perhaps because I remembered her name. I also bought some beautiful strawberries from another friendly vendor and had a good time buying apricots at yet a fourth stall. I asked the apricot lady if I could touch her fruit and she gave me a big smile and told me that I (and only I) could choose my own apricots. Is it any wonder, then, that a shopping expedition really did lift my mood?


  1. I started reading your blog in spring and occasionally return to it. I'm from Minsk, actually, and thus I'm quite interested in what people from other cultures think about it.

    Like the above mentioned french vendor, for instance.

    Anyway, thank you for your insight.

  2. Thanks for the link to the wonderful story about the French baker. I really enjoyed it.