This is the Jan 4, 2008 post from Robert Fulgham. I like his insight, I like his books, and I also really like that on his website he acknowledges that his material is copyright, but as he says in his own words, "on the other hand, I publish it here to be shared. Feel free to pass it on. Just give me credit. Fair enough?" And there you have it.
January 04, 2008, Buenos Aires, Friday morning,
LAST TANGO IN ARGENTINA
Perspective: En route to an internet more amenable to writing ("Air conditioned, Comfortable, Tranquil")
I was carrying two one-peso coins loosely in my hand to buy a copy of the Buenos Aires Herald. An elderly woman, focused on counting the coins in her palm, stepped out of a ¨Maxikiosco” into my path. In making the sudden tango-esque moves of avoidance I dropped my two pesos. Collecting my coins I stood up to find the old lady, smiling broadly, and holding out her hand: “Muchas gracias, senor!” She thought I had retrieved coins she had dropped. Well. So. I placed the two pesos in her hand¨: ¨Den nada, Senora.” Even if we both spoke the same language, it would have been ungraceful of me to argue that the coins were mine. It would have debased the gift of her thanks. I walked on down the sidewalk toward the newsstand.
“SENOR! SENOR!” The old lady hobbled up behind me. Now what? She fired machine gun bursts of Spanish. “Pardon, no hablo mucho Espanol, Senora,” I replied. She lifted her eyebrows. Well, then. She took my hand. And placed two pesos in my palm, and wrapped my fingers around the coins. Then she showed me her own coins. Apparently she knew exactly what she had when we collided, and knew she had not dropped anything. These coins must be mine. And I had given them to her. She could have kept them. But, no, here she was.
With her own sense of what was graceful.
She smiled, kissed me on my cheek, as is the Argentine custom, and hobbled away.
The newspaper seller, from whom I have often bought the Herald, and who overheard the conversation, smiled, and handed me my paper. And refused to take my two pesos. “De nada, senor.”
It’s nothing, they say.
And it’s so much.
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