ON Friday, Nov 4, at 2pm, I went down the overhead bridge at 4-Mile, having alighted from the PMV bus I had travelled there from Hohola.
Just as I walked past the Ori Lavi building complex, I saw a group of boys, street vendors, showing off their phones, belts and other stuff, to passersby.
As I was about to head into the building to get to the other side and walk down to the bank, I noticed this small kid on my left, standing near the vehicles parked there.
He had a box full of blue Kilometrico biros, some stood on the edges of the box to make them more eye-catching, I guess.
He was busy looking at his box and did not see me.
It was then I realized that I needed biros. The last one in my bag could run out if I were to sign on the bank’s documents.
“How much are those?” I asked in Tok Pisin, the creole used here in PNG.
“Fifty toea for one,” he said.
As I was digging into the trouser pocket on my right where I keep my coins, he said: “Fifty toea for one, one kina for two, please.”
The word “please” used indicated that he was in a way begging me to buy his pen.
He was trying his salesman skills on me.
Well, for this barefoot, 10-year-old, who was dressed in a short and yellow, dirty T-shirt, I knew I had to reward him for being a smart, industrious citizen of this country, even though he might be breaking labour laws selling stuff when he should be in school.
I switched my hand to the back pocket and checked for a K2 (two kina) note.
“Do you have a K1 there?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said, and started digging into his trouser pocket.
“I will have two, please,” I said and handed him the K2 note.
He gave me two biros and then held up his right hand with some coins in it and started counting loudly: “20t, 40t, 60t …”
“Wait,” I said. “I will take 50t only.”
And I picked up two 20t coins and a 10t coin.
He looked at what I was doing and looked puzzled.
I think he was a bit late in working out what I was doing.
“You keep the 50t,” I said, as I turned away.
He still looked puzzled.
“Thank you for the biros,” I said and walked away.
“Oh, thank you!” he said, more like a sharp call than a statement.
I think he worked out then that I was not shortchanging him by picking up 50t from him and not K1.
As I was thinking about the incident throughout the weekend, I was asking myself if that boy ever went to school.
If he did not, then he must have picked up his counting skills on the streets, selling stuff like the biros.
Well, I will have to ask him next time I see him.
(Word count: 387)