Wednesday, October 12, 2011


The other day I was cruising along the path at one of Canberra’s many suburban shopping centres. In Canberra most suburbs have a suite of shops at its centre. A small supermarket; a greasy spoon café; a hair dresser; possibly a newsagent and other assorted specialty shops.

TLR, resplendent in his you-can-ride-my-tail-anytime Maverick mirror shades, and I had set forth to the nearby shops to sup a lunch from one of the foody shops there. I had a crème brule from the bakery. He had a tube of honey mustard Pringles and a cig.

We were walking back along the thoroughfare outside the shops when we passed a sadly very typical sight in suburb shopping precinct; the little old lady selling crap.

I’m not sure how exactly the little old ladies end up at these places and selling things people broadly don’t need. There’s only so many frilly-lacy edged cushioned tissue box covers one needs in their house. Or knitted baby wear made from scratchy wool and using OH&S inappropriate buttons.

In this case the little old lady was selling plants; potted plants.

I have no interest in gardening. Don’t get me wrong, I love a nice looking garden. And even though it’s environmentally dodgy to have such in Oz I love one with a nice spread of lawn and English looking plants. The standard Australian default of scabby grass and bark (slash) stick (slash) branch shedding trees is not for me. But the actual act of gardening; the digging, the planting, the mulching, the weeding … not so much. I chalk that disinterest up to a life of not being able to bend properly or suffering discomfort when I did. Let’s face it … gardening involves bending.

But theWife … theWife is into it. And this little old lady was selling plants in pots. I could be a campus hero if I came home with a pot. So I lingered and decided to look even as TLR, AKA Maverick, strode off, leaving me behind.

The little old lady was of Central or Eastern European in origin—‘you to please to be buying plants’—but after some minor confusion I agreed to by a pot with mint in it, reasonably certain that plant type was not yet present in the lovingly attended raised vegetable patch between our administratively invisible shed (1) and Chooky’s hiding tree. The price was three dollars. I had about nine dollars left in my wallet.

Then, seemingly without her having moved, the little old lady was next to me with another plant. ‘You get this one too; is celery and parsley.’ I was confused. ‘Er, I just want this one.’

‘Yes!’ shouted the little old lady, handing me the second pot.

As I was juggling plant pots against my sadly ample man bossers and trying to say ‘No, I just want the one’, whilst trying to get money out of my wallet to pay for it, her head teleported to be peering deeply into my wallet. ‘Give me that money for other plant,’ she said after I started handing off assorted coin to pay for the first plant. ‘You have more … for this too!’

She handed me a third fucking pot plant.

Dazed by this geriatric-fueled infliction of unwanted botanical matter she ended up ferreting around my wallet innards with her liver spotted paw and removed all of my coins for the now three plants. One plant was mint, one was celery and parsley, the other … I don’t know. I didn’t quite catch what she was saying.

Now burdened by a plastic bag filled with three plants in pots I rejoined TLR who was laughing at me, and with good reason, for being shystered by a little old lady.

I returned to work. My colleagues—all gardening aware types—saw my plants, heard what had happened, and the price I paid for them. They laughed richly at my confused purchase and likened me to a hapless non-magic modern Jack from Jack in the Beanstalk.

As it turned out it theWife didn’t in fact have a mint plant, and the celery parsley effort was one she didn’t have either. Not sure what she did with the third one though. However she claimed she liked them and that they were deployed within our garden.

I guess the moral of the story is … don’t engage with lurking little old ladies selling stuff from the sidewalk with silent menace (2) in suburban shopping centres … or they will literally take money from your wallet.

(1) It's a technically unapproved structure. Alas we knew that when we bought the place.
(2) Though statistically this is a sample size of one so I cannot possibly pass judgment on all such sellers. However I will avoid them in the future. Mainly because they don’t have anything I actually need.


  1. That is hilarious! How rude of her. I dunno, some people think because they're old they can literally take the money from your wallet!

    By the way, Chooky's hiding tree is a photina. See, I'm learning garden things.


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