It is very rare that someone bamboozles me in conversation. I am rather adept at navigating even the most convoluted and puzzling turns communication can take on occasion - but in this instance I had to admit defeat.
The husband and I had just finished our weekly massage from Dr. Jonny and his wife, of Shiva's Beach Hut, South Goa. We had previously been splurging on 1.5 hour massages, but had come to the conclusion that one hour massages would more than suffice from here on in. This was both due to economic sensibilities entering the equation, as well as the fact that we were getting shortchanged on time anyway. Our last massage had been a mere hour and ten minutes. Factor in how jealously we guarded our 'sans kiddies' time for creative endeavors and one hour just seemed to make sense.
How wrong we were.
We booked the one hour massage. We had the one hour massage. And when it came time to pay, the husband, instead of heeding my advice, depositing the exact amount into the outstretched plump hand of Dr. Jonny and bidding a fond farewell (how I would have done it had I been in possession of the wad of cash the husband carries around loosely in his Abercrombie shorts) - made the great mistake of opening a gambit.
husband: "How much do we owe you then Dr. Jonny?"
me: (whispered furitively under my breath...) "Just give him the _____ !"
Dr. Jonny: "Whatever you would like to pay is fine."
husband: "Ok." (hands over too much money) "Just give us back a hundred then."
Dr. Jonny: "Thank you Sir!" (makes no move to hand back anything)
(We all stand awkwardly..waiting...for someone to do or say something...anything)
Me: "Umm...Ok, so if you give us a hundred back, that's okay then?"
Dr. Jonny: (HUGE grin on face, rocking head jauntily back and forth) "That is fine Sir"
Me: (starting to get frustrated) "Ok. So. Last time we paid ____ for 1.5 hours. But today we just had an hour. So we pay ____.....right?"
Dr. Jonny: "Yes. That is fine."
Me: "So can you give us back 100 and then we'll be sorted...yes?"
(Again...the huge grin on Dr. Jonny's face does nothing to distract from the fact that he is in no way, shape or form making any sort of movement to suggest that his hand is going to go back in his pocket and retrieve our change. But I am confused. I can't let it go. I suspect the money is gone, forever, and that's okay. But I simply must know by which logic he is coming up with such random pricing, and am insistent on making him explain himself. The husband merely looks bemused. He too I suspect, is interested in how this one will play out. So I try valiantly one last time...)
Me: "So...you said you'd give us a discount right?"
(The husband chooses this moment to add his two cents worth by mumbling something about how we bring him many customers and are old 'friends' etc..blah, blah, blah...)
Dr. Jonny: "Yes! Indeed! I am also like you. I have family and young childs and you are on a budget. You are not traveling and playing and touring. No, you are like me and you have 'family budget' and it is my duty to give you a special price."
Me: "Thank you. Yes. We appreciate that. So just give us the hundred and you can keep the extra."
Dr. Jonny: "No, no, no, no. You have paid the discount."
Dr. Jonny: (finally starting to show a trace of exasperation with the insistent 'Westerners' in front of him, wasting his time and keeping him from a much-needed nap)
"You have paid me ______. That is correct for one and one half hour massage."
"But we didn't HAVE the one hour massage! We had the ONE hour today!"
Dr. Jonny: (looks at his wristwatch. We started at least five minutes late. We have also been engaged in this pointless exchange for at least five minutes. His watch shows that one hour and ten minutes has passed since the massage began.
"You see! Almost one and one half hour. So therefore I give you discount."
Me: (as an aside to husband) "Let's get the heck out of here. I'm hot. This is pointless. I give up."
So we take our leave, unable to have made any sense of the preceding conversation, except to establish the following facts:
1. No matter how long the massage we book is, we shall get it for a duration decided by Dr. Jonny and dependent on such factors as how many phone calls he takes on his mobile during the massage, what time he decides to show up for the massage, and whether he feels that our prone, privileged bodies have been given a sufficient enough rub down.
2. It is in our best interest to ask for the one and a half hour massage, as at least we run the chance of getting an hour and ten minutes. Also, we shall pay practically the same price for a 'one hour' - so we may as well try our luck.
3. It is pretty much a given, that when haggling, if one hands over an amount above and beyond what is the norm - there will be every attempt to justify this new amount to the giver, in order to retain this unexpected but much appreciated bonus windfall. (ie. YOU AIN'T GONNA GET YOUR CHANGE BACK...got it?!)