Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Goods and services

My friend Stephanie was in Romania on business recently. Her descriptions of that country are beyond depressing; apparently, the population at large lives in near squalor while very few enjoy the country's limited wealth. Bucharest, the nation's capital and the city where she does business, has no spaying and neutering programs, resulting in a huge population of stray dogs that are often shot to death in the streets by police.

Stephanie was at my birthday party this past Saturday, and we took some time to catch up. "Every time I leave Romania, I come home with fleas," she said.

"If you lie down with dogs..." I joked.

She nodded. "I hug and kiss the dogs. I've seen a few killed in front of me, just after I hugged them. The police do roundups every month and shoot them right in the street. I give myself fleas on every business trip. I can't help it. I figure I'm giving them their last hug. I'm usually right."

Prostitutes are all over the hotels in Bucharest. "They're supermodels," Stephanie told me. "Gorgeous women. Tall, blonde, dripping with expensive jewelry. They dress like businesswomen, in suits that cost thousands of dollars."

"I guess they are businesswomen," I said, "in a way."

When she's in Bucharest, Stephanie usually dresses in jeans and t-shirts. She wears a baseball cap. She's in her early 30s, but because she's so petite and has very delicate features, she looks like a teenager when she dresses that way.

On her last trip, she had a meeting to go to and found herself in the hotel elevator with a white American man who looked to be in his 70s. She had her usual casual duds on. I'm sure it sounds strange to some of you that a corporate vice president can wear jeans to business meetings, but people who work in entertainment can get away with it. Steph described her look that day as "grubby." Now, she's so pretty that I don't think she could ever actually look grubby, but I understood that she had thrown on whatever was clean that day, and put a cap over her damp, almost waist-length hair.

Meanwhile, in the elevator...

She and the man were alone. As the elevator descended, he leaned over and asked, "Are you for sale?"

Steph was aghast. Remember, Bucharest prostitutes have a certain 'look.' "Why in the hell would he assume I was a prostitute, in my jeans and old t-shirt?" she asked, exasperated.

"Maybe he's tried all the others, and wanted a new flavor," I mused.

Anyhow, she kept her composure and turned to the man. "No," she replied. "Are you?"

He laughed. "If I was, you couldn't afford me."

"Actually," she retorted, "I could buy and sell you ten times over."

Then, just like a scene in a movie, the elevator doors opened. She walked out, leaving him stunned.


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Blogger Letty Cruz said...

Love Stephanie's composure and wish I'd seen the look on his face when she said that! But about the dogs, god how depressing, flashed me back to visiting Mexicali and Tijuana, but even in those cities it's just the poorest neighborhoods -- Mexicali more than Tijuana where you see the most strays. I don't think the police shoot them, haven't heard or read of it or witnessed it. I was in Mexicali just a about a month ago and it actually looks better-maintained than ever. Also one of my neighbors came back from a trip to Costa Rica shocked at how it's awash in prostitution -- mainly prostitutes from Colombia. Prostitution is legal in Costa Rica but organized crime is getting so bad there's building pressure to outlaw at least the foreign/Columbian prostis.

Anyway, thanks for another eye-opening post.

7:15 PM  
Blogger Letty Cruz said...

*ugh, meant Tijuana more than Mexicali is where you see strays -- sweetjeebs my brain is scattered today :/

7:17 PM  
Blogger Ginger said...

Yeah, Amsterdam and many latin american countries have proven that legalizing prostitution is basically a failure. I'm a fan of the Swedish model, myself!

Stray dogs are an issue in Ireland, too. You're allowed to shoot a stray. I think it's cruel. Growing up American, I always thought animal shelters existed everywhere, and population control was the norm.

7:23 PM  
Blogger Linnaeus said...

Shooting a stray may be gruesome, but I'm not sure it's that much more cruel than ending up in a shelter in which the animal is likely to be euthanized (though there are exceptions) or a (short) lifetime of living on the edge of starvation and exposure to the elements.

That said, if pinned down, I'd prefer shelters to shooting. And the central issue, as you point out, is having a spaying/neutering program to limit the population of strays in the first place.

As for your friend's story, I wish I could say I was shocked. Excellent retort on her part. :)

7:44 AM  
Blogger Ginger said...

Oh, I think shooting a stray in the head is a little less gentle than a lethal injection. At least we have shelters and spaying programs!

Steph thinks on her feet really well; definitely one of the reasons she's climbed the corporate ladder so fast.

4:48 PM  

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