Years ago, my wife and I had the good fortune to have some free time in Florence. We were in our thirty’s then and were both still working, so free time with little to do was a rare except when on vacation.
We had toured the city and were free for diner and decided to sit in the park and watch the dance between the aliens selling counterfeit everything on a blanket that they spread out as the Italian police turned the corner of the block and could not see them any longer.
It was an interesting and enlightening sight to see between the two parties involved.
The police pretended to be hard art work looking for the street hawkers as they quickly folded up their blankets with the items still inside and wandered off, out of sight. The glasses, purses and wallets, all shoved together in the bottom of the blanket, over and over again as the police reappeared after walking the block.
Some customers were lucky in that the hawkers would leave quickly when the police reappeared while a buyer might be trying on a pair of glasses. Then, it seemed that he or she had won the lottery and was free to just walk away without paying.
The value of the items was obviously very little and the few sales made must have covered for the other articles that were taken as the police arrived every twenty minutes, or however long it took them to walk the long and wide square block.
We watched the boss of the group as we sat across from them. He watched the police and then gave the high sign for his compatriots to set out the blanket and the items on the ground again when he thought it was safe.
It was an interesting process and required a good bit of luck and skill to keep from getting caught by the police, or so it seemed.
The crowd of tourists would quickly reform around the blanket as it was laid down and the products were rearranged in an organized manner. The customers scanned the products for a good value or just a trinket that caught their eye to take home with them.
The sellers stood quietly watching the customers and for the police to reappear at the same time, their heads turning from their products and up to the end of the block again, quickly.
I thought about what I did for work and was glad that what I did for a living didn’t require me to be on constant alert for the authorities, though sometimes the people I worked for made me feel almost as if I were under surveillance.
Every country has its own flavor in most things, and the street hawkers are no different. In Hong Kong they were free to do what they would and with little issues with anyone or so it seemed years ago when we were there. Sadly, those times are long gone now.