For as long as I can remember, I have not been able to shop in Egypt without getting the distinct feeling that my privacy is being invaded. Whether it be a clothing store, supermarket, or fruit stand, Egyptian employees are programmed to follow customers around, watch their every move, ask unnecessary questions and give unsolicited advice in hopes of winning some "Obnoxious Employee of the Month" award.
Honestly, the invasion of personal space is enough cause for irritation. My cousin, Omar, and I used to think that they followed people around simply to prevent theft, but I've long since abandoned that theory. I now believe that they behave in this way with the sole purpose of getting on my nerves.
As a result of this harassment, a trip to the mall for me has become synonymous with cruel and unusual punishment. Who here hasn't had that eerie feeling of approaching a store that looks promising, only to see that it's completely empty, except for ten employees (even though the store is no bigger than your bedroom) eagerly waiting for the slightest hint of interest to swoop in and feast on their prey? Their first question?
"Are you looking for anything in particular?"
"Yes, I'm looking for a big yellow dress just like the one Belle wore in Beauty and the Beast."
Okay, so I usually just say "no," but maybe I should try that sometime. Anyway, since when is it a crime just to look at things without having something specific in mind? It never fails. It is virtually impossible to walk into a store without being asked this question. They seem to look at me like I came from another planet when I tell them that I'm just looking.
In addition to the annoying comments and questions, store employees also insist on fixing every little thing you touch within .03244856 seconds of you touching it. They'll go so far as to refold something that I've already folded and put back in place. I'm no folding extraordinaire, but come on, show some appreciation!
I've had about as much as I can take of this retail harassment. I'm thinking of starting a shoppers' union for those who have suffered and shopped in silence for so long. But until then, if you work in a store, run a koshk, or even if your kids just have a lemonade stand, leave me alone!