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Humour

Forget wiper blades, here's what street vendors should be selling

If you find yourself chewing gum as you cruise on the highway, with a tampon up your nostril and a sjambok on the passenger seat, please give credit where it's due

06 September 2015 - 02:00 By ndumiso ngcobo
A street vendor sells toys at a busy intersection in Sandton, Johannesburg. (File photo.)
A street vendor sells toys at a busy intersection in Sandton, Johannesburg. (File photo.)
Image: Antonio Muchave/Sowetan

If I told you that I invented Facebook long before Mark Zuckerberg did, you'd probably roll around the floor laughing and tell me I suffer from delusions of grandeur. But you'd be dead wrong. As a matter of fact, I did.

Zuckerberg was still a snot-nosed 12-year-old then. But due to a combination of inertia and pathological laziness, I did nothing about it. And my list of inventions is long, you Doubting Thomases: the drive-through liquor store, the G-string, e-cigarettes, the Campmaster chair, et cetera.

That's my way of leading up to the fact that great ideas are actually quite useless on their own, without the execution bit. This is why I'm about to share a business idea I've had for a while for free. Are you ready?

How many times have you been minding your own business at an intersection and found yourself surrounded by seven vendors offering you a variety of items and thought, "Why do these guys never sell anything anyone actually needs?" I don't understand why all they ever sell are porn DVDs with titles like The Anaconda Strikes Back, coat hangers, car chargers that work for only 24 hours (don't ask how I know this), furry animals and rubber snakes.

What if (and I know I'm being incredibly revolutionary here) vendors actually sold items that you need? Wouldn't that be amazing? If I started this business, I would place a sales team that looks the part at these intersections.

For my male clients I'd steal the Hooters uniform idea because, as the booze promo ladies have proved, men are far more likely to purchase 10 Jägerbombs they don't need if blood supply has been diverted from their brains. And just to make sure I don't fall foul of the Commission for Gender Equality, I'd strategically place the same number of Chippendales lookalikes as well.

So what items would my Chippendales and Hooters team sell? I thought you'd never ask. The centrepiece of my intersection basket will be ... (drum roll, please) ... good ol' chewing gum.

Gum is the quintessential impulse purchase. That's why they place it right next to the till at your local Spar. There is not one instance in the 200,000 years of recorded human history when someone took a shower, put on deodorant and told their family, "I'll be back. I'm going to the shops to get gum."

Well, except for nine-year-olds, I guess. But kids are not really people so they don't count. Heck, the global chewing gum business is worth a whopping $30-billion per annum despite the words, "Oh my goodness, we're out of gum!" never having been uttered in a single household ever.

That makes gum an obvious winner at the William Nicol N1 off-ramp and yet, curiously enough, all I ever get offered there are US flag bandanas and wiper blades because sane people apparently drive around looking for wiper blades at street intersections. Like, what the fudge?

The next obvious item is Gaviscon or Rennies tablets. Hello! I may not have performed a peer-reviewed scientific study, but I'm willing to place my family jewels on the chopping block and proclaim that there's someone suffering from severe heartburn in at least one out of every five cars at that Umhlanga/Mount Edgecombe off-ramp on the N2 that is perpetually under construction.

But all I ever see there are fellows peddling sugar cane. I don't know about you, but I have never been in my car and suddenly thought, "Oh, how I wish I had some sugar cane to munch on right now." Do these folks know just how messy eating sugar cane is?

 I asked an intersection vendor if he had anything to wipe my friend's nose with and all he had was a battery-operated furry squirrel

Next on my list would be tampons. Now, hear me out. Besides the traditional use, I remember once driving with a friend who is prone to nosebleeds. I asked an intersection vendor if he had anything to wipe with and all he had was a battery-operated furry squirrel. While the squirrel's bushy tail looked like it could do the job, I decided against it. A grown man bleeding through the nose looks ridiculous enough without having him press a squirrel's rear end against his face.

Since he was wearing an expensive Pringle golf shirt and I was wearing my usual Mr Price T-shirt, it seemed only right that I offer him my T-shirt to wipe with.

But, with the size of my man boobs, I really have no business going topless in public. A little old lady in a Tata gawked at us for a few seconds before suddenly taking a side street. I don't blame her. I shudder to think what she thought was going on. Two men, one with a bloody nose and the other fellow with developed breasts at the wheel.

The most novel thing I've seen being peddled at an intersection must be the fellow who sells sjamboks at the Daveyton off-ramp on the N12. Everyone has at least one colleague that they fantasise about sjambokking. The first time I bought one, I was fantasising about sjambokking my neighbour who keeps dumping garbage in the clearing opposite my house.

And if, like Michael Jackson, you're a lover not a fighter, you'll love my next item.

Condoms. Anyone who has ever had to purchase condoms at a Quickshop is nodding vigorously right now. Especially if you've ever purchased condoms from a judgmental lady with a ZCC badge who was humming a church hymn as you stood there.

These women always seem to take great pleasure in shouting loud enough for everyone to hear, "Ufuna maphi bhuti?" (Which condoms did you say you wanted?) The only response you can muster at that point is, "Whichever", because yelling back, "The ribbed, studded and strawberry-flavoured ones!" is not an option.

So if, in the near future, you find yourself chewing gum as you cruise on the highway, with a tampon up your nostril and a sjambok on the passenger seat, please give credit where it's due.

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