Viresh says, ‘I know, you don’t want it floppy’.
‘Floppy, floppy’, he says, loudly, taking the surprised expression on my face as one – I assume – of miscomprehension.
Two minutes ago Viresh asked me to test the comfort of assorted mattresses.
If your eyes were closed you’d be excused from imagining something inappropriate was afoot.
No, I agree with Viresh, I don’t want it ‘floppy’ and I have to try really, really hard not to laugh.
Viresh is a mattress salesman in the hot, dusty industrial quarter of Mombasa, his patch opposite the old breweries until, says my cab driver, the breweries realized that the tax took less away in Tanzania and so it moved east and south.
Viresh is also, because I’m looking that day, retailer of sheets, towels, pillows …. Indeed anything, it seems, that takes my fancy, he spreads his arms wide and high, ‘everything you want under one roof, ONE ROOF’. And it is, I concede, a big roof.
I am here in capacity of Reluctant Hotelier, a refit I explain. Viresh clearly thinks my hotel is a chichi five star, not a really modest self catering aspiring to (if I’m lucky) two star status.
I have obliged and taken my shoes off and walked across the mattresses he indicated I should walk across in order that I can identify the difference between First Quality and Second. I can’t but pretend I can and say, ‘oooooh yes!’ obligingly.
We move onto towels and Viresh’s wife, Paris (and I cannot believe that is the name her parents gave her) steps in to assist, urging Viresh to wrap a bath sheet about his waist to demonstrate how generous it is. Viresh does so and then wiggles his hips like a Hawaiian with a hula hoop . I proffer a face cloth and ask if he can do the same with that but he just looks at me as if I’m mad. For I clearly am: I have walked mattresses, smirked at insistence I did not like it floppy (a reference to sheets insufficiently wide to tuck in properly by the way) and now I am suggesting he can wrap something the size of a handkerchief about his not insubstantial middle.
As I pick through his offerings, Viresh conducts conversations with his brother in Guajarati as to the relative merits – I guess by the workings on a sheet of paper in front of him – of one mattress over another and ascertains the exact and requisite size of bed linen in order to avoid unpleasant floppiness.
If I owned a whole chain of hotels I suspect there’d be a minion to do this for me.
But where I wonder, as I stifle giggles, would be the fun in that.
Viresh and Paris wave me away later with big smiles and a violent pink t’shirt as a souvenir (clearly they sell those under that vast roof too) and I step out wondering that my world is getting more surreal by the minute …?
Especially when Viresh calls me later to ask if I took a note of the prices he gave me for he has not …