Papyrus painting negotiations and the power of non-desire

Papyrus Painting

Dale the Papyrus painting negotiator extraordinaire!

It was about one minute after Erica and I stepped out of the cab that Mohammed, the 260 pound  “non sketchy” Gold’s Gym member greeted us with a big “Hello! How are you?! Where are you from? I love Americans! You look like Jackie Chan.” Having expected that something like this would happen at Khan el Khalili, Cairo’s touristy market area, I responded with “Hey! I’m great! We’re from the US. I also love Americans. I think I look more like Jet Li.”

Within 5 minutes we were in Mohammed’s father’s Papyrus painting shop learning about the fine history of Papyrus paintings, how fake Chinese knock offs are polluting the Papyrus painting market, and how it is Egyptian tradition to stay for tea. Not ever having heard of Papyrus paintings, or for that matter, Papyrus (apparently a plant from which Papyrus paper is made), I found this all extremely….


I feel pretty bad that Mohammed happened to greet someone who wanted to desperately leave the Louvre after 20 minutes. Bad luck for him.

I made it clear to Mohammed that we weren’t planning on buying anything, that we had a rule that we never bought anything the first day we saw it. His Papyrus paintings shouldn’t be wasted on art amateurs like us. He engaged us in a “hypothetical” negotiation anyway.

“1500 pounds [about  $260]. A good Egyptian price!”

Now, remember that girl you had a crush on in high school that you were never able to work up the courage to ask out? Well, who you probably don’t remember is that girl who you barely said “Hi” to in the hall. She was doodling hearts around your name in her notebook. The irony of romance is that the power belongs to the one who cares less.

“Ok ok 1000 pounds, because you are like my family.”

There is something about not wanting stuff that lends itself to a sort of freedom. Of course this is a very old idea. Buddhist’s believe that desire, or rather unsatiated desire is the root of all suffering. Stoics believe that true freedom is internal, that only when we acknowledge that we can’t control what happens to us will we be happy. The great philosopher Dale believes that he really doesn’t want a stupid Papyrus painting.

“You are an excellent negotiator. I tell you what. 700 pounds, final offer take it or leave it.”

There is stuff that I want though. In fact, it’s a lot of stuff. I want a beachfront property, a successful business, cool Apple products…hell I just finished reading Eat, Pray, Love and now I want to eat pasta in Rome, Pray in an Ashram in India, and Love in Indonesia. I am very easily influenced. If only Mohammed brought me to an Apple Store…

“450 pounds! Ok? I don’t make money off it but you come back with some friends.”

I’m sorry Mohammed, but I did warn you that I would not buy anything today.

Though I think he felt a little dejected, I believe Mohammed will do just fine. The question is, when it counts, will I be able to view everything as a Papyrus painting? What things are ok to want and what things aren’t?

Until next time,


PS: I realize ending a blog post with a “deep” question is cheesy. Let me know how I could’ve ended it better.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Diane on September 29, 2010 at 10:50 pm

    Like father like son….


  2. Posted by Marce on October 9, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    Love the way you end the story. It’s part of the idea of making it interesting. I Williams continue reading…. “jajaja”


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