she tells me. The woman on the temporary stand advertising blinds and gutters has been in our shopping centre several times before. She stopped me on the second occasion because she wanted to know something - and I stood there and guarded her little stall while she rushed back and shifted her vehicle to a place where she would not be fined for leaving it too long.
I wonder about these little stands that pop up in the shopping centre. There is always a charity one of some sort or another. Sometimes it is just someone with a tin and a sign and that is it, sometimes they have literature available - but most people just pass straight by. It is not just "compassion fatigue" but other things as well - lack of time, lack of money, embarrassment, lack of interest, irritation.
And there are the temporary stands that seem to appear at irregular intervals. There are the people who sell water purification systems.
"No thankyou. We have rainwater."
I prowl on. I have no interest in their product.
There are the boys who sell "paintball" games. Thankfully they ignore me. I must look much too ancient for them - and my nephews think the "paintball" idea is ridiculous so they wouldn't be able to nab me to buy a present for them.
There are the people who sell cleaning products. They don't even make a claim to be "organic" or "environmentally friendly" so I am even less interested than I might be - and, thankfully, they are talking to each other.
There is the company trying to sell space in a yet-to-be-built "retirement village". Even if I had the three-quarters-of-a-million for the initial investment (plus on-going costs) I would not be interested. It does not even offer "end-of-life" care.
There is the company selling "gophers" and walkers for the elderly and the disabled. Thanks but I can still pedal my tricycle and I don't quite need a walker yet. I suppose they must do some business though because there are some older people in the local community.
There are others too - and there is the woman with the blinds and the gutters. She has never tried to sell me anything. She has been there often enough now that she recognises me - and has not forgotten that I once spent a few minutes standing there so she could move her vehicle. She is always on her own. She spends her day standing there, smiling. Occasionally she talks to someone about the products and makes an appointment for someone to visit a house. Most of the time she just stands, smiling. People smile back. She isn't seen as a threat.
Does it pay her to be there? I asked this question once. She shrugged and said, "My boss seems to think so. It's a job and I'm glad to have it."
It would cost him less to have her there than it would for him to run a showroom. She does the rounds of the shopping centres in the east and south of the city. Someone else does the west and the north.
We both agree that it costs less to run the business that way than it would to stock the clothing shops adjacent to her stand - or the toy shop a little further along.
It is a mystery to me how any of those places make enough to cover the rent. I don't know how her boss makes enough to cover the cost of having her there either.
What I do know is that it is nice to have her there. She smiles as if she actually means her smile.