I had wandered off the cruise ship at Costa Maya and was poking around the shops at the end of the pier when a vendor caught my attention with a surprising question, "Will you sell me your shirt?"
At first I thought maybe the guy just had it backward. He must have meant that he wanted to sell a shirt to me. But his English was pretty good and he was very insistent. He wanted to buy my black Grandeur of the Seas T-shirt.
Costa Maya, on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, is not much of a port, really. There’s no town close by and the cluster of shops at the end of the pier doesn’t have much beyond the usual souvenirs. The husband had gone out for a long run and I, feeling lazier, was just sort of nosing around.
The vendors there have a set of English phrases to lure tourists into their shops, some patter about best prices and the like. My standard answer is "Gracias, no," and a smile as I move along. But the offer to buy my T-shirt stopped me in my tracks.
Why do you want to buy my shirt? I asked. He said he collected T-shirts from the ships that came into port. He would give me $20 for mine and I could buy another one on the ship. And what, I asked him, would I wear back to the ship? He said he would also give me any shirt in his shop.
Fact is, I liked the shirt I was wearing. It had been a gift from the husband on a previous voyage and there were no more for sale on board the ship. "No thanks," I said.
The vendor was put out, and he waved me away impatiently. I went back to the ship, still sort of puzzled but still wearing my own shirt.