I find myself every day becoming increasingly agitated with the business strategy of Phnom Penh's moto drivers.
"Lady, you want moto bike?"
"You ride moto madame?"
They spot me from a hundred yards away, abruptly rising from their comfy lounged positions in a friend's tuk tuk or a roadside hammock. Hand in air, they try to wave me down, just like a Manhattanite might try flagging a yellow taxi in the streets of the city.
At first, I gave a polite smile and shake of the head, but then I realized these men are out for blood.
If I say no to one moto, the next one in his gang sees it as an open opportunity for a business deal. Does no not mean no in this country? And the same motos, I know they see me come and go every day at the same times, try to flag me down as I walk across the street to the office or down a few blocks for lunch, perhaps clinging to the off chance that maybe just this one time I'll want a ride.
Should I blame the motos for their aggressive nature? Of course not. In a city filled with motorbikes, you must be the biggest and the loudest to sell your ride. But can I chide their strategy? To that question, I answer a simple yes.
It's not that they want to sell a ride, it's that they want to sell a ride to a "barang." To a "barang," they can charge outrageous prices. With a "barang" they can take a zig-zagged path so it appears to be a long distance, thus ensuring them another sale in the future. If I walk down the street with Bandol or a Cambodian I don't have this problem. Perhaps we "barang" appear lazy or helpless.
Maybe I sound bitter. Shame on me. But for once I'd like to walk down the street in peace. I've tried evasion tactics. Not making eye contact. Pretending I don't hear. This usually just gets me a "Why so sad lady?" or continued jeering as I pass.
I suppose I will have to suck it up and deal with it. But for the time being, there's my soapbox rant.