The Gigantic Toilet Plunger

The hotel was luxurious, but it was oddly located. It was in a once-elegant neighborhood, a few decades past its prime.

The conference was in its sixth hour and I was tired. Statisticians are terrible public speakers. This one was reading from his own slides in a droning voice, mostly statistics about the middle class.

I was absentmindedly staring out the window. The street was in stark contrast with the hotel, and so were the people.

I couldn’t put a finger on it at first. The people on the street weren’t extremely shabby or poorly dressed, but there was still something cheap about them. Was it their faces? Their demeanor? Nothing quite explained my impressions.

And then I realized…

As my lips turned to a smile, István landed on the chair next to me with a loud thud.

“You alright” he said. Not as a question but a statement.

“Look,” I said, pointing out the window. “Everyone is carrying something.”

“What do you mean?”

“On the street. Literally everyone who walked past the last thirty minutes had been carrying something. First I saw a man with a cloth drying rack. He didn’t just buy it either, it was old and rusty. Then there was another with an old floor lamp on his shoulder. Then came someone with a big cardboard box, then another with a piece of furniture. They weren’t moving house and they weren’t together. They just all carry something. Something old.”

István looked puzzled. Not because my story was implausible but because it wasn’t really a story. He wanted to sneak out for a drink. But before he could tell me, I pointed at the man on the sidewalk.

He was walking with an oversized toilet plunger in his hand. Used, naturally.

“…consequently, the Hungarian middle class has diminished purchasing power” said the speaker.

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