A homemade sign by my house advertises, “Free truck and two men. $49!” I could use a free truck, so I called the number.
“Hello?” A man answers. He sounds slightly distracted. I hear a TV and conversation.
“Hi, I’m calling about the free truck.”
“Oh, yes!” I have his attention now, “a free truck and two men to help you move, only $49 for one hour.”
One hour? That’s not enough time to get to IKEA and back. “I’m not moving,” I explain, “I just need the free truck.”
“No, no. You pay for the men, and then you get the free truck.”
I think I’m beginning to grasp the free truck concept. “Ok then, tell me about the men. Are they tall?”
“They are tall enough to move anything in your house!” he enthusiastically assures me.
“I’m not moving,” I remind him. “Are they dark? Are they handsome?”
“Are you joking with me?” I sense some frustration. “Ya Allah!”
“Ya Allah,” I agree, a bit frustrated myself.
“You speak Arabic?” His tone changes suddenly. We are soon to be friends.
“Where are you from?”
“California.” I explain, “I learned Arabic in the army. Where are you from?”
“My favorite professor is from Lebanon! Someday I want to visit there.”
After telling me about some of the places I must see, my new friend eventually gets back to the original conversation. “For you,” he generously offers, “a free truck and one man, only $35.”
We’re finally getting somewhere. “But,” I reason, “if the two men are $49 and the one you’re offering me is $35, the other must be only $14. I’ll take him.”
He laughs, “You are very smart. Ok, $25.”
Now, I’m trying to be an economist, not a mathematician (as my other favorite professor can attest), but things don’t seem to be adding up, so I calculate aloud, “Two men together are $49, but one at a time they are $35 and $25 – a total f $60. Are you telling me you have a bulk discount on men?”