Price.

There’s a story in my life which accidentally ended up turning into a test for new people.

The first time I went to London, when I was 19, I hitchhiked my way there solo. There was nothing odd about that: I’d been doing that since I was 14. It was what I did. From my point of view, the trip went very smoothly indeed, with a few insignificant bumps (a French lorry driver misunderstanding the nature of our relationship; a disgruntled asshole dropping me in the middle of the motorway; getting picked up by the French police and managing to blag a free ride – that sort of stuff). The only remarkable thing happened when I got to Calais.

In those pre-internet days, I had gotten there utterly clueless as to how much the ferry was going to cost – which, for me, was a lot of money. I did have it, but spending it on a ticket meant that I would not have it for future needs, such as food. I was wandering around trying to work out my cheapest option when this English guy picked me up. Once I explained my situation, the guy made me a straightforward offer: if I went to a hotel with him, he’d give me £200. He showed me the money. I declined, he dropped me off, and we parted company.

When I got to London and found my friends, I happened to told them the story. They were shocked, horrified, and insulted on my behalf. The problem was that I wasn’t at all shocked, horrified, or insulted. I was completely puzzled by their reaction, and curious as to what the hell it was about. They were completely confused by mine.

When the guy made his offer, my immediate internal reaction was “how much?!?” Back in those days, that was easily ten times what the average teen addict would have charged for the very same kind of service. I couldn’t justify that price tag; not in general, as I’m below-average-looking, and particularly not after a few days getting scuzzy on the road. I looked like any other teenage street kid, and they don’t command that sort of price, so I figured that something odd was up. Either he was police, or something really iffy and potentially dangerous was going on. Regardless, prostitution really wasn’t my thing. So, a polite “no, thank you” seemed the best answer.

My friends’ point of view was completely different. To them, the guy had horribly insulted me by suggesting that I may be for sale. There was no consideration beyond that point – not the offered price, not the politeness with which the offer was made, nor the willingness to accept a refusal.

I couldn’t understand how someone could insult me by offering ten times the going rate. I couldn’t understand that the offer per se was insulting.

None of my “street friends” could understand it either: most seemed to think that, given the price offered, it was almost a compliment, though really just too good to be true. But my London friends were school friends, fellow inmates at a scholarship-only institution I somehow weaseled my way into. They were mostly upper-middle-class or higher, so their backgrounds were utterly different from mine. Nobody’d ever tried to buy or sell them. Nobody’d ever tried to forcibly take them. In my experience, that sort of behaviour was the norm. It was there, like the weather. To my school friends, it was alien and shocking.

The story has become a way of quickly establishing people’s background. The responses are nearly always polarised: “was he a cop?” vs. “how very dare he?” I’ve yet to hear a response that doesn’t fit under either of these categories.

What was your gut reaction?

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8 thoughts on “Price.

  1. Respectfully, if he was polite it’s possible he was just lonely and socially awkward. He might not even have been experienced with prostitutes as most of those guys tend to be creepy and rude. But if he were a gentleman he still should have given you a few bucks anyway, because you told him you were broke and he obviously had a lot of extra money. And he definitely should have at least driven you wherever you needed to go, within reason. I don’t think he intended it as an insult, but he really should have been more of a gentleman about it.

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  2. I didn’t tell him I was broke, we just talked ticket prices. And in port areas if you give money to everyone who needs it or says they need it, you’ll soon be the one in need…

    I didn’t think he wasn’t enough of a gentleman. It’s not uncommon for people to drop you wherever if they make a foray and you say no, so the fact that he took me to where we’d originally agreed was already more than the norm.

    My money’s still on immigration cop :-D.

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  3. Hmmmm… A cop working vice, UC or similar would surely know how the game is played and all the relevant prices, so offering 10x over the odds would seem ‘off’. Politeness and ‘too good an offer’ sounds a lot more like you were getting ‘interviewed’ too me…

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  4. My guess is he was infinitely less experienced in street ways than you, and so he didn’t know what was the going rate while you by then knew it instinctively.

    It’s not uncommon for people to not know what certain things generally cost. Let alone if those things aren’t openly discussed for obvious reasons.

    Based on my very limited knowledge of the situation — namely, what you posted — I’d chalk it up to “Fellow who just wanted a good time, hadn’t done this before (or had and gotten taken) and didn’t know how much to offer.”

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  5. The plot thickens, though. The guy was English. I looked underage. He didn’t seem worried, ashamed, or phased: he just seemed to treat it like an everyday activity. His reaction to my refusal was very neutral, too, and infinitely more polite than the norm.

    Oh, and I’m not sure about the laws covering this in France. In Italy, it used to be that prostitution was legal, but soliciting wasn’t (so you could legally buy or sell, but not advertise, as it were). However, a caution for prostitution/soliciting might well have been enough to stop me from being allowed into the UK – I know it would probably stop me now from going into the US. I definitely looked like an undesirable :-D.

    ’tis a puzzler and no mistake.

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  6. The offer of going to the room told me he wanted to get you to a second, more private and secluded location, that I understand means, “Where I can rape and kill you with impunity.” Here, in this country, persuading or forcing someone to a “Secondary Location” is predatory behavior – mostly, especially if the price was way higher than you understand/understood.

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  7. In many parts of Europe you have to present proof of ID when you’re checking in at a hotel. So although it’s not impossible that someone would use a hotel as a torture chamber, given that I already was in his car it would have been far simpler to clout me upside the head and drive me off to a secluded location.

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  8. I’ve never understood the wailing and wringing of hands over a request and a turn-down. (But then, I’ve never understood NOT being willing to give a polite turn-down! Someone can always ask, in my world, so long as they are polite and accept a polite rejection.) Some decades ago, when I was in college, there was much noise over the ‘power-disparity’ between professors and students, and how students couldn’t say no, so the professor was always a sleaze… {shrug} I had a prof who was quite friendly, even took me out to his farm to see his horses (we’d met at the college stable). When, after some oh-so-careful-courting (which, truth be told, *I* didn’t even notice!), he suggested he’s like to “date” me, I felt no horror or need to slap at him; I merely said, “thank you, no, I’m involved with someone.” End of “problem.”

    In the Navy, when I was seeing (professionally) a Navy doctor for a lingering cough (possibly, they thought, pleurisy), he was an ob-gyn but working as head of internal or respiratory med or something similar) (hey, Navy uses ’em where it wants!). He was a good four officer grades above me, so TRUE power disparity. The first couple of visits, he said, ‘oh, he was an old-timey women’s doctor, so he always gave his patients a kiss goodbye.’ (Okay, weird, a bit gross, but not too trespassing…) But after the 3rd-4th visit, after his ‘peck on the check,’ he said; “I want more.” I merely left the office. The next time (this cough-thing was hellish!), after the medical checks and all, I said: “I was made uncomfortable by your request for “more” the last time.”

    Ooh ooh ohh! Back-pedaling like mad,and no more ‘I always kiss my female patients’ crap. Several years later, a friend (a Navy lawyer /JAG officer) was describing a sex harassment case he was working on at the Navy hospital. I laughed and said: “oh! I know who THAT is!” Turned out it was ANOTHER doctor (same dept apparently!) who was ‘taking advantage’ of enlisted men’s wives! Those poor girls no doubt had no way to refuse, till someone turned him in… (The JAG was amazed there might be two! {eye roll})

    There is a gulf between folks with ‘real life” experience and the rest! I joke that my sisters are hot house flowers: professional classical musicians who can easily believe liberal peace-love-dove foolishness. I am the weed beside the road, I know what predators there are out there.

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