Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Pool-Hustling Prossies

At dockside nightclubs in Cape Town and Durban, foreign sailors enjoy playing pool. During an evening at the clubs, they take a break from the singing, dancing, and drinking to knock some balls around.

The other night in Cape Town, two prostitutes carouse and cavort with three Chinese sailors in the club. Seeing that the seamen are getting drunk, the ladies challenge them to a game of pool. Losers pay 50 rands each.

The Chinese accept. They rack the balls, chalk their sticks, line up the cue, and start banking solids. They quickly fill the pockets around the table. The ladies, however, miss wide, making it all-too-easy for the sailors.

The Chinese win. "Fifty bucks," they say with satisfaction. The girls look at each other and reply "best 3 out of 5." The Chinese agree.

And just as before, the sailors continue to clean house. When they take their third straight game, they beam, "OK, now give us money."

But the girls just shrug, reaching for their beer bottles to leave. "We were just kidding. We don't have any money."

The Chinese knit their brows in confusion. Then they get pissed. "What?! Where's your money?! You made the bet! You must pay!"

The women mosey away, seemingly unconcerned. They enter the club lobby with the Chinese hot on their heels. The shortest, drunkest sailor gets into the girls' faces. He screams, "Fuck you! Give money! Fuck you! Give money!" He shoves one of them and tries to slap the other. The women shove right back.

The owner and bouncer intervene, separating the opposing parties. They calm down the angry sailors, gently ushering them back to the disco. Meanwhile, the girls hang back, looking slightly sheepish.

Within two minutes, the altercation is over and long-forgotten. The sailors attach themselves to new ladies. The pool-hustling prossies walk around the corner to buy loose cigarettes at the tuck-shop. The bouncer returns to his post at the door. And the owner and I continue chatting as if nothing happened (while he pockets his palm-sized can of pepper spray).

Such deceptions are common in the dockside prostitution racket. The ladies have little to lose, except the warm feelings of the sailors (who, in this case, are not taking them out for sex anyway). They know that, if the seamen get blustery about it, the bouncers will protect them. So they take a cheap gamble. Why not? If they win, they split 150 rands ($22). If they lose, they just walk away.

Worth the risk, they figure.

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