I’d just finished to visit a friend in hospital and figured that I might as well stock up on some ‘A/C-induced-flu’ medicine from the hospital pharmacy before I made my way back home.
I opened the door to the chemist’s and was greeted by a smiling face.
“Do you have something like Calpol, you know liquid paracetamol for kids? And, can I have a couple of packets of Panadol, please?”
I drummed my fingers idly on the counter as the assistant busied himself amongst the shelves.
“Fevadol is for children” he placed the box before me “And Panadol.”
“How much?” I asked pulling the notes I was expecting to use from my wallet.
“This, 17 riyal.”
Not much of a man of receipts, I placed the exact money on the counter and reached for the medicine intending a quick exit.
“Wait!” He said forcefully and thrust his hand forward; hovering it above mine with his fingers spread to indicate stop.
I looked up, gently releasing my grip of the medicine and slowly withdrew my hand.
“I give you kis” he said domineeringly.
What could I possibly reply to such an obtuse request?
As I stood there reflecting upon how ticklish his moustache looked, he must have construed my delay to respond as a form of passive consent.
He reached under the counter, fidgeting for something and pulled out…
… the plastic bag (known as kīs [كيس kees] in the local dialect) that he’d just offered me.
Al-hamdu lillāh, fear was replaced by relief.
Nowadays, I just smile to myself whenever a shopkeeper asks me “kīs?”
“No, just a bag will do thanks!”