I refused, politely but firmly. This was not a good time. I was standing, shoes in one hand, holding up my beltless trousers with the other, two people away from the airport scanner and with a queue behind me. It was too late.
I was in a provincial airport in Ethiopia, about to board an internal flight. Since arriving an hour or so earlier, I'd visited her shop three times. Amongst the mass-produced tourist items - brightly woven fabrics, ornate wooden crosses, decorative metal crosses, and much else - I'd spotted an old Abyssinian thurible, dirty, battered, in need of repair. It was solid brass, very heavy (unlike the modern tin ones in the photo), and with bells on each chain. And like the other items on display, the asking price was ten times what it would be elsewhere in the country - and elsewhere, one would haggle.
I'd offered a good price. The young woman in the shop had refused it outright. Prices were fixed, she said. It was her father's shop, and she couldn't change them. Maybe he'd be in later. I thanked her politely and left.
Half an hour later, there was no sign of him and no change. She said she'd phone him.
Twenty minutes later, I called in again. There was still no progress. And then my flight was called.
The result? Three disappointed people. I was disappointed not to have been able to make the purchase. Her father was no doubt disappointed not to have made the sale at a price which I knew to be more than fair. She was disappointed to have lost a customer and, I suspect, to have let down her father. It wasn't an enviable situation from anyone's point of view.
How do we cope with disappointment? Do we get angry? Sullen? Upset? Bitter? Do we shrug it off and hope for something better in due course?
The Old Testament King Ahab of Samaria was disappointed. He wanted - coveted - a particular piece of land and tried to purchase it for a vegetable garden. Naboth, the owner, refused. He was right to do so in terms of the culture and religious understanding of the time, because land was kept within the family in perpetuity; it was his ancestral inheritance, his place of belonging, and his legacy to his family after him. King Ahab's response was to sulk. He went to bed, turned away from other people, and refused food.
That was hardly a mature response, especially to such a trivial matter, but worse was to come. His wife Jezebel (whose name has become synonymous with evil women) arranged to have Naboth accused falsely, and he was stoned to death. Ahab grasped the land - at a terrible price. The story is recounted in 1 Kings 21.
Disappointment is of course not wrong - it's a normal human reaction when things don't go as we had hoped. But our response to disappointment says a great deal about us. It betrayed Ahab as selfish and spoilt, and whilst that may be an extreme reaction, we can probably all understand it. That in turn helps us to be more self-aware when things don't go our way, and to resolve to handle disappointment with greater maturity and grace.