Three Pictures Ten Dollars

March 22, 2023 —

A tall, young U.S. Marine serving in Afghanistan visited a bazaar in Kabul with one of his friends, an Army Major. They came upon an enterprising camel owner who offered people an opportunity to photograph his camel.

This Afghan entrepreneur had a sign that read: “Picture of camel, $5.00 Picture of you with the camel, $5.00 and Picture of you riding the camel, $8.00.” These were the posted prices, but everyone knows how business gets done in Afghanistan through bargaining. Published prices are the starting point.

The Marine told the camel owner, “I would like three pictures, one of the camel, one of me with the camel, and one of the camel, my buddy, and me — ten dollars.” To which the camel owner replied, “Fifteen dollars.”

Again, the Marine held up his ten-dollar bill and repeated his offer. The camel owner countered with, “Thirteen dollars.”

They were haggling over ten dollars and not three pictures. For the Marine, the ten dollars was small; for the camel owner, the ten dollars were big. After several more exchanges, the camel owner, realizing that ten dollars were better than nothing, gave in; the Marine got what he wanted, and the camel owner wanted what he got.

Sometimes in life, you are the Marine, and sometimes you are the camel owner. To reach your goal, you need to be steadfast. Other times, you must survey the situation, be flexible, and heed the maxim, “A bird in the hand is better than two in the bush.”