JournalismPakistan.com January 21, 2015
There is a delight in discourtesy.
I am standing at this counter in an exchange office trying to catch the attention of the man behind. I keep saying ‘excuse me’ and ‘hello, out there, this is an interplanetary message’ but he doesn’t give a hoot and a holler about it.
Another man comes in, tramples my ‘pleases’ and ‘could you give a minute’ entreaties, pushes past, snaps his fingers (literally) says, you, come here, I want dollars for this, yes, you, at once.
And this man, this chappie who has been ignoring me for a full five minutes he comes at the gallop, eager to respond.
I go to a restaurant the same evening and the waiter skis past without acknowledgement. He then whistles past a second time. Around the sixth sortie I say, waiter, please, here, this table, we are waiting. He glides on like he was in the ballet.
I raise a tentative little ‘if you could kindly’ finger and the maitre de trips past doing the light fantastic, completely oblivious to my presence.
A companion looks at me pityingly (I have lots of companions who look at me pityingly) and he shouts, WAITER.
There is a frozen moment followed by action.
On the double. He then proceeds to berate them while I scrunch into the bread roll basket and pretend I am not there. He tells them they are shoddy. Shabby. Awful flipping service. They snivel, and grovel and they jump to it. Go, he orders, now, and get our soups pronto, go on, hop to it. The maitre de is now a little rabbit bouncing about to do my friend’s bidding.
I go shopping last week. The shop assistants are in conference. I try to catch their eye. I do a little wave. I grin. I clear my throat. I do a small two step. I am still standing by with Milton waiting for them to serve those who only stand and wait when two men walk in and do that finger calling thing which to me is the height of rudeness. You know that ‘come here, you’ approach. Both assistants careen forward like carom pieces and literally collide in their eagerness to help.
What is it about courtesy that people think you are weak and unworthy of attention. It never ceases to amaze me that you get more respect if you are nasty than if you are nice.
What genetic bump exists in our makeup that we respond to the authoritative and the demanding. See it in office. A polite boss is taken for a ride. He may be gracious and well mannered and he is extending his subordinates a very tangible courtesy by treating them that way. Yet, they think he is ideal to be taken to the cleaners and they do it.
Then there is the boss who is short tempered, thoroughly arrogant, treats people like dirt and they love it, they scrabble to win a half smile from him, happy with the crumbs he flings at them.
I am told that privately they would loathe such a man. What does he care? He gets his work done, the company efficiency is higher, the staff are totally dispensable and he is a winner. It happens in the house. The domestic help are more likely to ‘respect’ you if you are snotty and superior. They can look up to you and aspire. So I am told. Be nice and they’ll take you for walkies.
I find this kind of advisory most offensive but that said, I keep experiencing people who strengthen the belief that we are not yet civilised to appreciate the power of courtesy.
More the pity.
Hey you, read the article. Now.
(The writer is a Senior Editorial Advisor of Khaleej Times and the paper’s former Editor. He has also been the Editor of Gulf News, Gulf Today, Emirates Today and Bahrain Tribune)
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