Friday, August 14, 2009

‘They Also Serve Who Only Stand and Wait’

Malls, supermarkets, grocery chains, have all sprung up across the city changing the landscape and the lifestyle of people here. Sadly, people’s manners haven’t changed for the better. Despite wearing branded clothes, shoes, and using plastic to pay for their purchases at the ‘oh-so expensive’ stores, basic civility still dates back to pre-historic times.

To the time when ‘might was right’ and ‘survival of the fittest’, was the watchword. Perhaps life has come full circle and it’s back to the ways of our primitive ancestors! Before you start wondering where all this is going let me tell you about the incident that triggered off this train of thought.

Just a few days ago, I was at the local grocery supermarket, patiently waiting in the checkout line when along waltzes a ‘healthy’, middle-aged woman, and cuts ahead of the lady in front of me and has her billing done!

I expect the person before me to object but she, though clearly disapproving, does not utter a word. When it’s my turn at the counter I query the shop assistant as to why he let the woman barge in. His reply—she said she was in a hurry!!! Yea right, as if I have all the time in the world to stand in queue all day long with a squirming toddler on one arm and a full shopping basket on the other!!!

Seething, and fuming, I leave the store thinking this to be the heights of complete disregard for the most basic norms of civil society. Boy, was I wrong! Hardly a couple of days pass, when, with a sense of déjà vu, I find myself in yet another checkout line, faced with a similar situation. There’s a slight difference this time around—instead of someone cutting ahead of me, these ingenious youngsters get in line from the direction opposite to which the queue is moving!

Unfortunately for them, I am the one they encounter first. Their excuse—they have just a couple of items to be billed. Duh! 'Haven’t you heard of the express checkout counter?’ I ask them sarcastically. And for good measure, I also ask the man at the counter if the queue progresses both ways. The shop assistant blushes with shame, but the culprits stay there giggling shamelessly!

What infuriated me was the fact that there were not many shoppers at that time and all the checkout counters were relatively empty, and still they chose to break the unwritten laws of society. And these are the ‘future’ of our country that we talk of so proudly. I shudder to think of what the ‘future’ has in store for us!

Perhaps, before rushing to get our wards admitted to the best management, engineering, and medical schools, we should consider getting them to attend a short stint at an ‘etiquette school’, provided there are any such schools around. If not, here’s an idea for those in the educational sector. It’s an evergreen business proposition, for though there may be a decrease in the demand for management or IT professionals, manners and etiquette are never going out of business!

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