In times when thoughts of marketing and promotions for my book, Of Knights and Lilies plague my mind, there are also a few unwelcome questions that I unwillingly entertain. But some incidents claw at our insides when we don’t want them to, clamoring for answers. Something like this happened a few weeks ago when I was out for coffee with a friend.
We were sitting at one of the small, round tables at a Café Coffee Day and chatting while sipping on our coffee. In the meanwhile, a couple came in, a cup of ice cream in their hands and trying very hard to hide it from the staff and spectacularly failing at being discreet. It is common knowledge that most cafes and restaurants do not allow outside food to be brought inside. But it was not our place to be lecturing them about store policies, so we just smiled and went back to our chat.
About ten minutes after they had settled into the chairs at the table beside ours (they place tables too close together), a staff member came up to them and politely told them, “Sir, outside food is not allowed, Sir.” He looked plenty apologetic to me and I wondered if he actually needed to. He wasn’t doing anything wrong by telling them about the policy of the chain of cafes he was working for. My friend and I paused our conversation, listening in. (I know it is bad manners but the tables are too damn close!)
At this, the man said, “We will order from here in a while,” as though that settled the matter. But he was being courteous at this point. So we still had a smile etched on our faces.
“Still, Sir. Outside food is not allowed. Please eat outside and then come inside.” Still polite.
“We are just sitting here and I’m telling you I’ll order from here.” Uh oh. This was turning ugly. But not as much as the smile that had taken its place on the man’s face.
By this time, the manager of the store and other staff had come to stand around their lone warrior; as though to support their general in their fight against the stubborn.
Several voices sounded echoing on the same lines as: “Sir, it is our policy. Please eat it outside and come back.”
This man was getting angry and the woman was visibly embarrassed. And this, ladies and gentlemen, was the point where the smile was wiped off my face and I glared daggers at the man.
“You want me to throw it? Why don’t you throw it?” he says, with a short laugh, obviously thinking he was being funny. He glanced at me, giving me a smirk that screamed, “I’M BEING FUNNY. DON’T YOU THINK THAT’S FUNNY? LAUGH, YOU UNWORTHY MORTAL!”
I raised an eyebrow. He averted his eyes and mumbled something like, “Alright.” The staff was dispersing by this time and I looked at the person who had pointed it out and shook my head.
My problem was not with the guy having a problem with the store policy. My problem is with his thinking that he can ask someone to do something that is not their job at all. The couple’s surreptitious entrance into the store told me pretty clearly that they were trying not to catch the eye of anyone who would point out that they were doing what they were not supposed to. His arrogance could not be masked by the smile on his face. In fact, the smile was making matters worse for him.
This incident raised a few questions. Is courtesy no longer a concern? In a time when we are heavily fighting for rights, is the gap between the servers and the served so severe that it is alright for the servers to be mentally kicked around? Is there not something called basic courtesy that emerges through one’s veins when conversing with another? I shudder to think what the world will come to if it keeps filling up with people like Mr. Superiority.
I might be overreacting, but that does not mean these questions turn irrelevant! Be courteous if you expect courtesy in return. If people moved around thinking that politeness is not their prerogative, then courtesy will surely go extinct. Much like the dodo. And that, in my opinion, will amount to the heights of stupidity.
Picture Courtesy: lovingenergies.net