Rant: The Continued Absence of Courtesy

Before you read this post, please go HERE and read a previous post on the same topic that I’d written quite some time ago. The heartbreaking reality about the lack of courtesy still splinches my insides. The worst part, I will explain after I narrate the incident that triggered this relapse into topical thought.

I have the habit of sitting at the Starbucks closest to home for two reasons: amazing coffee, and decent Wi-Fi. I lose track of time when I work here and get so much done that I’m usually euphoric when I start back for home. So it was that I decided to go there on November 27, 2017 for what I hoped would be yet another period of fruitful work.

As usual, I took out my notepad (which I use to note down review points while reading books) and pen, placed them on the table in front of me and settled down to read my book, The Tree Bears Witness. Not long after, I vaguely registered a guy wearing dark goggles sitting at the table a few feet from mine. But I didn’t think much of it, except wondering whether he had an eye problem or was just an idiot who was showing off.

A few pages in, I heard a shuffling from this man’s table, and he was soon standing beside me. Startled, I looked up, my brows furrowed. At the very least I expected a “Can I borrow your pen and a paper?” But God forbid such politeness happens! How will the world survive!?

The man pointed to the pen lying on the notepad and said, “Pen.” I looked at him, the answer to my earlier dilemma veering towards ‘idiot.’ I nodded, my lips now pursed in irritation. Then he says, “Paper.” One of my eyebrows rose automatically. When I asked why, he merely said, “I want.” I glared at him, tore a sheet of paper, and handed it to him, after which he sidled back into his seat.

I could feel my nostrils flaring by this point. Is there no such thing called ‘language’? A simple ‘Could I borrow?’ would have done the deed. What has the world come to?

That wasn’t even why I was furious. After a few minutes, he stood up, put the pen on my notepad, and nodded imperiously as he walked off. I couldn’t believe what had just happened. My jaw had dropped open even as my angry eyes followed his progress out of the café. Annoyed, I rolled my eyes and went back to reading my book. The four gentlemen sitting at the table to my left noticed my expression, as I remember, but didn’t react further. Did they find this behavior okay? Did they find my reaction snobbish? We’ll never know.

I don’t know what this man’s deal was but I had a lot of problems with how he behaved.

  1. First off, you can’t just walk up to a stranger and demand what belongs to the stranger.
  2. Secondly, have the courtesy to thank the person for helping you.
  3. And lastly, have the sense to realize what you’ve done and not repeat it later.

There will be people who think that asking for courtesy is plain entitlement or just displaying an unhealthy level of self-importance. Isn’t that man’s behavior entitlement? Feeling that he had the right to walk up to someone and just demand to use their belongings? Any apologists for this man – just don’t.

Why is expecting courtesy bad? If some offhanded comment from someone in a faraway land can incite rage in you and make you say, “That person was wrong, they need to apologize,” why can’t I expect a simple sorry or thank you as I go about life? Why has hypocrisy taken the throne while courtesy has been relegated to the rank of mere slave? Why is it that megalomaniacal businessmen become world leaders while shooting their mouths off every day while common people keep getting trampled upon if they ask for courtesy?

We think that courtesy is something that is inbuilt. But very unfortunately, it is not. It is something that is cultivated from our childhood. If one doesn’t understand the basic tenets of courtesy, then I don’t understand how one gets through life while steamrolling everyone in the way.

In the end, there’s just one thing I would like to tell the “gentleman”, if I hadn’t been so dumbstruck: If you cannot be courteous to people, if you cannot show basic decency, and you still think of the world as your space to rule without politeness, you are wrong. You cannot expect people to bend over backwards to give you what you want. You’re not entitled to the world. Deal with it and get off your high horse. And I don’t care if it’s just one pen or one piece of paper.

Thank you very much.

P.S. This incident probably did not warrant such a long response and I understand that it could be that the man had issues of his own to deal with. But it’s the small things that matter. If you expect courtesy, be prepared to give courtesy as well.

Picture Courtesy: keepcalms.com

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