Monday, October 21, 2013

I am impolite?

Having always thought of myself as a polite person, it came as a rude shock to me to learn that there are people who so far exceed me in politeness as to make me seem positively rude. Numb-wit that I am, I never really learned politeness even when I was face-to-face with examples of exquisite politeness all through my life.

The first time I recollect having seen one of the doyens of politeness was when I was hunting for used books and one of those guys promised me a whole collection of PG Wodehouse on the subsequent day. These were the days when original prints cost the earth and my salary would have left me with the option of buying one book and starving for half a month or doing without the book (and I must shamefacedly admit that the stomach won every time). So, needless to say, it was like being offered buried treasure.

The next day, with my hair in a braid, I landed up at the shop and the man says he has just sent someone to get the books and they would be there in about an hour's time. I muck around the shop desultorily rooting around the books for an hour. Again he says that the books will be there soon. I wander around the area for another half-an-hour and get back to my benefactor - who starts off with the same spiel all over again. The lure of PG Wodehouse was so strong that I swallow my bile and explore the lanes muttering imprecations for yet another half hour. On my return, our man at last confesses that the books were not going to make an appearance after all. Incensed I ask him why he did not say it before. Surprised by my vehemence, he says "But how can I hurt you by saying that I did not give enough importance to your request and forgot all about it?"

Can you believe it? That aspect of it never struck me at all. I was concentrating so much on the couple of hours that I wasted in hanging around the place like a beggar that I never realized how much worse I would have felt if he had told me that he had forgotten to get the books and sent me off home immediately.

I must confess that I thought of him as a lone paragon of politeness shining in solitary splendor in a world full of more mundanely polite people. It did not strike me that here was an ideal to be followed.

The next time it happened I had called on a friend to help me move houses. Some four hours after he was due and after innumerable phone calls to him eliciting replies about how he was on the way, I lugged my luggage myself. (Bachelor days - Movers were still not required though lone shifting was still not easy) I was fuming at the fact that he had not merely declined and allowed me to approach someone else for help. Shortsighted of me, as usual, for when I taxed him with it later he at once showed me the error of my thinking. "How could I have refused you and let you think that I did not care enough for you to help you out?" That viewpoint never struck me at all. If I had only thought of that, I would have been happy - even while struggling with three suitcases, folding cot, table and chairs - that, at least, my friend cared for me a lot. It is a quirk in me that fails to appreciate the extent of the politeness extended to me.

After innumerable experiences of such wonderful politeness - friends not refusing my dinner invitations and promising imminent arrival upon persistent phone calls till I sit down with dyspepsia to a lone cold meal and not realizing how much worse I would have felt if they had merely rung me up when they were due and told me they could not come; Plumbers (yes, they were bound to make an appearance in my posts even if they are not to be seen in reality) who do not take my reminder calls to avoid hurting me by saying they would not turn up after all; and sundry other experiences, I have suddenly realized that it is I who do not appreciate this rarefied form of politeness. Alas! I have been going through life being unknowingly rude to people - refusing invites when I am unable to make an appearance, refusing help when I am unable to extend help and all sorts of such unbelievably gauche behavior.

This realization comes rather late in life to me. I may well understand it from the brain but my instincts fail to adapt properly. I am, now, resigned to being considered a rather uncouth and rude person for the rest of my life.

54 comments:

  1. I don't mind plumbers refusing to turn up but when friends forget basic courtesies it hurts. Yes dyspepsia and indigestion and acidity all strike with vengeance. Sadly good manners, humility and politeness are not cherished anymore. They are a sign of weakness.

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  2. Ha! I know where this is coming from. But yes, these kind of situations have infuriated me much as well. Only weekend before last, I was left fuming entire day due to similar politeness on the part of my driver.
    Btw, the plumber's appearance was a cool touch to the post.

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    1. Hahaha! Yeah this sort of politeness takes a real genius to understand :)

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  3. It completely fails me too, Suresh, why someone would not bother communicating about visiting/not visiting, starting late etc. It is so rude, but people are so matter of fact about it. Don't really know how one can convey the message to the seemingly unfazed folks.

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    1. Ah! They just do not want to listen to your recriminations and tell themselves that it would hurt you if they said they were not coming :) As though their actually not coming and keeping you hanging is less hurtful :)

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  4. Oh I hate this sort of politeness. I prefer frank straight forward answers in a yes or a no.

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    1. You, like me, have not risen to that rarefied strata, Ruchira :)

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  5. LOL,I think this politeness I can do without. Respect for my time and other's time also constitute politeness in my eyes. Straight talk without beating around the bush is also politeness, of course, it can be put tactfully.

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    1. We mundane beings share this idea of politeness, Ash :)

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  6. I feel, you might as well take your rudeness to a new level, CS. Unless the excuse is genuine, deny them the pleasure of your company next time. As for trades people, @%$#!*

    Great humour.

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    1. Thanks, KayEM! Yes, I am toying with the idea of not bothering to learn politeness :)

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  7. The book incident sounds quite like 'Dilli' to me. The bachelor incident sounds exactly that - bachelor. :) About the dinner, who could refuse a good meal? :O
    And no, you are not impolite. :)

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    1. Ah! Maybe they got a better meal offered elsewhere, Sakshi :)

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  8. You are so v right Suresh , me too have been in such situation not once but a few times there is a bunch of super polite people and I feel I can never match their in politeness ! Gud one again and I really love your creative posts none can beat you on tht !

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    1. Thanks Alka! True, we can never ever match them :)

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  9. I kept waiting for the plumber reference and you didn't disappoint me, and just to be polite to you I am not going to sue you for defamation as a representative of the Bruhat Bengaluru Maximum Plumbers association.

    Loved the post, and no, this is not me being polite, this is me being extremely upfront about my feelings about the post itself.

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    1. If you represent them Jairam why don't you send me home a plumber - I have been yelling myself hoarse for a month now :)

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  10. When will we learn to be straightforward and honest?Such lies are totally unnecessary.May God save us from these paragons of politeness.

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    1. I think even God has given up on being able to save us from them, Indu :)

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  11. Suresh - Another very humourous yet insightful piece. I swear I saw shades of Stephen Leacock in your writing today. And that's a compliment, my friend.
    When will we ever learn to say 'no' and not think it's impolite to do so!

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    1. Ah! Corinne! Any comparison to one of the literary greats IS a compliment. And I know you too well to think that you are accusing me of plagiarism - which is the only way it can be otherwise. Thanks!

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  12. This complete disregard for someone else's time, feelings and convenience completely baffles me. To add insult to injury you have to put up with their lies.

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    1. If you refuse to believe them - well - you will prove how rude you are :)

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  13. Are we a minority? The rude ones? Guess we were raised by parents with poor values and principles.

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    1. Yes - Janaki! We can only blame our upbringing :)

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  14. Is it so difficult to say No? A timely No is much much better than a Yes without a motive to do what you promised...

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    1. I, too, thought it was easier and more polite but people like us seem to be in the minority, Akanksha :)

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  15. People consider this a sign of politeness. Somehow giving a straightaway no as an answer is not wired in us.

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    1. Some flaw in the assembly department - they wired it into me :)

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  16. Wow... I think most of the times I am impolite (say no ) but I must confess there are times when I am a little tooooo polite ( say yes and then decline ) ;)

    Loved reading it!

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    1. Thanks Naba! Up to now, you have been impolite on meets AND that is the way I prefer it :) Unless, of course, you truly are coming which would be better :)

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  17. So true!! I rather be fine with the blunt impoliteness...Atleast their is some genuineness thr!!

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    1. I sort of lean towards polite bluntness myself :)

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  18. The Plumbers' Union of Karnataka are going to issue a diktat against you :)!!!!

    Good post as always - did you get the PG Wodehouse collection finally?

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  19. I am blunt and respect the same courtesy when given by others. I hate people who are not straightforward and stop associating with them. My friends list is very short, sadly

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    1. I don't see it as courtesy when someone keeps me hanging in limbo, Ritu! :) So I, too, probably end up shedding friends as fast as I shed my hair :)

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  20. Well, I would prefer if the person who was supposed to meet me told in advance that he would not be able to make it up for the meet. I would naturally "understand". But there are only a few people who genuinely think of not hurting us, the rest just use that as an excuse. But, it would be really nice to hear some genuine comments like your friends mentioned in the post :-)

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    1. This was one of my very rare sarcastic posts, Ashwini! I do know that it is only an excuse :)

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  21. Ideally, it is easy to say that we love straight refusals.. but we don't. I know myself - I don't like refusals. So, this extended politeness is actually a relief or should be a relief - but ironically it is not. I have not yet understood how I would like people to refuse :)

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    1. I prefer them any day. Of course I do not like them compared to acceptance. I have very seldom continued a friendship with anyone giving me the run-around whereas people who told me 'No' straight off are still in touch. And, who says that a 'No' cannot be said without giving hurt?

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  22. Saying No in a polite way is feasible. People somehow dont prefer that and yes, its pretty irritating most of the time!

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    1. I find it very difficult to remain friendly with the 'leaving me hanging in the air' kind - not so much of a problem with people who say 'No'! Jealousy, maybe, since I could not reach those rarefied heights of politeness :)

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  23. I would rather have someone say "No" than make me wait for no reason....at least with friends..i have my own list of these painfully polite types...and over time ( ya ok, u may read that as, as i grow older) i've learnt to stay away and not ask them anything, lest they throw that missile of politeness in my direction.

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    1. I get let down once I keep away from those who did :)

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  24. Truth nicely written laced with the just the required amount of humour. Don't you think that this type of politeness is essentially Indian?.enjoyed your post .Thanks

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    1. More prevalent in India maybe! But I think there is a proportion of people everywhere who avoid confrontations and lead to this sort of fracas :)

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  25. No one can write it in a more humble way, Suresh. I think I have had enough of these type of experiences in school and college. Now, I don't let people take me for a ride..ah..well, I donno..I must have just forgotten the last incident. A simple yes or no solves the problem and people knead the matter like dough.

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    1. They do and cause more problems for others :)

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  26. Suresh, you are so spot on on so many things. Thanks. It was a terrific read!

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  27. well, well, that kind of 'politeness' is worse than being rude! Perhaps, being rude or better, just being oneself sans any pretense would make such situations more bearable. :)

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    1. I thought so too - but the majority seems to think otherwise and can the majority be wrong? :)

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