Friday, August 08, 2014

Just Wave Hello

"There is hardly any personal defect which an agreeable manner might not gradually reconcile one to."

Apparently a quote attributed to the infamous observer of manners, Miss Jane Austen herself. Though in these modern days, I wonder whether that still holds true.

Hate to sound like a crotchety old fogey - which I certainly am - but in my days, my far too conservative though evidently wise elders put a high value on good manners. When it came to having civil company around, we were expected to present ourselves in the living room with our best behaviour, make some cordial chit chat and generally refrain from being a monstrous nuisance.

Undoubtedly no annoying fidgeting.

And that goes for the occasional public appearance as well.

Since otherwise it would be the birch. Or a smack. Whichever was closest for my parents. Say what you will - and yes, I may be biased - but I don't think we had that many whiny brats in public spaces back then.

Getting to know you

So why did I suddenly bring that up? Because I had a getting-to-know-you conversation just the other day which I found simply... exhausting.

Paul : Hi, you're new here?
Newbie : Yes. 
Paul : Where do you work?
Newbie : Here. 
Paul : How are you enjoying the place? Got used to the roads yet? 
Newbie : Yes. 
Paul :  Have you been to this restaurant?
Newbie : No. 
Paul : Do you like the food? 
Newbie : Yes. 

I should have just come out with a welcome-to-the-neighbourhood survey form to tick and cross.

It was less an introductory conversation and more an information mining expedition. In colloquial Malay I frequently dub it as 'mencungkil emas' - which basically means digging for gold - since every word he uttered seemed to be precious treasure uncovered. Come on, a monosyllabic reply does not a conversation make. If I'm asking all the questions, I might as well bring along some ropes, a taser and an interrogation lamp.

If I had done the same surly treatment as a kid, my parents would have gladly walloped me from being just plain rude. Don't think I would blame them.

Beyond the simple handshake, there is more to knowing a person. Yes, it does take time - and it also takes exchanged words since my psychic powers are still very much nascent.

David : Maybe he's shy!
Paul : Being shy doesn't mean throwing manners away. 
David : Maybe he just doesn't know what to say!
Paul : He could just ask the same questions we did. It's just general questions. I wasn't asking what intimate sexual positions he enjoys. 
David : Oh. 
Paul : He probably doesn't even know your name. Or your job. Or where you live. Or where you come from. Basically he knows nothing about us - and I already know about his sister's favourite pet. 

Seriously. What did their parents teach them about social interaction? Is saying hello so difficult for people these days?


Tempus said...

David's so cute! hahahahA

These days people can be really a pain in the ass to deal with.

But we've just gotta deal with it.

And well, sometimes not everyone is just out and about to throw smiles and perky conversations around.

Sucks, I know.

savante said...

True, tempus but that's what manners is all about, isn't it? Being tolerable even though you don't feel like it?

Tempus said...

Well, people these days somehow are raised up to tell what they want straight into others' faces.