Sunday, April 24, 2011

Common Decency

 
Sometimes I wonder about people and their sense of decency. Seeing people not really care about what others are going through and just focus on their wants and needs makes me wonder how they would feel if the tables were turned. How would they feel if someone else did the same thoughtless thing to them? Would they accept it? Would they move on and just shrug their shoulders? Or would they be ticked off and feel angry? 

On the way back from Koh Tao and while we were waiting in line with 2 big bags, a heavy carry on,  two back packs, and two children in tow, the sky opened up and down came a wall of rain.... tropical rain... heavy... one where you would be soaked to your underwear in a matter of seconds. As we walked towards the ferry, that would transport us to the main land in 1.5 hours, we could barely see in front of us. I was carrying my daughter, my back pack and dragging the heavy carry on and watching out for my son, while my husband was carrying all the other bags.

Everybody was in the same boat maybe minus a few bags or children, but they were soaking wet. We finally reached the ferry and when we went in, we were faced with utter chaos... people trying to find a place to sit, people trying to place their bags on a mountain of others... it was just crazy! 

In the midst of it all, I spotted a place to sit with my daughter... when I approached the row of three seats, I saw a young man sitting in the middle seat with two bags on either side of him. I asked him if the bags were his or if he had some friends coming? He barely paid attention to me... I asked him again politely, and he informed me that he had friends coming. 

Ten minutes passed... after finding dry clothes for my kids, and when I still had no seat yet, I went to him, still carrying my back pack and my daughter and asked him again where his friends were... 

He looked at me and gave me the cold shoulder.... I nearly killed him with my eyes then... but I kept my cool and asked him if he saw the chaos around him and how people cannot find a place to park themselves... he just ignored me. I thought that maybe he did not speak English... but then I remembered that he told me about his friends... so no, I was wrong... he did speak English but he chose to ignore and close his eye pretending to fall asleep.

A Thai staff member saw what was going on, ushered me to a seat and then went back to him. Thai people are extremely tolerant and accepting and sometimes I think that single travelers like this man take advantage of that. They take advantage of the fact that the Thai people do not like confrontation and so they could get away with murder if they wanted to. But due to the state of the ferry, the staff member had to intervene this time. Their conversation went on for minutes... he then gave up one of his seats... the aisle seat. 

But guess what... no one wanted to sit next to him... there was a young traveler at the back of the room who was sitting on a stool. I spoke to him, as I was trying to get my displaced bag, and told him that there was a seat next to that man over there. He told me that he did not want to sit next to someone who would not give up his seat for a mother and daughter. He had watched it all. 

I should not wonder at people who behave in such a way... I should feel sorry for them... because they are loners. This traveler was alone... he had no friends as he made us believe he had... he walked alone, traveled alone... no one wanted to sit next to him....talk to him... people who have no common decency  and who thought of their own convenience and comfort, will always be loners and I feel sorry for them. Other travelers on the ferry who were with friends or family offered their help. to others... asked if anyone wanted to switch seats so that a family would be together, smiled and made small talk... but this guy... he was alone... and I really felt sorry for him.

7 comments:

paula devi said...

I feel sorry for these sometimes maddening people too. Could they be there to test our abilities to remain calm, compassionate and non-explosive when faced with their sad, sad and unloved selves? These people abound all over the world. When I lived in NJ and took the railroad home during rush hour after work, some people would have their cases or huge handbags on the unoccupied seat next to them. Whenever I would ask nicely, "excuse me, may I sit here?" the person wouldn't even look me in the face, but make a super annoyed face of inconvenience, and grab their bag off the chair. They probably never hear my "thank you". Some people even said no. Okay, that's not okay with me so I must admit I didn't always pass the compassion test - sometimes I used "skilfull means". What's that? Pick up that person's bag and hold it out to them with a smile and a threatening eye. Wah chamsah! :)
Not so funny story about how I try to walk that fine line, not always succeeding. Once I was riding with my husband on a bus into Manhattan. We were sitting in the back and across from us sat one of my countrymen. He was on his cellphone, shouting in Hebrew having a conversation I really did not want to hear. I smiled and tried to catch his eye to politely ask him to turn down the volume. He ignored me. I wrote him a tiny note in Hebrew asking him to lower his voice, please. He read the note and laughed and yelled louder into his phone that some "woman" was asking him to lower his voice, which he didn't. Okay, I lost it. I jumped up, grabbed his phone and through it out the window. He shut up. The little devil in my heart loved the look of shock on his face. he started to speak and I held up my hand in the Israeli gesture of "stop" and said, do you want to be next? I'm bad.

paula devi said...

p.s. my husband, who is not Israeli or Jewish, just stared at me with his mouth open. I'm not sure if he was proud of me or mortified or totaly freaked out. He just kept saying "I cant believe you did that."

correcection to above: through = threw.

paula devi said...

Do live near the Cambodian border? I just read there is some fighting there?

Tabouleh said...

LOL... I just LOVED LOVED LOVED how you threw that phone out the window... If I were sitting on that bus I would have cheered for you... You had guts to do that... you were patient and I respect that... you know...sometimes people react well to it all and sometimes they do not... I dislike smoking... and twice and had to talk to two men in at the airport in Amman about it... once I was 8 months pregnant with my son, and waiting for my bag by the conveyor belt, I spotted a man smoking… underneath a non-smoking sign and after an announcement that it was not permitted to smoke at the airport… I caught his eye and gestured with my hand a sign which meant, ‘ummm, what are you doing?” and then said… ‘would you please put out your cigarette.” He totally ignored me… I was just about to unleash but then thought that I was pregnant and did not want to create a scene… I should have though…

Another time I was pregnant with my daughter, and also around 7 months, and saw a man, also one of my countrymen, smoking in the waiting room… my sister was with me… and she noticed that I was walking towards him… she immediately came with me fearing that he would react in a certain way that would make her confront him herself… I kindly said, “Please put out your cigarette, it is not permitted to smoke here.” And I was blown away by his kind reaction to what I said… he was extremely apologetic and immediately put it out saying that he was unaware that he was not permitted to do so. And when we lined up to board the plane, he apologized again.

Two different reactions to the same thing…
But going back to what you wrote… I just loved your confidence and quick thinking… you are one courageous woman.

Tabouleh said...

OH Paula what a gentle soul you are... no I am not living close to the border... I am in Bangkok... but it is sad what is going on... they are fighting over a very old Cambodian temple that is on Thai land... they have always disputed over this... My very naiive simple mind thinks that there are so many easy solutions to the problem... build a wlal around the temple and allow both sides to visit it...

paula devi said...

it makes my head spin in circles like in the Exorsist - all this fighting over sacred spaces. A sacred space is sacred ground - there are no borders. If it's sacred to one person it is sacred to humankind.
FIghting over religion, territory - it's all so crazy. Ugh, I get so cazy over this absolute stupidity. Mostly because I was discussing this idiocy from our neighborhood It's deranged. I'd better stop now before I become deranged.

As for your comment above about my being courageous, that may not exactly accurate. I don't know if my spelling in English can be correct - but in any case - if someone doesn't get "dooogri" than you just need to use active doogri. Did I get the word/spelling right?

All this fighting - Maspik, Chalas.

Tabouleh said...

LOL... You did great! We usually add an h after the G to make it mean that it is the sound from the throat... but well done you... my dad learned Hebrew a long time ago and he taught me how to say How are you... Mashlomeikh? and Mashlomkha?... right?
We should teach one another ...
still I think you had guts and were courageous... :)

Going back to your comment... yes... a sacred place is sacred for all humankind... totally agree... wise words Paula...