I’m usually fairly blunt with my words and emotions. My face and tone always gives away what I feel towards a particular individual. And the parents often wish that I’d be a little gentler with people, regardless of what I think of them. The father, on the few times he comments on my behavior, “Speak to people nicely and see what you all can accomplish. People will probably forget what you said but they will never forget how you made them feel.”
It’s almost as if the event of the last few days conspired to drill this lesson into me. I visited three cobblers in the span of a fortnight. And I cannot get over how warm and polite the first chap was, over the other two. For the sake of clarity and a lack of imagination, let’s name them A, B and C, respectively.
I visited A in absolute desperation – it was a rainy week and a strap on my right sandal had come off. He fixed it in a jiffy. But not without leaving me with food for thought. He was extremely polite and gentle. He offered me a stool to perch on and insisted that I wear his spare slipper while he apologized for making me wait as he attended to a gentleman before me. And then he engaged me in casual conversation about his trade, the monsoon rush for shoe repairs, etc. Once, he was done I gave him a twenty rupee note and he handed me the change, without grumbling about it. I had not given him a lot of business but he made me feel like I was his best customer
I made a visit to B three days later for another strap and he was grumpiness personified. He barked at me to give him five rupees in exact change, else he wouldn’t mend the shoe. Perhaps he was having a bad day. Perhaps it was just his temperament. But I left his stall with a not-so-nice feeling. I just hoped his grumpiness wouldn’t be contagious. And I decided never to go back to him again.
A week later that half-hearted mending gave way and needed another fix. Unable to revisit A, I descended upon the first cobbler (C) I saw, waited while he set up shop for the day and then asked very politely, “Can you fix this for me?” He removed his own slipper for me to wear and got working with his tools, all the while engaging in small talk. It was a refreshing exchange.
That night when I was relating this incident to the folks, it struck me how much I took politeness for granted. And how short, abrupt and impolite I usually get with people.
I’m still trying to overcome the guilt.