Thursday, July 23, 2015

Of rude strangers at coffee shops

The other day as I was at a coffee shop with an ex colleague in walked this man. 'Black coffee with milk on the side," he tossed out loudly over his shoulder and settled down on one of the sofas with a friend.

A few minutes later we heard raised voices. The man was yelling at the staff - You have NO idea what a black coffee is and you work in a coffee shop!! You bloody f****** Indians . . . . . No don't call them becharas (poor things). That's exactly why they do nothing to improve themselves. We're too soft with them . . . . . . . . DON'T, DON'T say sorry. Save it up for your bosses when they fire you."

I had my back to the man and I turned to look just as every other customer in the coffee shop. The verbal barrage was vicious and brutal and very loud. It left us stunned and silent. Oh and in case you are wondering he was very much an Indian. I wanted to say something, anything. Something in support of the boy at the counter, anything to stop the man. But I couldn't. All I could do was throw the rude man a furious look and turn back to my colleague. The man quietened down after a while.

My friend and I continued our conversation that ranged from books and my blog to his job with a newspaper. When my friend got up to go to the counter I heard a 
"What's your name?" addressed to my back.
It was the rude man. He was alone; his friend had apparently left.
"Why would I tell you?" I asked half turning to him, still infuriated.
"Because I'm a writer too. I write scripts for soaps at Balaji Telefilms."

I put a mental black strike against television soaps and their writers even as he seemed completely unaware of my reaction. He simply went on to enumerate the soaps he had written and how "people like me" would probably find them boring. For a moment I wondered if it was the same man at all. It really was like he was a different man, like the nasty scene hadn't happened, or at least as if he wasn't responsible for that vitriolic attack.

I was too outraged to get into a conversation with him. I nodded/shook my head dismissively as my friend returned to the table. Then finally when we were leaving he called out a 'God Bless You' from his corner!!

I am still stunned at this volte-face. Did he not realise how rude he had been? Did the boy at the counter not matter to him at all? Or did he think as a 'creative person' or a minor celebrity he had the right to 'mood swings'? And worse, did he think I condoned his outburst?

Most definitely, yes!
What irked me even more was my reaction. I wish I had made my displeasure obvious. I could have asked him to keep his voice down while he was shouting. I could have completely ignored his attempts at a conversation I truly didn't want to be a part of. Better still, I could have mentioned his earlier outburst.

However, none of this happened.

It was only later that I thought of scores of ways in which I could have expressed my distaste for his behaviour. For many many hours I couldn't stop thinking of the boy at the coffee shop whose day had probably been ruined. 

Does this ever happen to you - this inability to verbalise your feelings - specially negative ones even though you know you should? How do you react to rude strangers? Would you consider reacting even if the rudeness isn't directed at you? 

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

20 comments:

  1. It happens, right. I had been in a situation not exactly like this, but I was dumbstruck that I didn't step in and raise my concern. I understand how irritating you must have felt for not letting him know that you didn't care for his poor behavior. I believe, that we have to learn from such instances where we fail to express our real concerns and maybe just respond next time.

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    1. You're right Vinitha. Next time I hope I'll be able to say something.

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  2. Sometimes I will speak and other times I think I may be too shocked to speak. You were probably shocked -- so don't give yourself a rough time. The other day a man said something rude to someone and I looked at him and said "That was harsh - was it necessary?" He was embarrassed and walked away

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    1. That was a great Carol. Wish I had said something similar.

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  3. Crazy rude people are every where but since I am the outspoken types I do give them a piece of my mind.

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    1. Cheers to you Inderpreet. Wish there were more of you. Most of us shy away from confrontations of any kind.

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  4. i guess it does happen to me a lot. Many a time I look to avoid confrontation and often take hits on the chin for stuff I havent even done. Of course, that just proves to be the wrong decision all the time...

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    1. Yes Roshan it's the 'trying to avoid a scene' thing that keeps us quiet.

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  5. It's always easier to see in hindsight how we could have reacted differently. However, you were probably stunned by his verbal behaviour that you didn't know what to say! That is a common reaction and I'm sure that has happened to me before (though I can't think of one incident right now). I t hink depending on the situation I may or may not say something. The latter may involve you getting hurt in the process and that isn't at all worth it! ;) <3

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    1. Hmm right Elly. The fear that he might say something rude to me, kept me quiet perhaps.

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  6. I think I know what you mean. It's better to sort out your thing, nicely. It happens here more often though. (India mai..Indians ke bich mai)

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    1. Absolutely. I don't see why you should yell at someone specially if that someone isn't in a position to yell back at you.

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  7. I have seen a man from north India arguing in Chennai Airport how the Samosa he ate just now now there was of a right preparation.

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    1. Uff.. cannot believe food an get one that excited!

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  8. This guy's behavior is so similar to one of my ex-colleague. I have not come across anybody more nasty and rude than him. It is terrible to see such atrocious behavior! Once, somebody gave him a feedback and that guy was publicly ridiculed too. Dont know if I'd be able to say something to such a rude person, but yes, may be would show my displeasure.

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    1. People who make a habit out of it probably need help. Even if one is having a specially bad day, to take it out on a hapless person is really mean. As for the reaction - that's what I did, or hope I did.

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  9. No wonder I can't stand the soaps of Balaji Telefilms!

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  10. A rude stranger should have been ignored or asked to leave as he was not welcome.
    Wil, ABCW Team

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    1. It's never that easy. No one will ask them to leave for fear of creating a worse scene as for ignoring - that's what most of us did.

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