Faux pas

05/22/2013

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"To love others more than yourself is foolish altruism. To love others less than yourself is suicidal. Both are the great faux pas in life." - Joseph Osei-Bonsu
PictureSketch by Prince Boakye-Yiadom
Rhonda Saunders' mother worked almost everyday of her life, cleaning the homes of Britain's elite, in central London. Rhonda spent Friday evenings, the whole of Saturday and Sunday, helping her mother to bear the burdens of this tedious profession, at the Gibsons'. This aristocratic British family had hired the Jamaican-born, British immigrant (Rhonda's mother) as their weekend housekeeper. After their work was done at the Gibsons', Rhonda would watch as her mother walked into the Gibsons' living room to courtesy Gibsons, and thank them for hosting her. And for all the 522 weekends Rhonda's mother did this, Rhonda never saw or heard any member of the Gibson family thanking her mother for her service to them.
They'd simply respond, "Your cheque will be in the mail." Or, they'd simply nod in acknowledgement and say, "See you next week!". One day, Rhonda decided to inquire of her mother why the Gibsons' never showed any appreciation for their hardwork. To this her mother responded, "Child, courtesy is the duty of subjects, not of kings and queens." Even though it was still 1989, 15-year old Rhonda couldn't accept this confession from her mother.
    In the wee hours of the morning of 5th May, 2003, Rhonda was awakened to a loud knock on her front door. There stood an old and wrinkly-looking Mrs. Gibson, her deceased mother's employer, at her door. After the kettle had finishing boiling, Mrs. Gibson revealed to Rhonda that her son, Kyle Gibson, had been falsely accused of defiling their present, housekeeper's 15-year-old, daughter. Simply put, if Rhonda would testify in favour of Kyle before the court, the Gibsons' opponent would lose the case. Rhonda knew that Kyle was innocent, however, she was not going to testify for free. She asked Mrs. Gibson, "And what will you pay me for this service, should I choose to do it?". Mrs. Gibson replied, "You'll have our family's eternal gratitude, coupled with God's blessings!" Rhonda scoffed loudly: she couldn't believe her ears! After failing to show any appreciation of any sort to her late mother for ten years, this old woman had the impudence to request a favour, for free from the dead mother's daughter. Rhonda calmly responded to Mrs. Gibson's offer in this manner, "With all due respect ma'am, I have to decline your offer. For 522 weekends, my mother and I cleaned, washed and ironed for you, Mr. Gibson, and especially, for your son, Kyle. 522 times, she walked into your living room, courtesied, and thanked you for underpaying her. Never did you or any of your family members see it fit to even thank her, let alone, walk her to the door. This is my offer: for every weekend my mother changed your ingrate family's beddings or cleaned your rooms, I want £100.  Take it, or leave it!". Mrs. Gibson stared into Rhonda's eyes long and hard, after Rhonda had finished speaking. Mrs. Gibson pulled out her cheque book, depressed her pen, looked up at Rhonda and asked with an annoyed tone, "What's a 100 times 522?". 


    In a world where commonplace courtesies are gradually turning into sarcastic remarks, clichés or caustic objections; it is almost impossible to notice when a person is really being polite, or being appreciative of others. "How are you?" has no true intention to find out the well being of the person being asked. "Thank you" is optional - the waiter is being PAID to serve us; so why bother? "Excuse me!" is now the main introductory line in a cat fight.  A "Good morning!" greeting can be switched on or off (depending on one's pay-cheque). We use "Please..." as we please. And, "I'm sorry" lost its sentimental value the very day the first wrong-doer decided that, it could be rationalized. The neglect of common courtesies is no longer considered such a 'big deal' any more, yet, flatulating in public is still considered rude. As the moral degeneration of the world quickens its pace, one sex-tape at a time; who knows? Maybe, flatulating in public won't be a such big deal tomorrow!

    The manner in which the post-modern society courts faux pas is simply a reflection of how low our standards of propriety have fallen. Of course the kids are rude! What did we expect, after we erroneously planted false ideas of a 'free-thinking' society in their sheepish minds? General societal decorum was established as a way to re-introduce, re-teach and reinforce the nature of love; which considers and treats all others as one's own self, because we've simply forgotten how to love! This is, or better still, love was the unwritten law - the boundary - that provided order and peace in our daily lives. Now, since we're all supposedly 'free' to do whatever we want, this ancient stone has been removed from our hearts. The inevitable consequence, as evidenced in the level of crime, corruption, violence and apathetic behaviour in our communities, is the collapse of the social system. 

We are not free to do whatever we want; we are only free to take proper responsibility over lives and our worlds. 

    So, maybe, just maybe, if you say, "Thank you!", to that waiter who just served you with a genuine tip, he might not be driven to steal from his job, because he feels unappreciated. Again, maybe if you bothered to really ask your classmate, "How are you?", your secretly-depressed classmate might decide against killing herself. Who knows if the person standing in your way to this interview you're late for, is your interviewer? A polite, "Excuse me.", could change your unemployment status instantly. Maybe, if you decide to greet your so-called lazy employees with a cheerful, "Good morning!", everyday, they might actually go the extra mile for you, in this recession. "Please..." might please daddy to please you with a trip to Disney World. And clearly, the excuses you're making for what you did wrong isn't saving your marriage. Maybe it's time for a different approach. Maybe it's time to truly say, "I'm sorry." EXCUSE ME, dear reader. I'M SORRY if you feel offended for what I'm about to say: PLEASE, don't be a faux pas. THANK YOU and GOOD DAY!     


 


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