Thursday, July 29, 2010

‘Courtesy’ Is Not a Dirty Word

Before I begin my discourse, let me offer a brief disclaimer and publically declare that the behaviours I describe are not unique to Singapore. I have witnessed similar situations in many other countries.

The events of today have so infuriated me, that I feel obliged to share my observations and to air my frustrations in regards to the basic human trait known as 'COURTESY'.

I have written before on my legacy Aussie Pete blog (early 2008) about my personal experiences as the father of a young baby and how difficult it had become to try and negotiate travel and crowds on the MRT with a pram. I stated then, and still believe with all of my heart, that courtesy is really just basic respect for our fellow humans, and can only (and must) be taught in the home. Once a person has been brought up without this basic moral education, I don't think it's very probable that the wrong behaviours can be 'unlearned'.

All my friends and regular readers are already aware that my wife and I are very close to once again celebrating the joy of bringing a newborn into this world. At 31 weeks pregnant, we are well and truly on the home stretch now!!

Unfortunately, I was very tied up at work today prior to our latest visit to the Gynocologist at midday, so rather than drive all the way home to collect Sammi and take her to the appointment at the clinic (located in the hospital where the delivery will be - for fear of repurcussion, let's just call it "ME"), I had her take a taxi and I drove the short distance from the office to meet her there just prior to the appointment time.

Upon arrival, as I drove into the carpark, I noticed my obviously very pregnant wife standing just inside the lobby of the hospital looking very uncomfortable and thought that perhaps she may have even been experiencing some pain. Alarm bells immediately sounded in my head, so I quickly passed the keys of the car to the valet guys and ran back to the lobby to check on my wife.

As I got to the scene, it became apparent (thank goodness), that their was nothing seriously wrong. Sammi was just feeling very uncomfortable as the baby had been pushing into some very awkward positions. It was causing some pain as well as the discomfort, but nothing just a good sit down and relax would not have solved.

When I asked Sammi why she was standing leaning against the wall instead of sitting down, she pointed to the rows of seats. To my absolute horror, they were all occupied by obviously healthy men and women - some happily chatting and eating their lunch. What was even more astounding, was that every single set of eyes were on us!! My 7-and-a-half month pregnant wife was using a wall to support herself (for almost 15 minutes) while people sat there and watched her in discomfort and pain.

This my dear readers, is completely unacceptable! Firstly, my wife is by nature a very shy person and would not have asked to take someone's seat. Secondly, she was in no physical condition to do so - the poor thing could hardly even talk because she was so uncomfortable.

Where is common courtesy? Or should I say, where are the common moral values and respect for your fellow human??


Flabbergasted, we continued on to our appointment. As usual, it was an awesome experience to see the 4D ultrasound of our healthy baby and to know that everything is progressing normally.

Next stop, was the Admissions section of the hospital for the pre-admission formalities. Given that this is our second baby to be delivered at the "ME" hospital, we were familiar with the process. We collected our queue number and turned to the seating area. It can often be busy there, so I was surprised to see that out of the roughly 25 seats, there were only about a dozen people sitting down. What surprised me more, was that there was not one vacant seat!! "How?", you may ask... well, the remaining seats that were not occupied with a physical body were taken up with all variety of shopping bags and handbags.

No problem. I'm not shy or 'backward in coming forward', so I kindly asked a gentleman if he could move his bags off one of the three seats that he was filling so that my wife could sit down. I was in fact mistaken - this was no gentleman, but actually a rude, arrogant *****! He first looked at me like I must have been insane to ask such a question. Then he turned his vision to my wife, looked her up and down and - WTH - he did not even answer, he turned his head and looked away! I proceeded to re-enter his field of view, and asked him kindly again (showing complete restraint from wanting to react in a somewhat more physical manner) for him to at least consolidate his bags from two chairs to just one. This time he (very cleverly) acceded and vacated one of the seats to allow the pregnant lady to sit. But this was not without him offering me some of the worst verbal abuse and curse words that I've heard uttered since moving to Singapore many years ago.

In other cirumstances, I can guarantee you that this situation would've been uglier than what it was. The disrespect to ignore my pregnant wife and actually physically refuse to give her seating preference over some shopping bags, even after I had very kindly asked him to do so, and then to abuse me verbally (for what, I still don't know). Against all my instincts, I was not prepared to make a further scene at this time and place... lucky for him!

The final scene of this very disturbing act was actually quite strange. After about 10-minutes, the rude, arrogant man in question, collected his bags together and left the admissions area not to return - he was not even a client or customer (I'm not sure what you call us in the hospital waiting area)... he was just occupying the three seats to 'take a break', I guess.

As I've said over and over in many forums and blogs, respect begins in the home. I implore you - teach your children well!!

Don't wait for someone who needs a seat to ask for it - sometimes they won't feel comfortable doing so... or perhaps even can't. Do the morally right thing - show some common courtesy, respect and kindness. It might actually make you feel good about yourself.

And to those people whose comments I have read before, such as "I paid for my train ticket, why should I stand up"; or "it was her choice to get pregnant"; or "if they want my seat, let them ask for it"... please understand, you are displaying what is commonly known as complete and utter ignorance. One day, when you or your loved one is pregnant, or you are old, infirm or disabled, you too may need to sit down - let's hope that you come across one of the many kind and courteous people that exist in this world.


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