Responding to misbehaviour in public

(From December 04, 2014, I have been inactive on the blogging scene, mainly due to increased work pressure. Starting today, I shall be publishing a blog post every Tuesday.
In these 25 days, I collected quite a bit of inputs for future posts, mainly in the form of incidents described to me by friends and relatives who have been following my blog. This post describes one such incident.)

Five persons were standing in the checkout queue at a supermarket. All of them were buying 3 items or less. Suddenly, a man jumped the queue, kept a bunch of coriander leaves on the checkout counter and started removing his wallet from his pocket. He did not offer any explanation to any of the persons standing in the queue, but merely said, “Only one item” to the checkout clerk.

The checkout clerk politely told the man that she could oblige him only if the persons standing in the queue agreed. Without a word, the man threw the bunch of coriander leaves at the checkout clerk and started walking towards the exit.

While everybody else was too stunned to react, the customer at the head of the queue immediately said, “You have no right to do that! You must apologize to the lady.” Since the man ignored her, the woman said loudly, “If you don’t apologize, I’ll ensure that you cannot leave this place!”

The man stopped, turned around, looked at the checkout clerk, unapologetically said, “Sorry,” and walked away.

There are quite a few people, like the man at the supermarket, who believe that they can misbehave openly in public with people who cannot retaliate. Such people get away with their misbehaviour because almost all onlookers do not intervene. In this case, the man assumed, correctly as it turned out, that the checkout clerk would not speak up, perhaps fearing that, in the event of her senior(s) or the management getting involved, they would choose to support the customer. After all, the customer is ‘king’! What the man had not bargained for was another ‘king’, or ‘queen’ in this incident, challenging him!!

One cannot say whether the man’s attitude changed for the better, but he will probably think twice before misbehaving openly in public in the future.

It is really heartening to know that there are people like the woman who intervened in a matter that did not directly affect her! If more of us emulate her, there will be fewer people misbehaving with others openly in public. Of course, those who have been misbehaving similarly in private, or covertly in public, will continue to do so, but we would have taken one step forward.

9 thoughts on “Responding to misbehaviour in public

  1. Like the response of the other customer; most of the time, everybody is busy and will not bother to intervene…this is common, I have seen in post office, while people stand for long time to pay for ppf or Rd accounts, the agents will walk directly bypassing the queue to the counter and will be sorting some issue… when we confront, they will say, that they will start giving some excuse to justify their action..

  2. I wish there are more people like the lady who spoke up for the checkout clerk. On a different note, I once got slapped on a public transport for trying to protect a young school going girl from being molested. Nobody came forward to help except a young man in his early twenties. Such is the sad state of our country.

  3. I experienced an identical situation where at a Supermarket an old man was paying for 6 bottles of Coke & 2 bottles of Sodas 9 technically only 2 items when a young woman barged in & insisted on paying for only one item she had bought at a “only upto 5 items” counter.I was the only one in the line waiting to pay & objected to her barging in. Rather than joining the line she confronted the Counter Attendant for accepting 8 items at the “Upto 5 items ” without replying to me.
    When I again asked her to go behind me she made a big noise that “people (me) are not understanding & that she has a small baby at home etc etc.” I politely told her that had she requested me earlier I would definitely have “understood ” her but not now. In the mean time the counter attendant attended to me in the normal course before her & also thanked me for making her understand(if at all she did). leaving her grumbling to glory…..

  4. Well done to the person… I am sure you read the post i had posted.. I am not sure why people are becoming so impatient , a QUEUE is there for a reason, I bet the same person will be annoyed if someone else jumped the queue…

    the trend of people keeping quiet and see misbehaviour is not good , hence the reason why bad things are on the rise because no one wants to take the headache ..

    Happy new year PRO to you and everyone around you ..

  5. Just read bikrams post on the same lines and it just makes u wonder why people do these unneccesary show of power…do they really think it is macho to behave so??

  6. What kind of a person behaves like this in the public? Really, I seriously wonder about the psychology of such people. Could it be that he was having a really rotten day? Still that’s no excuse to be so rude to some total stranger who is merely doing her job. In this case, it is great that another person stood up and protested, but so often such rude behaviour is simply ignored and people go by minding their own business. I see such rudeness and shocking behaviour mostly among urban Indians. And that says something about how we are urbanising in our country, doesn’t it? Not to say that rural Indians don’t have their own set of issues and behavioural problems that have to do with anger, jealousy, rivalry, etc etc, but still there is a general politeness in the way they talk to strangers or acquaintances. At least that has been my experience of living in a rural area and close enough to an semi-urban one, and also having grown up in a big city where I visit regularly.

  7. After my last comment this blog I have observed that breaking queues seems to be a regular practice for several people irrespective of age/sex. In the last month alone I came across such situations not only at Supermarkets.
    I was at a VODAFONE service centre when a decently dressed (looked like a qualified co exec) religiously takes a token from the machine but heads straight to the counter where the last customer just finishes, since my No. had just flashed at the same counter I politely told him that it was my turn & he cannot barge in his explanation was that he has to attend office & has also double parked & needs to be attended to first. I told him that even we faced the same problems but resolved them before we took the token. He walked out just fuming.
    A VERY SENIOR CITIZEN thanked me for taking this stand & said that he could not have done this himself. I fail to understand why.

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