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.