Monday, August 25, 2008

Mountain out of a Mole-Hill

I headed to Al Reef Lebanese Bakery on Wasl Road to have two manakeesh at about 10pm during a weekday. As I sat down on one of the 4 tables in the place awaiting my meal to arrive, I happened to observe the following; a couple came in and ordered. They were getting ready to sit at the table next to me when the man went to wash his hands while the woman went to the refrigerator to get a bottle of water. At the same time, another person placed his jacket on the back rest of the chair and sat down with his friend. Thus, the table got taken and the woman (whose back was to the table) was surprised when she turned around and found her chosen place taken.

Well, she took another table, and when her husband came back, she started complaining about the indecency of the pair of men that took their table. She was upset and I overheard her stating the injustice in an irritable manner. Her husband tried to calm her down and told her not to create a scene while she stated that she did not care (although their heated discussion did not turn into a scene, but was kept at the respectable level).

So what does this mean? This small incident got me thinking about how understanding is crucial for all of humankind to get along and appreciate different perspectives. The lady ASSUMED that the two knew that she and her husband wanted to sit there, but they stole it from her. I saw what happened and did not tell the gentlemen that the lady was sitting there. The gentlemen were oblivious to what had happened and would probably have given up their seats if they were made aware of the situation.

As a result of our silence what happened? Well, from the lady’s perspective, these Iranian gentlemen were rude and as a result of their actions, all Iranians became guilty by association of having ill manners. I was guilty with myself because I could have prevented this situation from happening by pointing out to the first man who placed the jacket that the woman was planning to sit there, but alas, I did not. Why is that? Is it that I have become a city-slicker who is insensitive to the injustices, although simple, committed by others? Is it my natural shyness coming out quietly to reassert itself? Or is it antipathy that drove me? I had witnessed the whole thing and could have added a valid perspective to everything by either a) telling the men that the lady was planning to sit there, or b) by pointing out to the woman and her husband later on that the men were oblivious to what had happened (i.e. the table was empty and free for them). I did not!

How many times does something similar happen in real life were a simple misunderstanding escalates into deeper feelings of “I am right and you are wrong?” How many times do people bottle up their feelings and not try and seek reassurance or understanding? So next time, listen to others and do not make assumptions. Otherwise, it might manifest into something bigger than it really is.

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