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Staying alive at the mall


It’s disheartening to see senior citizens trying to navigate their way down a supermarket aisle when someone is packing shelves or moving produce around the store

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Vat voor, vat voor! The very abrupt, businesslike trolley attendant berated me, when my repeated feeble attempts to get a shopping cart from the back of the row failed too many times for his liking.

This young man had no time for nonsense; after all, shoppers should use their common sense when fetching their shopping carts. Apparently they had no idea how much frustration it caused him to constantly remind them to take the trolley where it should be taken from the front of the row.

And now it was that busy time of Christmas shopping, and his patience had obviously worn thin. Dozens, if not hundreds of shoppers were every day trying to unhitch a shopping cart from the back, and here I was adding to his misery.

He was sullen, and kept his head down as he barked the instruction my way. At first I was a bit ashamed that I had added to his burden, sorry that I had been that last straw. But then, at the blink of an eye, my pity gave way to annoyance.

Here was a young man, working for a shopping mall speaking to one of the mall’s clients more than 30 years his senior, as if this client was something you scrape off the bottom of your shoe after visiting a pasture filled with incontinent cows.

I wondered if his employers or his parents had neglected to teach him manners.

“Vat voor meneer,” I said to him, which made him stop and look up. And then I explained to him the things that his parents or his employers should have taught him about courtesy, manners and respect. I didn’t try to embarrass him or break him down. I simply wanted to “remind” him of values that he’d probably never learned.

Apparently realising his error, he apologised profusely smiling awkwardly. I then asked him to be more courteous to shoppers and bid him a good day. Today I think back and I wonder if he actually learned a lesson or if he simply brushed it off and directed a rude sign to my retreating form as I walked away.

One wonders if employers are even trying to instill values into the staff who interact with their clients and customers; or do they train them just enough to follow orders and respond to incentives or threats?

It’s disheartening to see senior citizens trying to navigate their way down a supermarket aisle when someone is packing shelves or moving produce around the store – old farts stand back, we’re working here! In fact it’s quite an eye-opener to watch people in malls.

Some people use their shopping carts as battering rams, and unsuspecting shoppers can get quite a solid knock if they don’t get out of the way. I have seen young, strong people walking in our shopping centres with a total disregard for others. If you are not wide awake you can get bumped or shoved; senior citizens, who are unsteady on their feet are especially at risk here – a fall for the elderly can be catastrophic.

The young, strong people these days feel invincible and it seems that they enjoy flaunting it at the expense of the older, frail weaklings.

Be honest, have you ever watched how young people walk in South Africa? They drift and wander and stop and change direction on a whim, totally disregarding other people around them – and I am not even talking about those who walk with their eyes fixed on their device’s screen. And have you seen how cautious older folk are?

It’s as if our malls and markets are a microcosm of what’s happening on our roads. If we cannot respect others in a supermarket aisle, why would we respect them when we are flying along at well over 100 kph?

Speeding, driving under the influence, driving when tired, and the long list of serious offences all seem to have one common root – South Africans have, it seems, lost respect for themselves and others.

Maybe it’s time that those who have more experience with courtesy, manners and respect, regardless of age, should start gently addressing bad behaviour in society before we run across these people when they are having a bad day on our roads.