By Gulrukh Tausif
“A dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, death of gentle manners.” – Robert A Heinlein in “Time Enough For Love.”
Visiting a big shopping mall can be an exhilarating experience or a nightmare depending upon the time of the year and the people you meet there. In Pakistan, public holidays used to be spent outdoors in parks, visiting the city zoo or the seaside and going up the Murree hills but now more and more people opt to spend time exploring the gigantic shopping malls that are mushrooming in big cities of Pakistan.
Shopping malls in Pakistan are now more than a place to buy local and international branded clothes, shoes and accessories. They are now the hub of socializing; hanging out with friends and family in a cool, air conditioned environment with easy access to food courts that offer a delightful array of cuisines all under one roof. With Cineplex, children’s play areas, hypermarkets, and themed exhibits, it is no wonder thousands of visitors flock to these malls every day for the ultimate shopping and recreation experience.
However lack of etiquettes can mar the experience and even lead to verbal and physical altercations. It is not uncommon for people to stand in groups at shop entrances, elevator doors or near escalators making it impossible for other shoppers to move about easily. Some young men visit the malls just to stare at every female under the age of 70, making it difficult for families to enjoy themselves.
Recently, on a visit to Lahore, we went to the emporium launched by a famous retail group. People were standing nonchalantly at the base of an escalator and shoppers coming down were literally bumping and falling into the arms of those below. It could have been very dangerous but rules of courtesy seem to desert our nation at such situations.
Similarly, it is common scene to see people rush towards an elevator as soon as it stops without giving any room or space to those who wish to come out. Everyone seems to be in so much hurry to just get to their destination that they leave all good manners behind. There is a lot of jostling and elbowing and pushing and shoving as the horde standing right outside the elevator wants to enter it without giving an inch to those who want to exit. It is especially difficult for parents with babies in strollers and elderly people on wheelchairs to maneuver their way out. It was however good to see the security personnel tackling such issues efficiently but I feel people generally need to learn etiquettes of being in a public place.
Some parents feel that their children are entitled to run free in and out of shops without any consideration for other shoppers. Children holding ice-cream cones, juice glasses and burgers run around like bulls in a china shop, creating a slippery mess on the floor. It is disgusting to see that some parents allow their children to leave uneaten stuff in nooks, corners and inside decorative plants without making any effort to just walk up to a bin and dispose off the trash in a responsible way.
Similarly if a child is unable to handle a heavy trolley, he should not be allowed to ram it into other customers. Another thing that must be kept in mind is that young children need constant supervision. Some parents get so involved in their shopping that they lose sight of their children. This can be very dangerous especially near escalators. Malls are big places and tired children can hide or even go to sleep in small corners, changing rooms, behind counters or store areas creating scenes of panic and hysteria.
Then there are ladies who do not want any other shopper to come near their counter. The fear that someone else might purchase the suit they wish to buy is supreme in their mind and woe betide anyone who even touches the dress they are considering. I have seen ladies drag out roll after roll of fabric with poor shop assistants begging them not to spoil the display but their pleas fall on very deaf ears. These determined ladies will trample over anyone who comes in their way of buying the perfect outfit. And does money and credit cards in the purse and diamond rings on the fingers give people the right to be as rude and aggressive to the sales staff as they wish to be?
I sometimes wonder why we can’t be nice, considerate and courteous as a nation. Why not hold a door open for an elderly couple? Why not help a young mother who is pushing a pram? Why not let another person with fewer items pay the bill before you? Why not wait for the next elevator or walk up a flight of stairs so that those on wheelchairs or parents with strollers can avail the use of elevators. Why can’t parents try to control their hyperactive children or at least make sure that their faces and hands are clean before they touch expensive fabric or other items on display? And in pursuit of personal happiness and gratification, why not remember to be courteous to those who are there to assist us. Surely this is not too much to ask.
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