Every morning, I make my way across the Outer Ring Road near my house to wait for the bus which will take me to college. The bus is pretty regular, and so I find myself waiting for it at the same time each day, observing the same people pass by and go about their daily lives. A few minutes before my bus arrives, almost like clockwork, a yellow school bus makes its way down the road. It pulls in to the side of the road, and this morning, four adults and their respective children rush out from their apartment gate a little further down the road towards the bus. Bags are put onto the small shoulders, hair neatened hurriedly, kisses planted on cheeks, and the little legs helped up the stairs onto the bus. It is time for them to leave, but then a mother calls out to the didi on the bus – the last student is on her way too! Her mother has been called and assures them they are on their way, and so the rest of the students are subject to waiting for this child, something no one truly minds because, let’s face it, we’ve all been there before.
After five entire minutes have passed, however, I can see the driver getting impatient. I have been watching the apartment gate, and only now do I see the mother and child emerge from inside it. They saunter out, not a care to be seen on their faces, and walk to the bus as though they have all the time in the world. They stop at the bus, and the mother puts the ‘Frozen’ themed backpack she holds in her hand onto her daughter’s shoulders – stopping to untwist the strap, adjusting it so it’s all comfortable. Then she hands her her lunchbox, pats her on the head, and finally the child has boarded the bus, which now trundles off down the road.
The nonchalance with which this incident took place strikes me as something very odd, because even if the child was too young to realise, surely her mother could have had a little more concern for the people who they had inconvenienced by being late. It gets me thinking about a conversation I had with my parents just recently. We had been stuck in a traffic jam at the time, an entire row of about 8 or 9 cars unable to move simply because one man wanted to go the wrong way on the one-way ahead, and I was exclaiming in frustration how I just did not understand how people can be so selfish and unconcerned. Dismiss the very fact that he should not have been breaking the rules to go down a clearly one-way road in the first place, could he not see the inconvenience he was causing to everyone else on the road? Similarly, the school bus driver who stopped bang in the middle of the road for all eight students to get on the bus, absolutely indifferent to those behind him who he was delaying. Such instances make me so angry that my blood boils, something that I have got from both of my parents, who express similar thoughts all the time.
The way I see it, there is a certain amount of concern that one can have for oneself, and a certain amount of concern they can have for others. An ideal human being would obviously have a perfect balance of the two, while most of us generally fall somewhere in the middle. The concept I am describing is actually very similar to one suggested by M.A. Rahim, in his classification of organisational conflict, specifically interpersonal conflict. On a graph that analyses people’s various styles of handling interpersonal conflict, he represents high and low degrees of “concern for others” and “concern for self”. Of course, self-concern is a good thing, but when it interferes with other people’s functioning, then it becomes selfish and is never something that should be promoted.
The problem must then lie, therefore, with most such people, in the fact that they do not realise that they are inconveniencing someone else – they are completely oblivious to the effects their behaviour has on others. Perhaps it just happened that on the day in question, the person had something on his or her mind which caused them to remain unaware of what they had done. Sadly, I was further contradicted on this conclusion of mine, with yet another occurrence of inconveniencing others that I experienced.
My sister was recently requested by a classmate to lend her the new blazer she had recently bought, knowing that they both wear the same size and the girl urgently required one, and although hesitant, she felt that it was the nice thing to do and gave it to her. The following day, she learned that the girl had given it to someone else, having acquired an alternative outfit for herself, and the one who wore the blazer had then passed it on to a third person for safekeeping. I was incredulous as to how they could so carelessly be circulating something belonging to someone else, and sure enough the inconvenience and stress caused increased as they all just “forgot” to return it. Some days passed, holidays began, and although my sister explained that she needed to wear it, the blazer was forgotten behind a false promise of “I’ll give it to you by Monday”.
When the holidays ended and school resumed, three more days passed and there were no signs of it. The only time it was remembered was when my sister herself hunted down the girls and implored them to return it, and the absentminded responses of “oh, but I returned it to Alina*” and “no no, Mona* is just confused, it’s still with her only” simply fuelled my annoyance. As if to irritate further, the girls even had the cheek to reassure her with a “don’t worry it’s not lost, I can send you a picture of it!” Against my sister’s wishes, my ire growing, I myself took her phone and spoke to the girls that Friday, explaining that I myself required it myself the following week and it was absolutely ridiculous that they had not had the decency to return it yet. They ignored the message, a few more days have passed, and it remains to be seen whether we will ever get it back.
While this might seem as a small enough matter, where yes, people do forget sometimes and there had been a limited number of days for them to easily return the item, the inconvenience that it would have caused them to go out of their way to send it over, is in no way higher than the inconvenience that was caused to her by their tardiness. I’m thus thrown back into my confused state of looking for an explanation as to how people justify such behaviour to themselves, and shall continue to simply look for the comic elements in these stories until I do.
(*names have been changed)