Monday, November 16, 2009

Good Morning - A Lesson in Manners

It’s one of those aspects of West Indian life. You are expected to greet people, when you meet them. Even if you don’t know them. It sometimes seems odd, coming from a big city in which people barely even look one another in the eye. But in the islands, people say hello when they pass in the street, often from the opposite sides of the road, despite the fact that they do not know the other person. People even say good-morning when then get on a bus in some islands, to an assembled company of people they don’t know. An exchange cannot pass properly until you have.

I found myself standing in a bakery in Roseau in Dominica, waiting my turn to buy a rock cake and one of the island’s fantastic juices this time, for a belated breakfast. I am surrounded by schoolchildren who are on their break. I am about to make my order when all goes quiet. A ‘big man’ walks in. he is covered with gold. Perhaps he is a hood. They all seem to know him, anyway. He walks straight up to the counter and says:

‘Gimme a pattie. Beef.’ He points.

There is a pause, as the lady behind the counter holds his eye. Two seconds, three, four...

‘Good morning’, she says.

It stops him in his tracks. Suddenly everyone is minutely interested in the signs on the wall, anything but the main counter. He says good morning before he asks her more politely.

Oooh what a put down...

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