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IN THE PUBLIC’S INTEREST: Better off, but not in manners

Roy Morris

IN THE PUBLIC’S INTEREST:  Better off, but not in manners

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I HAD a most interesting conversation with some “mature” Bajans at the Usain Bolt Sports Complex two weekends ago after the formal ceremony at which Sir Hilary Beckles was installed as vice chancellor of the University of the West Indies.

It was all about service, or better stated, the quality of service that is provided by employees across the island. No matter how I tried since then, I have not been able to shake from my mind a comment made by one member of the group.

It went something like this: “You realise that when workers are uncouth or disrespectful, 90 per cent of the time they are not angry? It is just the way they are.”

Since then I have been observing exchanges between customers and service providers everywhere I go, and while it is not my area of training, I have to agree. It does not appear that people are angry.

You approach someone and they are having a pleasant conversation on the phone or with a third party nearby but when they turn to you, that smile is instantly replaced with a manner that suggests you are a disturbance.

You enter a business place and there is more than one employee and you “suffer” while they remain unmoved as they try to decide which one of them should be inconvenienced by a customer.

It’s lunchtime, and as you hesitate too long over the food counter as you try to make a decision, and the server’s face and body language say aloud: “You gine keep me standing up here all day?” But she will turn to the cashier and laugh loudly on some other subject – so she is not angry.

You get on the bus and say good morning and the driver’s face remains as stiff as a sheet of plywood. And just about everyone else has a look on their faces that says: “Who does speak when they get pun de bus dese days?”

So if the individuals are not angry, then it might suggest that an aspect of who we are as a people is changing for the worse. Maybe we are all becoming naturally sour.

And here’s the rub: We live at a time when Barbadians are more widely travelled than at any time in the past. We interact with more visitors than ever before. We are better educated than at any time in our history. Materially we are better off, we enjoy a higher standard of living, and for all our supposed economic “troubles”, we are much more comfortable than ever before.

So what’s driving us in the wrong direction?