Wednesday, March 27, 2013
The working life: Having to scold other peoples' children
You don't have to be a parent to recognize bad parenting when you see it and you really don't have to be a parent to know when a kid is being completely rude and obnoxious.
The question with the elevator kid in Elbonia is was his rudeness because he's a jerk or because he was raised to be a jerk in a culture where women are second-class citizens? That is, is he to blame for his behavior or is he like a fish who doesn't realize he is in water? A fish who sees nothing but other fish treating women with disdain and so that's how it's done?
I don't know.
What I do know is I wanted to slap this kid to kingdom come.
I didn't, of course, but I did scold him, which I have done to children in my presence even if their parents are around. Because really? Your kid is opening and closing every cabinet door in my kitchen and messing with the blinds and you are saying nothing? Yes, I know that by saying, "Ripper, in this house, we do not open and close all the cabinets like that" I am implicitly criticizing the mother, who is sitting right across from me, but you know what? I am OK with that because she is the one who should be telling her kid to stop it, not me. She is a bad parent! Good parents teach their children to behave when they are at other peoples' houses.
Go ahead. Let the ripping begin. But I think a seven year old is capable of behaving.
With a toddler, you just move the stuff you don't want touched and you don't let him out of the kitchen unless his hands are empty. He's a toddler. He doesn't know better. But a second grader knows better and so should his parents.
Back to Elbonia. I was at the hotel, waiting for the elevator. There was a kid in front of me. He was maybe ten or 11. He was wearing traditional Elbonian clothing, i.e., the long white robe and the white scarf on his head. He was talking on a cellphone. I didn't hear him, so I don't know if he was speaking Elbonian or English.
We stood by the elevator. There was a sign: "Unaccompanied children not allowed on the elevator."
Good, I thought. This kid won't be able to go on.
But when the elevator arrived, he ignored the sign and got on the elevator anyhow.
I wanted to say, "Hey! You're not allowed!" but realized I was not the Elevator Police and it was not my job to tell him he couldn't get on the elevator.
He got on and immediately pushed the "close doors" button.
As I was trying to get on.
Which meant the doors were halfway closed before I even stepped across the elevator threshold.
Yes, that is the one bit of technology that Elbonia has mastered that seems to have eluded the West: a "close door" function that actually works in less than two minutes. I think those buttons are merely decorative on Western elevators.
I had to wave my arm through the door to stop it from closing. Which, in retrospect, was not such a smart thing to do because how could I be sure there was actually that laser that senses a human body part in the door and stops the doors from closing anyhow, pinching the arm or the leg off the body?
Fortunately, the doors opened again. I stepped in and they started to close. I pushed the "open door" button quickly because there was another woman waiting to get in.
She stepped in and we both stared in disbelief at the Elbonian kid. This lady looked Ethiopian. I don't think she was Elbonian.
The kid looked nonchalantly past us.
My jaw dropped in disbelief. No expression of penitence. No apology. Just impatience that his ride was delayed.
I snapped at him. "That is rude!" I said. "It is impolite and rude to close the doors before everyone is in!"
I got no response from the kid. Not even a shamed look. Not a hanging head.
It could be that he didn't speak English, but the tone of my voice was clear. My cats are Siamese, so they don't speak English, but they know when they are in trouble.
Maybe this kid is not as smart as my cats.
He should have known he was being scolded. I just shook my head and wondered how Elbonian society really expected to advance if this was the culture.