Monday, January 11, 2010

Wait! Hold The Door!

One of the things at the office here in India that's been really bugging me for a while now is how people don't hold the doors for others outside their own small group.

In many situations where I'd expect an American to hold the door it just doesn't happen in India, and in many cases when I hold the door, I don't get a nod or quick smile as I'd expect in an American.

Even if I'm right behind someone going out the office door, if I'm not part of their group they just let the door fly shut behind them, making me try to catch it.  I know sometimes they see me, they look right behind, and I'm not wearing good "office camouflage" to make it hard to see me, but then they just let go of the door anyway, whether I'm right behind them or even just a little distance away.

And once in the hallways people in India don't have the same manners I'm used to when sharing the space.  What I miss from the U.S. is people yielding and moving aside to let others pass, while usually nodding or smiling or saying "excuse me" to acknowledge the others.  Mostly in the Indian office it doesn't happen so much, groups of people going the opposite direction are less likely to group closer to make a little room for a single person, and if they're people I don't know, far, far less likely to give any indication they saw me.

Somewhat related is here in the office so many people just walk up and down the hallway talking on their cell phones.  Usually when they're on their phones they don't seem to pay any attention to others in the hall, don't move if they're blocking doors and slowly walk in a direction they're not even looking.  Once in a while I say "excuse me" and if I get any response it's "I'm on my mobile".  Which, yes, I can see, but to me that's not a good excuse for not paying attention in a public location.

I also realized why it's only recently started bothering me. At my last company, First Insight, here in India, in our first office we only had two rooms with doors, and only six people in a room, so it was rare that people were coming and going, unless the whole group was going off for a break. Then when we moved to our second office, it was one huge room, except for the conference rooms and washrooms, and for most of the time I worked there the front door was open with the watchmen facing it.

It was when I first began at Tieto, that I started noticing, and being annoyed with people simply not holding the door open for people not far behind or people coming.

Oh well, it's not nearly as intense as when I tried to buy some malai barfi last year at the sweet shop in Kalyani Nagar...  There I completely failed to return to the car with the sweets altogether...  Instead of the American way of standing in an orderly queue, or taking a number and waiting your turn, it was a total scrum up at the counter.  I had the name of what I was supposed to get written on a slip of paper and kept flashing it or saying whenever one of the people behind the counter made even a little eye contact.  But other guys just kept jostling and forcing their way to the front and yelling their order, over and over at the tops of their lungs and the clerks just kept serving them, while I kept waiting to make eye contact and say my order...  I gave up after about ten minutes of watching other people get their orders even if they showed up after me.  I couldn't make myself yell.

On the other hand, some years ago in Florida I ran into that sort of thing.  It was my cousin, Elise's Bat Mitzvah, and after the ceremony, dressed in a suit and tie, clean shaven and looking oddly respectable (as that was back in my scruffier days), my mother sent me to the grocery store's bakery counter to pick up the cake.  Despite having taken a number, a couple of older, retired people (southern Florida being full of elderly, retired New Yorkers and New Jersyites, possibly the rudest people in America) tried to get their orders first.  One woman, an old lady in her 80's or 90's, wouldn't stand for it, she yelled "fuck you!  I'm old and fuck you if I'm going to wait in line behind a young man!"  Fortunately the bakery clerk wasn't having any of that and told her to wait her turn while she was getting my cake...  Ah well, that's Florida grocery stores for you...

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