FEB 17 — I used to live in a low-cost flat alone before I moved to live with friends earlier this year. I had been living alone since I moved to the city I’m in now, and I thought I could make do without the trouble of living with a person I barely knew. Sure, living with friends can be quite fun but not when you get a housemate who makes home seems like hell for you.
If you are familiar with flats, you know that whatever goes on at your neighbour’s or outside, you are bound to hear it. So I have heard mothers screaming their heads off yelling at their kids, guys trying out their new car stereo at ten in the night, and couples fighting in the wee hours of the morning.
On top of that, the kids who were my neighbours were also my students at the school I was teaching then, and for some reason, they thought it would be fun to come over for a visit. Don’t get me wrong; I love having them over, but not when they come in tens and for three or four times a day, especially on the weekend when that was the only available time for me to do my chores and run errands.
So, since coming over to my house was strictly by invitation only, some of them would ‘invite’ themselves by coming over and knocking my door silly. It would have been okay for me if they just knocked three times and leave when they received no answer, but instead, they even banged on the grills and shouted loudly so they would get my attention. And since the door to the master bedroom was quite thick, if I had it shut I definitely would not hear anyone calling. Hence, friends coming over knew that they would be better off calling me to inform of their coming because I would probably not know of their arrival if they did not call to inform me.
Plus, I was living on my own, and I really didn’t like opening doors to strange calls for fear of some weird crazy stalker attempting to get me out of the house so he could kidnap me! Paranoid, sure, but when you are a single female living almost a thousand kilometres away from home, you would do whatever is necessary to protect yourself.
So imagine this: I lived on the third floor of a four-storey flat. My bedroom windows faced the emergency lane where a fire hydrant was located, and it was the designated parking for fire engines in case of fires. The kids, since knocking on the door did not work, would run back downstairs and stand right at that spot to call up to me in their loud, shrill voices until I opened my windows or showed any kind of response to their ‘serenade’.
If you are thinking Romeo and Juliet, let me assure you it was nothing like Romeo serenading Juliet on the balcony. It was worse, especially when they do their ‘call of the wild’ at 8 on a Sunday morning!
Don’t get me wrong. I do like the kids I teach and I do love them to bits, but sometimes, I get cross with their lack of manners and social etiquette. I should not blame them really, because whatever or however people are, you always have to go back to how they are raised.
Living in flats, most of them would resort to standing near the windows of their friend’s house and call out until someone appeared at the window and they could relay their message to their friends. Everybody did it, not just the kids but the adults included. The kids were just imitating the adults.
Since they were the kids I taught at school, I knew which voice belonged to whom. So you can bet your top dollar that when I went to school the next day, I gave the culprits a big, big lecture on social etiquette and manners and how they should behave when they visit others. I even told them when they could come for a visit, because I believe in setting up boundaries for the kids, so at least they will know the limitations and behave accordingly.
So, since that big lecture, they really did change. No more surprise visits and when they did come, they would knock on my door politely, give salam, then wait a while before repeating it twice. If I did not answer after the third salam, then they would understand that I was not available. I was really proud of them for being to practise something that I taught them, and I do hope that it will stick with them forever.
Good manners are boring, people say.
Wrong. I say bring on the good manners, because good manners and rules make the world a better and easier place to live in. I have a lot of issues with bad-mannered people because they do make my life miserable and even dangerous, especially when I drive in my tiny red car, but that, my dear friends, is a story for another day.
Right now, I have to go ‘yam cha’ with some friends. Hope it is not too late to wish all of you a very Happy Chinese New Year! Wishing you a great tiger year ahead, roaring with success, love and joy!