On manners


At customer service in my bank, folks are asked to wait until their name is called as a sign-up sheet is provided for that purpose. One day, an Oriental lady rushed forward, not understanding the wait-and-be-called setup. She was graciously told to return to her seat when she tried to jump the queue. Flushed, she asserted that she wanted to throw her trash into one of the bins behind the customer service lady’s table but was told to use the one provided for customers.

The lady did not understand why she was forbidden to go behind customer service (a Wal-Mart customer accosted an Oriental lady who jumped the queue) and, instead of locating the trash bin for customers, went to where the bank clients’ fills up deposit and withdrawal slips and left her crumbled paper there.

I overnight in Incheon on occasion due to airline connection to Dong Bei but the hotel diner where I last stayed was far from the Suwon of ’72 when I first went into Korea. Then, conference participants rushed to the front of the line ahead of others to get their food. They were muksa nim, religious personae slightly below the royalty in status, so I guess the office came with a privilege!

Queue, the word for the Qing’s braided hair, is what one expects at the bus stop. My Honolulu bro gave me a whistle which I blow each time I get on the public bus in Shenyang as passengers scramble on who can edge-into-the-bus fastest. A queue was in order.

I live in Dong Bei where Chao Tian was part of the Yanbian Autonomous Region. Dong Bei straddles the provinces of Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning; a section was formerly of the old Kogoryo (where the name “Korea” derives from). Like the rest of Sinosphere, to queue is not an observed decorum there either. The aforementioned bank customer is fluent in Annyang ha sa-yo!

Seoul’s accent is heard at the local IT&E office on Pale Arnold, mostly to complain loudly about landlines not working, or 4Gs wreaking havoc on smartphones. I requested an extension for my phone a month before and, knowing their overwhelming challenge to restore service, I thought it time to remind them. It took two hours to get an audience but I got the lineman to the office, who did not fancy an extension, moved the old unit to the new location. I won’t join the Hangul Saram in complaint chorus.

I walked from Oleai to the JP Center on the pathway after the P&R guys finally cut the downed branches and piled debris on the side from Soudelor’s unleashed fury. Trash bins were a casualty among picnickers but people left trash piled like there were folks assigned to clean after them. There aren’t any. Beer cans and plastic bottles in plastic bags are expected, not the strewn trash all over the place. Typhoon debris is understandable but trash is inexcusable.

China exclude human reach into plates of viand to be passed on a rectangular table. This comes from the use of a lazy Susan that allow one to bring the desired dish to one’s front at the flick of a finger. On stationary tables, I hand my plate to someone who dishes the desired food.

The reluctance to pass comes from food not to be touched by human hand. Chopstick’s use is a reasonable tool, especially in the north where there is a shortage of water for washing hands. Wood for stoves is scarce in the Plains; the wok is designed to heat swiftly, and the stir-fry is cooked quickly. The chopstick does not require clean hands; a good dish is prepared so that a pick is bite size, consumed immediately. A meal is consumed with chopsticks at incredible speed.

A dish does not require spitting out indigestibles either, but when it does, the hand is not involved. One spews on the table or on the floor, unhygienic but quite acceptable, and in a restaurant, the table and floor are often a mess. In Korea in ’72, it was even appreciated when one blew heine air in the dining table at someone’s home after a meal because it meant a diner not only had enough but also was fully satisfied!

Manners are from one’s upbringing. My mother forbade us to speak when our mouth was full, a China practice grating to ears. One did not slurp food, especially soup. In China’s north, when it is steaming hot, the food is loudly devoured to cause air to buffer the otherwise unendurable heat of the food from the side of the mouth, noise widely broadcast in chorus. I was looked at strangely when instead of slurping I twirled my mien (noodles) on my spoon like I do with spaghetti.

My landlord asked when he learned I came from China: “Are they really that rude?” The driving style of the touring Zhongguoren on Saipan reportedly does not defer to pedestrians on the road when they cross while the vehicular traffic stands still on blinkers.

I bought bags of fruits, some rotten but well hidden, three at Twins in Dandan, two at Payless in CK, and one at San Jose grocery in Oleai. Not manners, just conscienceless greed.

Spitting chewed betel nuts, the red blotch on the sidewalk? Yes. Manners. It matters.

Jaime R. Vergara | Special to the Saipan Tribune
Jaime Vergara previously taught at SVES in the CNMI. A peripatetic pedagogue, he last taught in China but makes Honolulu, Shenyang, and Saipan home. He can be reached at pinoypanda2031@aol.com.

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