11 January 2010

Courtesy, my a$$, indeed

My most recent airport passing:

Me: gratefully finding an opening along the baggage claim after a couple vacated their spot.
Me: felt someone grab my backpack- full strapped on my shoulders- as leverage to shove me aside.
Dude: Make room.
Me: annoyed at the rudeness and stepping back on my ground
Me: I don't think so
Dude: I have status (pronounced STAY-tis)
Me: So do I
Dude: Well, I flew in business.
Me: So did I.
Dude: (clearly not believing me) Is that right?

Dude's first bag snakes around and he had been so busy being rude he misses it and had to run down along the carousel snake to chase it. He picks out his second bag soon after.

Dude: (yelling down the carousel feet down from me) Thank you for your courtesy and politeness.
Me: (assuming my most bland affable tone) Likewise.

Yes, everyone around heard the exchange. Probably wondering in bafflement what the heck just happened.

The odd karma? I recognized him. A colleague and I saw him at our baggage carousel in Bangkok at the end of a trip last summer. He was throwing a full blown temper tantrum at an empty carousel that was slow in spitting out his suitcase, incense that as a business class traveler he had to wait for his bag even though no one else but the three of us have made it through immigration yet. I took a double take last week when I thought I recognised him in the immigration hall, chuckled to myself and took a mental note to tell my friend about the sighting. I certainly didn't expect him to be literally on my shoulder five minutes later. I am pretty sure he didn't recognise me since I'm so obviously beneath him but I sure didn't mistaken him since he made himself so memorable.

I was luckily armed with prior recognition. I am extremely proud of myself to holding my ground without sounding as stupid as him, not something I'm able to do when taken back. I was also livid and I couldn't at the time put my thumb on why. Yes, he was rude but it's not like I've never encountered rudeness before or that I've never been rude myself.

A analysis of the encounter on the taxi ride after made me realise why he made my blood boil. He had a clear tone of "I'm a white man so obviously superior to you." I was to take his statement of status (which is absolutely the wrong card to pull on me) for face value but his implication that I had to prove myself was a clear double standard. His being in Southeast Asia, a collection of supremely class-and-status-oriented societies benefits and undoubtedly fuels his sense of entitlement. The fact is foreigners are consider superior, ranking pretty much proportional to skin color and tone especially since those in the area are comparatively wealthy anyway.

I accept cultures like these are discriminatory, chauvinistic, and judgmental. I hate it. I enjoy seeing people's eyes widen with surprise when they realise I don't fit their stereotypes and preconceptions being a Westerner in most aspects except for skin color. I hate the pre-judging but I can cope with it if it's coming from a local because I realize that in their limited world that is all they know. But when it's a foreigner like aforementioned Dude, he had no right to be a jerk about it because he is as much a visitor as I am.

So if I catch any of you, people I consider friends, throwing the superiority complex, I will seriously punch your eyes black and blue and disown you.

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