Saturday, 19 March 2011

The Spring of Human Kindness

It took me over an hour to buy the newspaper today, and not just because I’m an exceptionally slow walker or unusually tired.

The main reason was that Janka likes to get a good walk on a Saturday. She likes me to take her down to the park where she can terrorise the ducks and try to nick the bread left for them. I do my best to stop her, though she’s usually much too smart for me. I wish she wouldn’t do it. It may be natural for a dog to want to eat a duck, but a bit shabby to try to steal its bread.

The second reason that I was out so long is that spring seems at last to be here. It doesn’t officially start till Monday so it’s great to have it early, something for which I feel I can legitimately claim a measure of credit. I’ve been travelling to work without a winter coat for a couple of weeks now, despite the bitter cold that has often left me shivering at bus stops. Somewhere inside me lurks a belief that behaving as though spring had already started will usher it in more quickly. This morning, with glorious sunshine and temperatures in the mid-teens, though it's still only the 19th of March, it was obvious my sacrifice had worked. And been worth it.

Wardown Park willows in the spring, with duck bread thief
 The third reason I go so far for a paper is to avoid a surly individual in my nearest shop, less than half as far away. Every time I’ve been there he's been glued to a laptop computer on the counter in front of him while talking into a mobile phone jammed between shoulder and ear. He removes one hand from the keyboard just long enough to take my money and the only sign he gives of thanking me for my custom or even recognising my presence, is the briefest of curt nods.

Isn’t it curious how some shopkeepers think that incivility isn’t going to do their business any harm?

So I walk twice as far to be served by a shopkeeper who, on one occasion when I turned up just as he was locking up, immediately reopened the shop so that I could get my paper.

Both shops are run by people of Indian extraction, a striking illustration of the fallacy of racism. People can be perfectly unpleasant whatever their race. The trick is to find the ones who make up for them by their cordiality and kindness

That’s why I walk an hour to get my Saturday newspaper. Janka’s delighted. I did it even when the winter made it a bit of a daunting proposition, preferring external cold to cold behaviour in the shop.

Today, of course, with a real touch of spring in the air, it wasn’t just the shopkeeper’s smile and civil greeting but the walk itself that made the experience pleasurable.

If only the conditions would last…


Anonymous said...

Coincidentally, I too, avoid the nearer newsagent because the woman is not nice, and walk twice as far to another one. In both cases the people involved are Pakistanis.

David Beeson said...

Sounds like you need a dog, San