Being rude seems to be a national value captured in our collective post-apartheid identity.
At the very least, being rude is the default mode of interaction that marks most public interaction and it has nothing to do with hard times or the lingering hand of apartheid.
I can recount too many transactions with rude staff at grocery stores, government offices, gas stations, etc, that left my blood boiling.
What is it about our collective culture that makes us so rude? Are we suffering from post-apartheid stress disorder?
Whatever the contrived excuse may be, we are just not nice folk.
Service folk are close to the absolute worst offenders. It is a rarity to come across someone who greets and is pleasant at a check-out stand, for example.
Forget greeting. Almost no-one says thank you or even sorry for f*cking up a transaction or anything else.
Bad service made worse by rude manners is the norm it seems.
The absolute worst offenders are taxi drivers! This is a sub-species of rude neanderthals with no rivals.
A few days ago a taxi driver started screaming insults at me because he wanted me to go faster or get out of his way.
At a red light he was furious and aggressively animated while he hurled insults in my direction.
I lost my temper. It was a hot day. 100 degrees plus and I was on my last fuse.
I invited the f*ck to get out of his taxi. His passengers seemed shocked at the interaction and he less than ready to escalate the incident.
All I wanted was to beat the living hell out of a man who morphed into all the taxi drivers who have cut me off and stopped in front of me without signaling, and worse.
He stuck his hand out of the window, gave me the middle finger salute, and turned down an adjoining street.
I sat there fuming.
I wanted to follow him but a sliver or sanity pressed me to drive home where I worked in the garden till my anger subsided.
A couple of friends pointed out the obvious and cautioned me about escalating a road incident into a physical fight.
"You will get shot or knifed," one said. "One in five people in South Africa have HIV/AIDS and you want to get into a fight with strangers," another said disapprovingly.
I hear 'em but I also understand Elmer Fudd's anger now ;)
I know all about ignoring this kind of stuff and I usually do. But it does not make me any calmer to know what is the right response.
It helps though to just admit that we are not who we think we are.
We are a rude nation and more often than not, a drunk one too.
Violence and alcohol abuse is a toxic combination. Add rudeness to that and the formula for uncivil behavior is just about complete.
The only countries that are more violent than us are those who are at war.
Even then we have murder rates that equal and even exceed those in Iraq.
Still, we like to pretend to be this miracle nation founded on magnanimous gestures of reconciliation and forgiveness.
I can buy all that sh*t on a good day but I have not had one of those out there in a long while.