Growing up, I always believed in the best of people. I would give them the benefit of the doubt before I would cast them as “bad” or “untrustworthy”. Of course, I was then regarded as naive, gullible and inexperienced. Back then, I used to feel sorry for all the cynics of the world and vowed never to become one. I was quite content living in my protected bubble. But as time went on, I found myself in all sorts of situations where I couldn’t help but feel that maybe, some people were just born with a mean streak.
Today was one of those days where I had to deal with someone rather unpleasant. It was 15 minutes before the start of my tutorial and by convention, we were allowed to go inside and start setting up. However, the group before me hadn’t completely finished – and by that, I meant there were two students still busy with their work and one student who was Facebooking. So I waited 5 more minutes and decided to go in, only to be greeted with a rather rude tutor telling me to leave.
“We’re still busy”, she said.
“Yes, I know. I’m just going to set up the computers”, I replied.
“I can’t have any disturbance”, she vented annoyingly.
“I’m just going to log into my account, it’s not going to disturb you”, I said.
“I can’t have you disturbing me, so please leave”, she reiterated.
By that time, I was thinking to myself, “You’re tutoring Pastel, not rocket science. And you’re not defusing a bomb; slight movements won’t be the end of your world.” Besides, the 15 minutes was technically overlap time where the previous class prepared to leave so that the next one could come in. There was no entitlement to hog the space. But, being the nice person that I was, I didn’t want to cause a scene so I kindly obliged to her request.
What irritated me was not the fact that my group had to stand outside for 10 extra minutes. Rather, it was that she thought herself so important that she could discard all courtesy and expect others to revel in her pseudo-power. In reality, being a tutor (especially a Pastel tutor) really wasn’t all that special. It certainly was not an excuse for someone to act high and mighty like she did. Self-elevating oneself onto a pedestal does not garner respect from anyone. Today, she lost all respect from me.
I realized that she didn’t have to be nice to me. There was no social contract between us that stipulated, “Be nice to your fellow tutors”; and even if there was, it would not be obligatory. Niceness simply was not one of those things which guaranteed a pay-off. If people were not sufficiently motivated to be nice, then what reason would there be to conform?
After some thinking, I came to the conclusion that although there might not be any external motivation to compel me to be nice, I would still like to be internally motivated enough to try be as nice to people as I possibly could. Sure, there wouldn’t be monetary rewards attached but I think I would feel infinitely better if I were a good person than if I were a complete bitch.