I am feeling rather preachy today. My sermon is based on non-violent resistance to bad service.
For I observe - and I hope I am wrong - that the person standing behind the counter, or sitting behind the taxi steering wheel, seems to be imbued with an impelling, spontaneous feeling of superiority. The customer is anything but king. In fact, he is being done a huge favour.
"What do you want?" or . "Who is chewing at the back? I will drop you off here!"
I knew an old man who had a brilliant way of dealing with bad customer service and having the last laugh. Once, when blacks could not eat here, queue there, make a phone call here, or pee there, he took me to a large self-service supermarket in Vereeniging.
He picked up a few items and proceeded to a revolving counter loaded with thousands of various brands of sweets. He started picking up the sweets and throwing them into the basket provided by the supermarket.
Out of the blue, an irate white woman came charging at him, ignoring the white customers, and squealed: "Jy moenie vat nie!" (don't take).
Speaking slowly and loudly, and wagging her forefinger like she was addressing a retarded child, she told him: "Show me what you want ..."
He started pointing out his selection as the counter revolved. She picked the sweets and threw them into the bucket. From time to time, he asked her to reduce the amount she took. He worked at it for about 30 minutes, getting a sweet here, and three, and five there, and making her take from brands she had already taken from as the machine moved on.
She filled two bucket loads of sweets, and towards the end she was sweating with irritation. She put them on a scale and added up the total, which came to something like R15 - a lot of money those days. Sweets cost about 1c each.
"Sorry, I can't afford that," he said as he sidled out of the shop.
"Jou swart pens!" she hollered at him as he giggled and walked out, finding enough breath to retort: "Jou wit pens! I told you not to put in too much."
She was now stuck with the cumbersome task of standing there for another 30 minutes to return each of the hundreds of sweets to its rightful tray.
On another occasion staff at a drive-thru road house decided to serve a white family that had arrived after the old man and I. When they eventually asked for his order, he asked for 15 hot dogs.
"I'll fix them up," he muttered as the waiter left with his order. Many minutes later, when he was sure the heavy order was almost done, he conked the Vauxhall's engine - just to be sure - and it chortled to life. We waited with anticipation ...
When he saw the waiter approaching with the hot dogs, he stepped on the gas, the Vauxie coughed up a plume of thick white smoke and slipped out of the forecourt. He giggled with satisfaction as he saw the bemused waiter become smaller and smaller through the rear view mirror, standing there with more than a dozen hot dogs.
Do not tell me that man - my dad - has not made his contribution to non-violent protest.