Ethiopians are known for their hospitality. Ethiopians are a kind, giving and sharing people. No matter how destitute an Ethiopian may be, no one turns away from a person that is worse off. That helping hand is given with great joy and a sense of obligation to God and man. That’s one reason. The other is that since nothing is guaranteed in a third world country, one does it to cover the base in case fortune looks away and the one on top suddenly finds the base very close.
Now what is really amazing is, when Ethiopians are asked to give that same helping hand behind a desk or wearing a uniform and getting paid for it, it just all becomes a different story. Once the novelty of a new job wears off the service goes downhill. It is a well known fact that to get the best food and service in Addis Ababa, the best bet would be to go to a restaurant or café that has just recently opened its doors. They will be good for at least a couple of months. The service is quick, the quality is at its best and all amenities are at tip-top levels. If there are any deficiencies in customer care and handling they are honest errors or things that were never intended to be there in the first place.
But then again, there are some customers that just ruin it for us. These people are the ones that the service-providers most often see and are hard to forget. They come out of nowhere, turn everything upside down, inside out and topsy-turvy and like a hurricane leave the mess and debris for the rest of us regulars to deal with.
These service-nightmares dampen the atmosphere for the rest of us. You might be one of them if you can identify with any of the following people or their thinking:
-The flashier you are, the better service you get: mesmerize them with car keys, jewelry, perfume and a top of the line cell phone. Doors will open where you never expected them. If you are better dressed than the person next to you, you’ll get preferential treatments.
-The louder you are, the better: speak loudly, whether to the person sitting next to you or an imaginary person on your flashy phone. It helps to mention a business deal that involves at least a million birr’s worth. Make sure the waiter is around. He’ll spread the news. Be as obnoxious as possible, you’ll get served quicker either because they are impressed or because they want to get rid of you.
-If there’s a queue, try to jump to the head of it: if you’re brazen enough to jump ahead of a few people, then it means you are an important person and your business is more important than the others’ waiting patiently.
-Treat them like they are little people: if you can look down at them, boss them around like they are not important. After all you are. Belittle them in small ways; take shots at them with petty jokes. Keep grinding away at their security and dignity, and when they are in their place, ask exactly what you want.
-Leave more than 60% as tip: this is a two bladed dagger. First you make sure that the waiter never forgets you, and like Pavlov with his dog he’ll be waiting with a watering mouth for the next visit. Second you ruin it for the rest of us, since we know that we would never give that much when he certainly didn’t deserve it.
-Ask for service that is not available or prohibited: ask to smoke in a non-smoking café. Send the waiter out to get the cigarettes, the other customers can wait. In a no-dance night spot, dance any ways. Park right in front of the entrance, when there is no parking space; People can squeeze by, and the probability of an emergency requiring a fast exit is very low. After all you’re the most important person in there. Go to remote villages and ask the whole village to perform rituals that are respected and are done on sacred occasions so you can get a YouTube video with snide remarks about ‘these savages.’ In fact throw the little money that you have knowing that it’s more than they will see in a long while. Corrupt the people into your ways, after all money is your god; preach it.
Globalization has their benefit, which is undeniable. But when it is misused it can be an uncontrollable monster than can never be stopped. Already old traditions and values are being lost. Ethiopians who have left and returned cannot believe how much we have changed. I pray that we learn to hold on despite everything.
And to my people:
“…don’t gain the world and lose your soul,
Wisdom is better than silver and gold…”
Bob Marley, “Zion Train”