13 January 2012

Small town politeness

My father doesn't read blogs so I have no qualms writing about him :). He is the epitome of polite Dusuns; small town style. He'd greet anyone, known or unknown to him with the typical Dusun pleasantries like 'hombo ngoyon nu?' (where are you going?), and 'hiti ko pama iya ddi' (you are here also). I often find it funny greeting somebody you hardly know in places like hospitals or restaurants, but to my father, it is 'the right thing to do'. "After all", he reasons, "you are sharing the same space as the person, so you can't be just ignoring one another".

Sometimes he goes overboard. Like the day when he was at a restaurant in Kota Kinabalu with two of my brothers. They had breakfast and when they left, my father nicely wished his next- table-neighbours a polite "makanlah kamu" (enjoy your meal) "kami mau pigi bank ini" (we are going to the bank). Needless to say, it was both hilarious and embarrassing to my brothers. They joked about it for many days!

But the worst I've experienced with his over-politeness tendency was when we were attending a session in which my father's land dispute was heard by some officers. While waiting to be called in, he noticed this lone guy sitting opposite him on the bench outside the office. He politely offered his hand to the guy (well, shaking hands is another indication of politeness) and said "hiti ko pama iya ddi" (you are also here) as if he knew him. To my horror, once inside the dispute hearing room, we found out that the guy was the one my father was versing in the case! If I were my father, I'd have been so uncomfortable that I'd have difficulty responding appropriately to the discussion. It's a good thing that my father didn't seem to have been affected.

I suppose his kind of politeness is the simple kind. Words uttered politely and sincerely at that point of time, and even if those words are spoken to the wrong person, he has got nothing to lose.