Christmas in South Africa – Old Habits Die Hard Amongst Some


South Africa is an amazing country.  The desire for goodwill and genuine reparation after apartheid has been immense.  But amongst some, old habits die hard.   Quite often it’s amongst people who aren’t even South African.

I was in a sewing shop the other day, the kind you see in small towns.  It’s magic, nothing slick about it.  Homely, inviting, quiet-spirited.  No muzak blaring, no sales people either jumping down your throat or staring at you resentfully.

I basked in the pleasure of that as I chose a reel of thread.  Then waited while a customer dithered about trying to decide what to do to make a half petticoat for her daughter.  I’m going to call her Mildred, it just seems appropriate.  Clearly the poor thing knew nothing about sewing.  The owner of the shop was very patient with her and tried to show her but she just couldn’t get her head around it.

A running commentary about how busy and important she was intermingled with whining about how she just didn’t have time to do this for her daughter.  It would take about 15 minutes to cut it out and sew it.  Whew, what a sacrifice to make for your selfish daughter.

Finally she made her decision but she wasn’t done with her complainin’.  As the proprietor cut the fabric she started running off at the mouth at the woman who does housework for her.

Mildred:  I’ve got so much on my hands, and she didn’t come to work this week.

Proprietor: What happened?

Mildred:  I just don’t understand.  She said she was taking her child to the doctor but I doubt it.  Probably taken her to the grandmother, up country.  That’s what they all do, you know.

Proprietor:  They’re all the same.

Mildred:  And they don’t bother to tell you.  They just take off, and you don’t hear from them.

Proprietor:  They’re just like children.

Mildred:  She should have phoned me.  I don’t know what’s wrong with her, but they’re all like that.  They don’t ask, they just do what they want.

Proprietor: Ungrateful.

Mildred:  I know that child isn’t sick.  She knows how busy this time of the year is, but does she think of me?  She’s been working for me for 8 years.  8 years!  After everything I’ve done for her.

Right.  After everything you’ve done for her.  I can just imagine.  Gag.  Imagine spending 8 years working for somebody like that and being treated in such a way before Christmas.  My hope for the target of these two women’s mindless gossip is that she’s found another job, working for somebody who sees her as a human being.  Or wins the lottery.

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