Appearance is important. That is one of the most important lessons I have learnt since arriving here. I have noticed how, all around me, people are so keen on appearances. In my note a couple of days ago, I mentioned a performance at a community school event, where the teacher was showing the children what to do so they look good on stage. That is just one of many examples. It is not a bad thing, except that too much of it, like anything else, can be unpleasant. In a work environment, more often than lot, it tends to lead to the guy who talks the most and works the least getting a bigger share of the bonus. Unfortunate as it is, that is the truth. The survival of the fittest. In this case, to be fit is to be able to show oneself as able. The actual ability does not count as much. I am sure it counts for something but it is the appearance that matters the most.
I do not know if it has always mattered this much to me or if it is one of the many things I have imbibed since being part of the culture here but I realized that sometimes appearance is rather important to me. Maybe it is human nature. I mean, we all love to eat food that 'looks good', right? What is that they say about restaurants using red and black colours in their logos because that makes people hungry and want to go into the restaurant. There is some science to it but I cannot remember much of that now.
Anyway, moving on to what I am really on about...
After having looked at Christmas greetings at a few card stores and not being entirely satisfied with either the cards or the price, I ventured into the big Post Office in the CBD the other day. I sort of loved going to the post office once in a while. Not only was it convenient but it had a good feel to it. Convenient because all I really had to do was stand in line and the guy at the counter gave me the right envelope, with the right value of stamps. Sometimes, he even took it off of me and saved me the wee hassle of dropping it in the box. The good feel came from the various bits and stuff they sold. The PO was not just a postal service office but a little store that sold stationery, gift cards, greeting cards and a range of little things that one could shop for in a hurry. I have found their Christmas cards better and cheaper than most card shops, especially when I have had to buy in bulk.
So, I walked into the post office the other day and I was taken aback. I looked around me and walked out the door to make sure I had entered the right place! I entered again, into this big room that looked flash with shiny red and white counters set up on one side and a shelf full of envelopes on the wall across the counters. There were a few self-service kiosks on the left. That was it. What happened to all the stuff they were selling? What happened to the warm, friendly feel of the place? I did not like it one bit. I walked around, trying to find Christmas cards and finally realized that they were not selling any. In fact, they did not seem to be selling anything other than the envelopes I saw on the wall. The counters looked so new and bright, they were almost intimidating. It felt more like a bank and less like the friendly post office I frequented. Oh well, for a new-comer, it might be this fancy postal office space but I hated it. .
The cute little free muffins they were giving away, with the symbol of the post office in icing, tasted good but it did nothing to salvage my broken heart. From a warm postal exchange where I sent stuff to my family and friends, it had changed into an office space where I would go to pay bills. That is what it seemed like.
When a colleague of mine mentioned visiting the post office the other day, I knew she had not been there in a while. If she had, she would have definitely said something about the change. So, I warned her. When I met her today, she said, "You were right! The place is so sterile now". Sterile. Yes, that one word describes it. It is going to be a while before I go back in there. There is a little shop closer to my work place which is a smaller branch of the post office. I went there to get my Christmas cards that afternoon and found it still intact. It looked just liked it always had. It was smaller but it had the same feel as the older version of the post office. It made me feel better. That is the place I am going to be visiting for my future needs. I hope they do not modify the structure of the little branches at least.
Yeah, appearance does make a big difference. Doesn't it?