Welcome at the blog of Dini Commandeur. I've written quite a lot of columns for various magazines. I also write short stories every now and then. These columns and stories are available for everybody at this blog. I'll release new columns and stories periodically.


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The last week of June

column July 2006 Saturday 15 July 2006 It was quite the week, the last week of June.  I had to get started on a column, the deadline was approaching, but other matters distracted me.  It started with the Dutch “Orange” team’s exit from the battlefield of the soccer world championship. Gone was the party mood, over with the excitement, players and supporters licked their wounds and each returned to the daily grind.

In Germany, during that same week, besides soccer, a bear named Bruno was shot.  If only that animal had not crossed the border into Germany...  I still ask myself why he had to die.  In Canada and the USA, for example, wandering bears are not killed, but anesthetized with a special gun and relocated to a more bear-friendly environment.  Perhaps there are no bear-friendly areas in Europe, or maybe some type of primitive drive was at work here - the hunting instinct that tells the hunter that he must kill his prey.  And that’s what happened, in that last week of June.  The week that I wanted to go out and buy myself a new pair of shoes.  In the week that I almost got squashed in the pressing machine while partaking in the public study of breast cancer...  Oh yes, the cabinet fell, that happened as well that week.  And it was the week of Friesland Vaart (“vaart” is the act of driving a boat).  What a beautiful sight, all those ships in the canals, although I don’t really care much about pleasure boating and certainly not those snobbish yachts, but between all those ships there were a few little gems, a pleasure for the eye to behold, the pride of the skipper.

So I wanted to buy new shoes and I had seen some nice ones in the window of a store that I’ve patronized for years, though not that often, because in most cases I leave that store surprised and irritated.  Irritated because the sales associates may treat a customer like a pesky insect.  Surprised because that has been happening for years now.  How is it possible that various members of the sales force are allowed to maintain the same negative attitude during all those years?  What does that mean for the atmosphere amongst the members of the sales crew?  Or is it that I always seem to drop in on a day when the female sales associates collectively suffer from PMS or menopausal symptoms?  But why is that only the case at that store?  And what does the manager think of that?  If that manager were smart he would surprise the ladies with a box of Belgian chocolates during the days when they are plagued by hormones.  Works, guaranteed.  Even if they don’t like chocolate, the gesture alone would do them good... But maybe it’s the manager himself who is responsible for the bad atmosphere in that store.  Perhaps selling shoes is not his great passion, maybe his dreams haven’t come true, and maybe he had greater plans with his life.  But still:  how many people can say that their dreams have been fulfilled, that their job is their passion?  And yet, in most stores we are treated as customers, not overly courteous, but we’re not used to that here and so we don’t know any better.   That is why especially in that shoe store I am overcome by a strong longing for America and the friendliness of the sales people there.  The “how are you doing today?” as you enter the store and the “have a nice day” when you leave the premises again.  In those stores there are no ill-tempered sales associates with hormonal imbalances.  The women are there to assist the customers, and the hormones will have their turn later, when they are on their own time.  How good it would be if amongst all the things that come to us from America, and continue to come to us, that would be one of them. 

No, nothing about hormones, which is a rather dangerous subject anyway, but courtesy and a friendly approach of the customers should get more attention.  It doesn’t cost anything and it yields so much.  Here, too, the saying goes:  one reaps what one sows.  Friendliness begets friendliness.  Careless and rude treatment of customers results in many disappointed clients who will not soon return.  Why do I keep going back to that store?  Because they have really pretty shoes and I always keep hoping that this time will be different.  That new associates have entered the force, who do not wish to succumb to the negative atmosphere and add some color to the business.  Change must come from the people themselves.  It may not always be a matter of personal choice, but choosing for a different atmosphere or more courteous behavior doesn’t have to be difficult and it makes life so much more enjoyable.

One reaps what one sows... and, therefore, the cabinet would not have had to fall in that last week of June.  It was awful, all that twisting and carrying on.  “In the interest of the nation”, said one of the political figures.  Interest of the nation?  The word self-interest is closer to the truth... It was a mess and now we’ll have to wait and see what happens next.

Yes, it was quite the week, that last week of June.  I was thinking about a topic for a column, but was distracted by crying Orange team players; bear Bruno; and the kind nurse from the public study of breast cancer, who encouragingly put her hand around my shoulders.  The fallen cabinet distracted me, and the shoes I had wanted to buy but had not because I just didn’t feel like taking the chance of running into moody sales associates.  And then there were the ships in the canals, the music and the fun during the Friesland Vaart days.  The acquaintances and the colleagues and their spouses whom we ran into there - it is always a pleasure to see each other for a few moments.  A little chat, a little joking around.  One colleague said to me that such an evening could be the inspiration for a column.  And yes, he was right.

Text: Dini Commandeur   Translation: Maria O’Neill


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