These days, there are people everywhere who are eager to make a statement. I guess it is due to the pressures of life that people feel the need to get noticed. At its worst, the desire for acceptance blunts our decisions and at its best it makes us look like fools. And so, we swing between the two extremes looking for the approval of our peers or strangers that may never come.
It was not just the Mercedes he was driving, but its special registration number that he wanted us to notice. The number plate of his car had a single digit and a letter. I looked around the place, but nobody seemed to have noticed it. The man sensed that too and since he was determined to get our attention, he paced up and down talking even louder.
He then suddenly cut his conversation short, opened the boot and took out a piece of cloth. I was about to go, but realised that the forthcoming spectacle was worth staying there for a few seconds. The man bent his knees and began to wipe the number plates very lovingly. “Well,” his action implied, “if you didn’t notice it before, perhaps now you can.” The small crowd standing opposite him was busy murmuring, while the attendant was only interested in getting paid for the service he was rendering. I thought I should do something about the situation. I actually walked towards the car and asked him: “Do you have to pay for this type of registration?”
His face brightened and with great enthusiasm, he started telling me all about it. I guess I wanted him to know that his effort was not going to go down the drain. In that respect, I wanted to make a small statement of my own. When his mission was accomplished, the man finally drove away and I went my own way.
In my neighbourhood, young people screech the tyres of their fancy cars to deliberately attract attention. I often see people sporting bright dish-dashas with matching caps in shopping malls, in an attempt to make people glance at them. While some people make others notice them by decorating their houses in a flamboyant manner, or by buying something really exorbitant.
These actions show an urge to be admired and adored. Nobody would even bother shaving if they lived alone on a deserted island. It is the judgemental gaze of society that makes us want to stand out in a crowd.
The effort to get a bit of publicity is harmless, if it is done in a controlled manner. However, if we make this the central agenda of our lives, it does more harm than good. The desire for recognition is infectious, but it should not affect others. There are a few who try to live a quiet life, away from the hassles. It is less stressful when you don’t have to prove anything.
The writer is an Oman-based freelance columnist. This article has been reproduced from the Khaleej Times.