Serena de Souza

Rules do not the gentleman make

2006-04-25 10:47

The Johannesburg Country Club has a strange way of treating its members and its neighbours - hardly genteel or polite.

Once, when I was with a boyfriend's family at the Johannesburg Country Club, a sudden blast of cold weather blew over.

I was in a flimsy cotton frock, and the surprise change in temperature rendered me rather chilly.

My boyfriend at the time, in an action I can only qualify as gentlemanly, whipped off the jacket that he was required to wear and draped it around my shoulders.

The head waiter trundled over immediately, fairly blue in the face, and insisted that my boyfriend put his jacket back on, in accordance with club rules.

My boyfriend pointed out that I was cold, but the waiter was having none of it. My boyfriend was to replace his jacket immediately, and no further discussion would be entered into.

At the time, it struck me as a little ironic that a gentlemanly act like ensuring that one's girlfriend does not freeze to death, could be rendered irrelevant in the face of club rules; club rules put in place, certainly, to create for members a feeling of being among gentlemen.

I am certain that, to a man, no club member would rather see a woman in their midst turning blue at the lips than be offended by the sight of a man's shoulders in shirt sleeves for the remainder of his meal.

Cotton-pickin' leaf blowin'

A recent experience of my mother's has alerted me to the fact that indeed, the country club is obsessed with its own rules, rather than with continuing to create an air of old-fashioned gentlemanly consideration for others.

My mother lives a block away from the Johannesburg Country Club. She lives in the only two-storey building in her road, and is afforded a wonderful view of the club's trees as a result. But that's where her satisfaction at her proximity to this establishment unfortunately ends.

It seems that the country club's members, when they arrive to use the facilities at five in the morning, are offended by the sight of leaves on the grass.

Instead of engaging in the time-honoured tradition of raking them up, the country club has instead invested in leaf blowers, which they now rev up at five in the morning.

There were apparently numerous complaints from all the neighbouring residences, and club management, in acknowledgement that perhaps making a godawful racket that early in the morning would not stand them in good stead among their neighbours, invested further in some leaf blower mufflers.

Now, I am uncertain whether this has solved the problem for the close neighbours, but it has exacerbated it for my mother. She lives a block away, and on a second storey. Her problem wasn't so much the noise as the reverberation she could feel, and the mufflers, if anything, amplified this reverberation.

Mufflers do not a quiet morning make

Country club management, regardless of the fact that my mother is being woken up by this noise every morning, insist that the problem is solved, and that they won't desist from their routine, as their early bird members must have leafless lawns to gaze upon as they walk from their cars to the gym or squash court.

This astonishes me on a number of levels. If I was an early bird member, I would be far more likely to bask in idyllic gentrification if a row of servants greeted me, rakes in hand, as I arrived at my club, able to doff their hats in a show of subservience, rather than having two hands engaged in controlling a reverberating leaf blower that shatters the early-morning peace.

And, as a member, I would be disgusted at the blatant show of disrespect that club management was engaging in towards a neighbour in the name of their members. But perhaps it's because I am not a gentleman.

  • Serena de Souza is not a gentleman.

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