Recently I had to visit the civic administration's office to obtain some important document.
This is a work I would have gladly shoved on somebody else's shoulders because I had heard, and had myself experienced in the past, that you cannot get your work done in the civic office through a single visit. It is only after making several rounds that you could expect to get your work done.
Anyway, there was no one on whom I could shift the responsibility, and so had to go myself. I located the appropriate department, and told an officer of my requirement. The officer directed me to a clerk, and asked me to request the clerk to search through certain old records which were essential for issuing to me the document I needed.
I approached a clerk, and requested her accordingly. The records were not computerised but were paper documents that were kept stacked in the office. The documents were, of course, appropriately dated and stacked like books in a library for easy retrieval.
After enquiring about the date, the clerk removed the appropriate file, and the relevant record was located. The clerk did have to move quite a few files to remove the correct one, and rearrange them again. I felt grateful to her.
I carried the records to the officer. Needless to say I could not be issued the document that I was seeking since certain procedure had to be followed. I was, of course, prepared for that since I had entered the office fully convinced I will have to make several trips before I could lay my hands on the document.
I took back the file to the clerk and thanked her. "Thank you," I told her. Now, perhaps it was because I was dejected as my work was not done that I spoke to her in almost an inaudible voice.
"What! What did you say?" the woman almost yelled at me, causing others in the office to look in our direction.
I was taken aback by this sudden outburst. What was she yelling at me for? I had only thanked her!
I said 'Thank you', I told her more clearly, and she calmed down.
On my way home I was still puzzling over the woman's behaviour when like an 'Eureka moment' I solved the riddle. This is the answer that suggested to me:
The department I had visited dealt with sensitive and emotional matters. It was rare for a person to get work done on a single visit to the office. For this reason it was likely that people, who had to take leave from their own offices or postpone other personal work to go to the civic office, felt exasperated when the visit proved futile. This, in turn, led to anger and exchange of heated words. The employees in the civic office, I therefore surmised, were more used to hear angry words.
When I thanked her inaudibly, the clerk probably thought I had made some offensive remarks. That explained her sudden outburst.
All my annoyance against the clerk vanished when this explanation suggested to me. In fact, I felt a pang of sympathy for her; it must be really awful to have to hear angry words for eight hours every working day of the week. I could only laugh away the discomfiture I had been subjected to.