"If They Don't Appreciate Your Presence"
Maryam had been getting
busier and busier over
the last several years,
between taking on some
of her father's duties and
knowing the Queen.
So when the proprietor of
Compton's Coffeehouse Club
was just a little more rude to her
than usual, Maryam folded up
her newspaper and went home.
She was still grumbling as
her valet Ned helped her change
from street clothes to lab clothes.
"Quiet competence, or even excellence,
often doesn't get the respect it deserves
precisely because it isn't flashy," Ned said.
"Quite," Maryam said. "Now what
do you suggest that I do about it?"
"If they don't appreciate your presence,
m'sir, perhaps you should try giving
them your absence," Ned said.
"I say, that's a good idea,"
Maryam replied with a nod.
So she took her leave of
Compton's Coffeehouse Club,
and the next Saturday found her
next door at the Birdwhistle instead.
The fun was already in full cry.
"Who knows how the hottie works?"
asked one of the cooks, puttering
with the contraption that made
instant hot water for tea and such.
"Maryam always did that,"
a tea girl said in passing.
"Doesn't anyone else know?"
the cook snapped back.
"No," said the tea girl.
Then it was the magnifier
for the fine print in the papers.
Then it was the blower on
the cantankerous old cookstove.
All the little things that were
so simple for a steamsmith, but
so difficult for everyone else,
now fell upon the harried staff.
They lost more than one customer
that day, storming off in a huff
because this or that wasn't
working right or available at all.
Meanwhile the Birdwhistle staff,
despite being overworked with
extra customers, treated her
with impeccable courtesy.
As Maryam walked home,
she thought about what it took
to gain respect as her father's heir,
as a steamsmith in field dominated
by men, as a woman who maintained
her own independence instead of
being dependent on a man.
"How did it go?" Ned asked.
"You were right," Maryam said.
"The club definitely noticed
the gift of my absence."
* * *
"If they don't appreciate your presence, perhaps you should try giving them your absence."
-- Tinku Razoria