I don’t mean fart (although everybody does that too) or pee (ditto) or even aspire to total global domination but rather make decisions and form opinions based on generalized (ie stereotypical) behavior. (When faceless corporations do it it’s called ‘research‘ of course.) I talked about some of the pitfalls of this process after I ate lunch on the road a couple of weeks ago.
After clicking the ‘publish’ button, though, it occurred to me that there have been other times when my little mental shortcuts have failed me.
The first one that sprung to mind happened in the park named after a tank. (It’s just up the street — 500 metres or so.) On a pleasant spring day I wandered up there to listen to a wildly overly attached computer voice (she used to be significantly worse) and attack some frogs at the same time. While I was there a truck pulled up and disgorged a couple of young, fit and (to my eye) mean-looking guys in boots and culturally intimidating apparel. I was nervous.
More than usual, I mean. There I was, a nerdy-looking guy loitering in a public space while my phone said embarrassingly affectionate things to me. And there they were — the natural predator of nerdy-looking guys everywhere (especially ones caught separated from the herd). It couldn’t end well. I mean, there can be only one possible reason for driving a truck into a park, right?
I started edging toward the exit while regretting my footwear (hard to run in orange sandals) and trying not to attract attention or make eye contact when I saw that their truck was full of geraniums.
Wait, what? There was something wrong with this picture.
While I stood there looking like a slightly dimwitted… something, one of them started pulling weeds while the other one hauled a shovel out of the truck and started digging. And planting geraniums under the sundial.
Gardeners. They were gardeners. That was unexpected. I mean, I’m a gardener (sort of) but I’m a nerdy looking guy of a certain age wearing a 25-year-old T-shirt and sporting multiple gardening-related injuries (damn that chipmunk). They, um, weren’t. Not that all gardeners look like me — I get that — but if you do a google image search for ‘gardener’, well, nerdy-looking guys of a certain age are wildly over-represented. (Heck, the VERY FIRST IMAGE is an arguably nerdy-looking old guy in an ugly hat. At least I usually skip the ugly hats.) There isn’t a scary young dude anywhere in the first nineteen screens of images.
Clearly some fine-tuning was needed.
Soon after, a visit to the Insomniac Capriform Cafe brought this home twice more. My first fine-tuning assignment was handed to me when I was standing in line to order bacon (my usual order since it’s a vegetarian restaurant and all) behind a young lady. Since it was a nice day, she wasn’t wearing much (any?) goose down but rather a very nice summer outfit. (A sundress, although I have no idea what actually constitutes a sundress.) Non-scary shoes. (Women’s footwear tends to frighten me.) And an ankle tattoo.
Now, I don’t get tattoos. (Hardly a surprise — I don’t get a lot of things.) I don’t dislike them or anything, I just don’t understand them. I mean, I get art. (I don’t know much about it but I know what I like.) But I don’t get ‘art that I’ll have to live with every waking minute of every day for the rest of my life.’ That’s a lot of commitment. Even more confusing, you have to commit to it before you even see it. Wow.
But I digress. The young lady in the nice summery outfit had an ankle tattoo. And what do young ladies get tattooed on their ankles? Well, a google image search shows hearts, vines, flowers, stars, dreamcatchers, fairies, jewelry, icons. All very attractive, all very light. Even the barbed wire is kind of cute. (One website calls ankle tattoos ‘visually enchanting’ and ‘subtly flirty.’)
But what did this young lady have tattooed on her ankle? Totally unexpectedly, she had a Great Old One. A horrific, malevolent, tentacled deity. (Probably this one.) Not light. Not particularly summery. Almost certainly not ‘flirty’ or ‘enchanting’. Definitely not cute. It rattled me so much that when it was my turn to order I couldn’t remember how to pronounce ‘fhtagn‘ and just blurted out “bacon!”
Back in my chair I was musing about stereotypes, their strengths, weaknesses and failings when I heard the millenials (two men, two women) in the booth behind me talking. What might they be talking about? The Washington Post, perhaps?
Turns out not so much..
Apparently I don’t know anything. Even though it’s not Christmas.