Sunday, 22 July 2012

Assoom


We all make assumptions about others, even if we don’t mean to.

Only meditating monks, high up in isolated caves in the peaks of the mountains of Iranistan have the type of spiritual discipline to not automatically make assumptions based on how people act, speak or look.

I always resented this aspect of life and culture (having been raised by a mother who thought saying “wotcha” as a greeting was horrid and common) and vowed never to do it.

Problem is…I do.

My job involves a lot of people, who meet in one big (and I mean B.I.G room), collect their stuff and go out for their shift. Some have been there a few months like me, some have been their years or decades. Longest serving colleague is on his 43rd year in the job (a fact I find terrifying, but that’s a different blog entry) and retires soon. He has a facial expression that suggests “life is what it is” and while pleasant and friendly, looks decidedly sour from a cursory glance.

In the office the other day I was chatting to a lad who asked me what I do in my spare time. I spoke about Krav Maga (a wonderful martial art, with lots of common sense moves like “kick in the nuts and then run”). He then said he used to be a boxer, had a couple of pro fights and has done both mixed martial arts and cage fighting. He then smiled and added “that’s why my nose is spread across my face.”

I had assumed without thinking that he was simply someone who did the job and that was all he did. I hadn’t thought this consciously, I’d simply made that assumption without even realising it.

Another lad is a bit fat, notoriously slow (quote: “continental drift moves faster than him!”) and last Friday arrived to work, then immediately left again to buy a can of Coke and a bacon and sausage bap from the cafĂ© over the road. Turns out he wanted to join the police but got accepted by this job 12 years ago before the local Constabulary got back to him. His cousin who applied the same time as he did is now a Chief Superintendent (FUCKING high rank!) and loves it. He sat there as he tucked into his pig meat snack and cola, saying “could have been me, could have been me!”

Looking at him I would NEVER have thought of him as someone who wanted to be a high flyer in the police.

Now…for many years I automatically assumed everybody I met would almost certainly dislike me on sight and would try and hurt me in some way. Again this wasn’t conscious thought, but more of a subconscious risk assessment. Disadvantage of being bullied for most of my childhood. Only recently, in my early 40s, through the use of meditation, writing (and most importantly 10mg of Propranolol daily), have I realised that 99% of people are as insecure as me and just want to be friendly.

An incident I still feel bad about happened two years ago in Crete, where I was on holiday with my girlfriend. I was very drunk and came back from the bar to find a guy on the next table had sparked up a conversation with her. She put her hand gently on my leg and continued to chat to him. After a short while she turned to me and said “you ok?” I mumbled back “yeah, just don’t like pricks talking to you!” I didn’t directly insult or threaten him, just sat there surly and silent, annoyed that he’d not immediately cut off conversation with her when I sat down. Next day she was mightily annoyed and said “for once someone wanted to talk to ME! Not as your girlfriend but as me and you couldn’t handle that.” I felt so guilty and said that it was the beer plus a misplaced macho instinct that you don’t talk to someone else’s woman. Had I seen the guy again I would have offered to buy him a drink and said sorry, but the opportunity never arose. I doubt he even knew I was thinking of thumping him, he probably just thought I was silent due to being drunk, but I had ASSUMED that his desire to speak to the woman I intended to marry was because he wanted to shag her, not the reality that he was simply a nice bloke who liked to chat.

Again and again we make assumptions on those we pass in the street. When I see tattooed guys in hoodies and jeans, acne ridden and smoking roll ups I automatically think they’re untrustworthy and would fight dirty if they attacked someone. When I see a beautiful woman I assume she knows how good looking she is. When I see revenue inspectors on British Rail at station exit gates I assume they will be rude and aggressive to anyone who doesn’t have a valid ticket (although this last opinion is from what I’ve seen more than anything).

It’s always deflating to find that people don’t fit the stereotypes we give them in our heads. A good looking girl of 19 that I know told me and some other people loudly in the pub recently that “I don’t like giving blow jobs. I mean I will if I have to but I have to be pissed to do it.” She then kicked the birthday cake off the table completely with “and I don’t like guys to lick me out either.” My reply was “you’ve not met someone who can do it right yet.” BUT…as she was good looking I had automatically assumed (without really thinking about it) that she was not only sexually active but also good at it and free spirited.

My boss is quite an intense guy who has fired a few people for neglect of duty or dishonest behaviour. He has military background and a “no fucking around” attitude to the job. I found out he’s a big James Bond fan like me and we had a wonderful chat one day which I started with the booby trapped question “so, who’s the second best James Bond then?” *** I had ASSUMED that he would be surly and condescending in his approach to the subject due to his higher status in the company (something I’ve seen people in management do time and again) BUT he was very friendly and appeared to welcome the conversation. Oh my God!!! My boss has emotions other than those regarding work!

Throughout my life I have given labels and tags to people based on appearance and short conversations. I never meant to but it happened anyway. We all do it and it has to be manually overridden by supreme mental effort in order to not happen.

Finally, I’ll leave you with this. In the 1980s in Leamington Spa there was rumoured to be a gang made up of black lads that called themselves The Leam Posse. I never met any of them or saw them. However whenever anyone was in a fight with more than one black guy in Leamington in 1987 you could guarantee that the next day people would be saying “The Leam Posse beat someone up last night.”


*** Only acceptable answers are Brosnan or Craig. If you reply "who's the first?" then you've failed the test.

3 comments:

  1. What's the deal with the beta-blockers, Lance? What performance anxiety do you have?

    ReplyDelete
  2. I take 80mg a day,
    C'mon, Baggy, get with the beat.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is a spectacularly written blogge Lance. Even for a police blogger you scrape the barrel of ineptitude.

    ReplyDelete

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