Thursday, April 27, 2006

do you know me?

Kind of an interesting variation, I guess, on the "howareyou?" phenomenon.

I was coming into work yesterday from a site visit at about 2 pm. My office is in a mixed-use building, retail and residential, so when I come in the back door there's no good way to know whether I'm going to work or home. There were three people loitering outside the door by the dumpster, which isn't unusual. Sometimes they're sitting on the step and drinking their breakfast, and when it's cold they might tuck between the door and the dumpster to cut the wind. They're generally pleasant to the people coming in and out of the building, and I've never been asked for money there.

As I approached, carrying my bags and brochures and jacket and stuff, one of the women asked me, "Are you tired?" I looked puzzled and mumbled something about being fine. She said, "Oh, you're so tired, baby, you just got offa work and now you're all tired out. You gotta go upstairs and fix yourself a Lean Cuisine, now, don'tya?" She was neither sympathetic or mocking, just rolled all that out with an entirely flat affect. I had no idea what to say. I just went inside.

How much do we assume about people based on how they look or where they are? I assumed that she was probably drunk, and homeless or marginally housed, based on where she was and how she was dressed. Because of that I didn't feel like I had to pay her too much mind. But she was wrong about me on all counts; how wrong might I be about her? And why do we try to assume things about people in the first place? It was odd.


Anonymous catherine said...

How much do we assume about people based on how they look or where they are?

holy moly, get out of my brain. i've been thinking about this for the past couple of weeks, and a conversation i had the other night about priviledge has pretty much kept this very question at the front of my mind for two solid days now. after two days of thinking about this, i have no answers and a whole bunch more questions. if nothing else, i'm trying to be more aware of the assumptions i make, and really check myself as to whether they're fair.

but yeah, the question of why we need to make the assumptions in the first's kind of a thorny one, isn't it?

9:06 AM  
Anonymous catherine said...


also, i can't spell. that should be "privilege."

9:07 AM  

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