>I’ve been thinking about the assumptions we make about people that we know very little or not at all. As humans, we all make assumptions based on visual cues and our own perspective. This came to mind recently as I’ll explain later. But, first, I have two stories to relate about the assumptions people have made about El 3atal and I in the past.
To set the stage, El 3atal and I are VERY casual people. We are rarely seen not in jeans and shirts. If we’re dressed up, it’s due to a work function. We just aren’t slacks and dressy clothes type people. Really… Much to TetaBean’s despair, we always go out in jeans, even to dressier family events. By now I think most of the family is used to this, but still poor Teta Bean…
Story Number 1
One day, many years ago, El 3atal and I went to look at cars. We were in the market for a new car and wanted to check out options. El 3atal had long wanted a Mercedes SUV, so he called the Mercedes dealership and set a time for a test drive. While not strictly necessary, it ensures that you’ll get the time and attention you want. We showed up to the dealership in jeans and casual clothes looking, undoubtedly, like a couple of recent college graduates. I know what you think is coming now, but it isn’t. The salesman at the dealership treated us with respect. He asked about our current vehicles, walked us through the features available and standard on the car, and took us for a test drive. We left thinking that the Mercedes SUV was an awesome vehicle and generally sold.
On a whim, we stopped by the Buick dealership, as I was driving a Buick at the time and we figured we’d see what new cars they had available. The salesman who greeted us at the door looked us over and began to push their current special. It was a Buick Century (cheapest Buick model) that had cloth seats and windows you had to roll down! Mind you, we had just finished seeing a Mercedes with power everything and luxury everywhere. We explained to him that we were not interested in any car without leather seats. While he was talking to El 3atal about the Century, I walked over to see what the Park Avenue (their largest sedan at the time) looked like. I got in and sat down in the rear, simply out of curiosity. The salesman came over and very condescendingly said, “Well now, that’s a very expensive car.” Mind you, it was at least 5 thousand less than the Mercedes we’d just been looking at an hour previously. When we finally did the test drive, it was on the “discount” model he was trying to push. Yep, windows with cranks, cloth seats, the whole 1 yard. At no point did the salesman see beyond our jeans and shirts to the fact that we were a double income family making easily enough to afford the Mercedes. He made assumptions based on things that he saw and disregarded everything said to him that would contradict it.
Story Number 2
While living in Louisiana before we moved, El 3atal worked out of a home office for quite some time. During that time he became a somewhat frequent visitor to Sonic for lunch (Sonic is a drive-in with amazing ice cream treats). One day one of the regular “waiters” (think waiter on roller skates) said to him, “Excuse me sir, if you don’t mind my asking, what do you do?” This young man, unused to people with flexible days and schedules saw this young man driving a Mercedes SUV (yes we did buy one) in very casual clothes dropping in at odd times during the workday. Instead of making bold assumptions, he simply asked. I, of course, told El 3atal that he wants to know what field he should go into to have those kind of perks, teehee.
Which brings us to what made me think of this. I got the very same question a few months ago from one of ButterBean’s teachers. She saw me at school every day dropping off and picking up the kids. She saw me always around, but knew that I work. She wondered what I did that had that kind of flexibility. But what I typically get is the assumption that I don’t work.
I’m part of a wonderful group of ladies who gather on weekday mornings. I don’t typically see them except as part of these gatherings. Many of them have been confused when they discover that El 3atal and I have a company. They had seen me at these workday meetings and assumed that I don’t have a job. They presumed that, like them, I’m a stay at home mom. I find it often has to do with our frame of reference. I’m not offended, I think stay at home moms have the hardest job there is. I respect them greatly. But, I find it funny that they see me always in casual clothes and usually available during the day (and taking Arabic classes during the day) and assume that I don’t work.
It just goes to show you that it is never wise to make assumptions. I far prefer the approach of the Sonic waiter who simply asked. It gave him the chance to satisfy his curiosity and come away more knowledgeable rather than go on with an assumption that was likely erroneous. It also makes me more aware of the assumptions that I make that are likely to be wrong. Reminders to ask rather than assume are always a good thing, in my mind.
Happy Preconceived Notions!