Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Power of Observation

I am no Sherlock Holmes but I pride myself on observation skills. While I might be prone to missing an important date in the future, I am not the typical guy that fails to notice when the wife gets a new hair style or outfit. And maybe this gift lends itself well to writing. After all most of the stuff I bang out is a record of observations with a twist of opinion and a dash of wit. Bake at 350 and serve warm on the internet platter. Hopefully the output is palatable to those of you that partake.

Blogging has perhaps escalated this normal habit of mine into turbo. I am never lacking in words or opinions, just content. I post daily unless out of topics to cover. The exception to that rule is when work is insanely busy (like yesterday) or on the weekends. I make it a general rule to take weekends off.

As an observer, I tend to hone in on people. My Wife and I are both like that. We could literally sit on a bench in the mall and just watch people. Sometimes we forget to carry on conversation at restaurants because both of us are scoping out the room. Two recent examples of this kind of behavior come to mind but for now I will share one:

SportsClips Guy – As I sat waiting to have my hair cut, I was mostly watching the Big Screen TV located in the lobby. World Cup Soccer was on and the game was pretty intense. But a man walked in and broke my gaze as he passed through my line of sight. Within minutes I had formulated many, many conclusions about him. Most of the facts I imagined were likely true based on the visual evidence. But often my mind takes things a step further and my intuition adds more where supporting clues leave off.

In this case I figured Mr. SportClips (SC) to be about 45. At first glance people think him to be Caucasian but I could tell he was mixed race, black & white. His completion gives you absolutely no clue to support this idea but his hair was the tell. It was dark, dark black and very kinky. I could see the pain of his bi-racial upbringing in his eyes. It was like he despised being almost all white. He would rather be all white or all black…not white with an obvious black characteristic. SC got his black characteristics from his dad, who was absentee which was another reason for harboring the disappointment. He was raised by his mother and thusly has Caucasian mannerisms, speech patterns, and behavior. While he is highly intelligent and educated, he lacks confidence. SC surrounds himself with dominating personalities, likely for two reasons. First of all, that is how his mother is. Secondly, he would never dare make a decision of his own. As such, SC gets stepped on and taken advantage of both at home and at work. He is married to a woman much like mom, though neither of them get along or see their similarities. His job pays well but does not have growth potential. My guess is accounting with a corporate firm. His confidence is what prevents constant promotion but his dedication and attention to detail give him job stability and good yearly reviews.

I ask myself during this whole game I am playing, how accurate might I be. I sincerely wish I could find out but the risk of being wrong or for that matter, right is too great. Plus, how do you approach a perfect stranger and ask him if the above details are true? I would expect to get socked in the jaw regardless of accuracy.

The evidence for my conclusions and back story:

He is bi-racial – Unlike some people from multi-cultural backgrounds, he was very hard to spot. If you were just casually observing things, he was a Caucasian through and through with a very mild tan. As stated above, his hair was the only real indicator.

Pain in his eyes – This is where my intuition filled in some gaps but there was a distinct look about him that told me he was no stranger to being an object of ridicule.

Black father, white mother – I use statistical data as my guide here. The majority of racially mixed couples have this combination but admittedly I could be wrong.

Absentee dad – Assuming I have the above fact correct, my evidence for the absentee parent is his mannerisms and speech. He carries himself like a Caucasian. He reminds me of the “typical white guy” that black comics sometimes make fun of when impersonating white people. So either his black parent was not around or they did not impress many attributes on him.

Raised by mother – Again statistics help me here and if I am right about the lack of dad being around, he only had mom as an influence. I also noted a total subservient attitude toward the woman at the front counter and a phone call to his wife later, gave me more hints.

Highly educated – This man was not in an Armani suit but he was nicely dressed and had just gotten off work…much like me. He articulates well and has an intelligent disposition. He was likely a book worm in school and leaned on his academics for what little confidence he needed. So I combine some visual factors here with intuition.

Lacks confidence – This was the most easily identifiable attribute. He hung his head, made very little eye contact with anyone, walked with feet pointing outward (like Charlie Chaplin), had his slacks bunched up, and very nervously signed the sheet up front.

Surrounded by dominant people – People like SC lost their confidence somewhere and it is usually from being dominated. As such, they despise their situation to some degree but feel the most comfortable around domineering personalities. Plus his phone call to his wife was executed more as though he needed to check-in and avoid getting in trouble rather than just calling to say "hi, I'm getting my hair cut."

Cannot make a decision – Confident people make decisions. Timid people fear them. Plus his call to his wife made it clear who made choices in their relationship.

Wife and mom don’t get along – Pretty easy deduction since many moms-in law and daughters-in-law have problems. Add to the fire that they are both domineering and you have a recipe for fighting.

Job description – Intuition got the best of me here but the other factors lead me to believe he is beaten down at work too. He prides himself on his education and work but is likely passed over for promotions when younger, more confident candidates vie for the same positions. His dependability and loyalty are likely what give him any job security, plus he is probably very good at what he does. I chose accounting because his personality exudes that he is a loner (doesn’t like interaction with people) and detail oriented.

Who knows if ANY of this is accurate? I suspect that I have many details right but will never know for sure. So beware if you are ever walking in my general direction. I may have your life story unfold in my head before I even greet you with a hello. Maybe one day I can try an experiment with some of you to see how accurate my observations can be.


Scholar07 said...

As a fellow writer I too am constantly observing people. Although you never spoke to SC you picked up what I believe all humans do so from non-verbal communication. Given you education and supporting evidence it is highly probable that you are dead on in this case if not in nearly all of your character analysis. Not only though do I, and most likely you too now that I point it out; can tell stories from people we see but also from objects left in the environment. I came home this afternoon to find the lid of a fast-food beverage left atop a pile of napkins. When disposing of some trash I spotted a Whataburger sack crumpled within the confines of the waste receptacle. I just marvel at the amount of information there is to be gathered and categorized. Just as with your wife when you stop conversations to observe, I at times withdraw or exclude myself from conversations and appear to be ‘spacing out’ when really I am just observing intensely with an outward fa├žade of bemusement.

Jimmy Ska said...

You do well with words, good job.

Posted by Jimmy Ska on Thursday, June 15, 2006 at 6:10 AM (Cut & Paste from MySpace)

Medulla Oblonjoda said...

love people-watching! Nice deductive skills.

"I could see the pain of his bi-racial upbringing in his eyes."

Eyes are the gateway to the soul...

Posted by Medulla Oblonjoda on Thursday, June 15, 2006 at 9:30 AM (Cut & Paste from MySpace)