Lovely little rain this morning. Wrapping-up my lawn work yesterday afternoon, I debated liberating the hose for a brief sprinkle on a few odd dry spots. Working to amend the soil for over fifteen years now, there remain a few spots that quickly show signs of heat stress1 needing attention.
On one of my frequent human “hydrate” trips into the house, I checked the Weather Bureau’s best guess. All they were willing to commit to was an overcast day tomorrow; tomorrow, which as often turns-out, became today. Back outside, between trimming curbs and walks, and sweeping stray grass clippings2, I gave the sky and the air an old weatherman’s eyeball.
Looked and felt like rain to me. I let the stressed spots wait. Risky. Hoping to sell soon, the yard, a good one by ‘hood standards and comments from motorists passing by while I’m at my groundskeeper duties, will be a selling-point. I aim to keep it that way.
Inspection and activation of the irrigation system is not scheduled until mid-May. Water or not water? Went with my hunch.
I was rewarded. Sometimes things work out.
The main event
So many times, we’re warned to beware our first impressions. More severely, we are admonished not to let stereotypes influence us as we mold our first impressions. Thereafter, any persisting impression. Why are we warned? Because as the jury is counseled after a sustained objection – “The jury will disregard the question and the response” – human nature being what it is, once uttered, the mind cannot put aside anything it has seen or heard.3 This suggests first impressions will be unfairly prejudiced.4 First impressions lasting, they can be difficult to dislodge.
Further, that while I find out on second or third meeting the idiot I first met was having a bad day (or I was) and he’s really an okay sort, a shadow will remain. That shadow, most insidiously when I don’t realize that’s what it is, will influence subsequent interactions with that soul. Indelibly. Even against my desires.
— Why are we cautioned?
I won’t suggest this ‘list’ is all-inclusive. It is personal.
We see a green dewd, we just know he’s like every other green dewd. Superficially, that’s just wrong and we all know it. Because two green dewds and the only green dewdette you know passably well like eggs scrambled, doesn’t mean all green dewds and dewdettes prefer scrambled eggs.
Not every NRA member has a closet full of AR15’s. Not every Bible-thumper is a fanatic. Not every rocket scientist is well, a rocket scientist, outside the JPL.
But you have to stop to consider this: there is a reason stereotypes persist. Not because we’re all axe-grinding bigots of one sort or another. It’s because certain groups have undeniable traits beyond the laws of average distribution. As bigots though, we assign too much credence to the importance of any trait or assume level distribution across the ranks of targeted members of a stereotyped group.
Stereotypes aren’t bad. The way we use stereotypes is. Go ahead. Think of a group of people. Certain among them will have a given trait. Artists, are ‘artistic’ and I’ll bet you certain folks with other legitimately identifiable traits are ‘artistic.’ You sort that one out.
It’s in the definition. Tall people are not skinny, they’re tall, could weigh-in at three-hundred pounds. Wide people are wide, not necessarily overweight. Mathematicians are good with numbers, but not necessarily prudent with money numbers.
Blondes are not stupid. Some airheads happen to be blonde. Some are brunettes or raven-haired. Don’t know enough gingers to speak for that group. Gingers are hot-headed, though. [Oops! Damn!]
My personal convictions affect how I judge others. Which includes more than first impressions. Won’t say it’s a foregone conclusion, but it’s likely I’ll view someone who shares my views favorably. Is that some kind of empathy? Wishful thinking? Ego? Narcissistic stereotype?
Akin to personal convictions but it’s more that I can’t help but have favorable impressions of folks who strike me as looking, acting, reasoning, and emoting like me. And a less than favorable impression of someone who is the Joker to my Batman.
My impressions of folks who share little characteristically with me are nonetheless influenced by what I’ve seen in others who come to mind watching a new acquaintance. Not really stereotypes. The dewd with a pronounced southern drawl and a perpetual smile on his mug will immediately draw comparisons to other dewds I’ve known like that. All comedians, this new acquaintance is, whether he likes it or not, assumed a comedian. Until he convinces me otherwise. That’s experience and a bit of predisposition at work there.
Prejudice is just stereotype in work clothes. I don’t believe this warrants explanation.
More than rarely, our impressions, especially first impressions, influenced or not by stereotype, predisposition, or prejudice – whatever – are accurate. Not altogether a bad thing, but something demanding constant surveillance.
Lately, I’ve not been allowed to rely on first impressions. Still have them, first impressions. But I find with global, in-your-face news that ain’t news, folks I’m introduced to come at me repeatedly trying to impress me into accepting their politics, admitting their ingenuity, and signing-up for their particular brand of the way-things-ought-to-be.
Most are steadfast in their schmuckdom.5
It’s discomforting. I mean, I should be allowed a little self-doubt, not assuming my initial opinions about a person, group, or institution are valid. More and more not true. As if all are standing around nekkid6 with all their warts and pimples on display. And a lot of these goofs are proud of those warts and pimples.
It is reassuring. That I’m seeing most of my first impressions are spot-on, I guess. Saves time retracting voiced opinions and guessing which personality or group I’d like to ignore on the radio, television, or in e-news feeds.
It’s disheartening. This accuracy of my first impressions, that far-and-away most people running around loose are idiots, left, right, and center, politicians, sports and entertainment personalities, industry “leaders,” and righteous corporations, is unsettling, too. Only surprisingly that includes a few real, regular, otherwise normal people.
1 Yes, not yet May but already just two to three days without rain or heavy dew and it shows on the lawn. First, individual blades go wiry, then turn green-brown. If some relief isn’t delivered, a suffering patch will go yellow. By the time it’s yellow, a patch of any appreciable size means it’s too late for rescue. Carefully mulching with the mower, judicious addition of some of my prime compost in select spots, and paying attention to nutrient levels have yielded a yard that survives a good deal of the brutal summer sun we enjoy here. It’s still necessary to water flowers, vegetables, and herbs, but that amount of water is nothing compared to what it takes to properly water the whole lawn.
2 Sweeping. I am the only idiot who uses a broom for this chore. I’ve watched those in the ‘hood who do their own lawn work spend forty-five minutes with a fossil-fuel blower at this. It takes me ten minutes maximum with a broom. No fossil fuel. Collected clippings are strategically added to composting cycles instead of adorning the neighbors’ walks and driveways. I suppose I should consider the expense of broom replacement assessing my ecological footprint. Admittedly, the broom I have right now is pretty shabby, but it still works admirably.
3 Or tasted, or felt, or smelled.
4 And I will be the first to admit this in my case.
5 Schmuckdom. Lunacy, which I consider a self-imposed failure. Idiocy, which I consider genetic or at least the nature part of the nurture or nature argument. Base intelligence. Foolishness. Ego. Vaunted superiority. Near-criminal ignorance. Intolerance. Schmuckdom, then a polite term encompassing all of these lovely attributes.
6 Nekkid. Naked spoken in deep south, good old boy fashion. And that has meaning. Was it Lewis Grizzard who said to the effect: “‘Naked’ means you ain’t got no clothes on; ‘nekkid’ means you ain’t got no clothes on and are up to no good”?