When I travel and need to rent a vehicle, I always opt for the economy car. I do this for two reasons. The economy car is normally small and relatively fuel efficient, and I want to keep costs low and have never seen a reason for anything but the least expensive rental.
So it was when I was in Detroit at the end of March. I’d been waiting for awhile at the rental office to get my car, and when I finally did, I was a bit dismayed that the car they’d given me was a Nissan Cube (see photo). The car looked like it belonged in a Dr. Seuss book, not on the road in the 21st century. It didn’t look very fuel efficient either (it wasn’t), but having been waiting for a long time and not wanting to be a high maintenance renter, I went with it.
It began to occur to me, as I drove the Cube between Ann Arbor and Detroit, that people would think I had chosen this car and that it was a reflection of me. I began to feel a bit embarrassed and wanted to wear dark glasses and a big hat behind the wheel. Sure enough, when I was stopped at a light in Royal Oak, a family walked by with two middle school-aged boys, and the father and boys stared at my car, and then at ME through the window. Then they began laughing. Laughing! I was just about to roll down the window and explain that the ridiculous thing I was driving was a rental car when the light changed.
Funny the assumptions we make. We assume so much about people based on how they look, what they’re wearing, carrying, driving, and so on. And along with our assumptions come judgments, even though we know next to nothing about those we so quickly judge based on outward appearances.
Years ago, my husband needed to borrow his boss’s Hummer, and he drove it home and into our parking area at the Institute for Humane Education where I work and we live. I was aghast. I told him he had to get that Hummer out of our driveway as soon as possible. After all, what would people think?!
These examples remind me that I need to rein in my assumptions and judgments. While outward choices and appearances may tell us something about people, our assumptions may often be wrong and our judgments misplaced and potentially destructive. I believe that it’s best, as far as we are able, to bring a “beginner’s eye” to all situations and assume nothing. That way, we allow the unfolding of real relationships based on real interactions to eclipse the myriad fantasies that follow our snap judgments and prevent us from connecting, understanding, and communicating.
Author of Most Good, Least Harm and Above All, Be Kind
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Filed under: Cultural Issues, MOGO (Most Good), social psychology, values | Tagged: appearances, assumptions, cars, Cultural Issues, introspection, judgments, MOGO choices, perceptions, social psychology | Comments Off