So this is what happened. I went to my hair salon. After getting my hair cut, I went across the street to wait for my ride to pick me up. The pick-up location was outside a No Frills grocery store.
I looked pretty good, I thought. All spruced up. Hair nicely cut. I was wearing a stylish coat.
As I waited, I watched a man crossing the street. He was making the same trek I’d just made from the other side.
I’d say the man was in his mid to late 60s. He was wearing a baggy coat and baggy pants. His boots were muddy. His hair was dishevelled. He definitely wasn’t coming from the hair salon.
The man shuffled along unsteadily. Tentatively. He rubbed his right-hand thumb and index finger together. The pronounced hand movement appeared to be a way for him to help keep his balance as he jaywalked along.
About half way across the street the man had to step up the pace to avoid being hit by a car. He made it safely to the sidewalk, right in front of me. He looked at me looking at him.
I was convinced the man was going ask me for money. I wondered if I had some loonies or toonies or maybe a five-dollar bill in my wallet.
But the man didn’t ask for money. He walked past me to a row of shopping buggies pushed up against the side of the store. He put the quarter he’d been holding in his right hand into the money slot and tugged a buggy free.
As he walked by me toward the No Frills entrance, the man stopped. He glared at me and said, “Don’t expect me to give you anything. You gotta work for money.”
What? Did I really look like someone who was standing in front of the grocery store looking for a handout? Didn’t he notice my new haircut? My stylish coat? Didn’t he realize I was ready to give him money?
As the man headed into No Frills I had to smile. We had been watching each other. Evaluating each other. Coming up with some sort of an idea as to who the other person was and what they wanted.
I was convinced he wanted money from me. But he didn’t. What I saw as a nervous hand gesture, a way for the man to steady himself as he made his way across the street, wasn’t that at all. He was holding a quarter for the shopping buggy.
He thought I was looking for money from him. Eying him hopefully. Maybe he thought once I had a couple of bucks I would head to No Frills and pick up some food. Or maybe head back across the street to the LCBO. Who knows what he was thinking. Anyway, we were both wrong.
How often do we jump to conclusions about people? Who we think they are. What we think they want from us.
And how often does wrong thinking lead to a misconstrued story, in the moment and later?
Did the man leave the store wondering if I’d managed to pocket a buck or two? Did he wonder if his words had made me rethink my indolent state? Had his words made me a more responsible person, inspiring me to rush off and look for a job? Or was I going to continue with my objectionable ways?
And what about me? How many stories do I tell based on false conclusions, misinformation? When have I let false conclusions create false news?
Ever happen to you?