Monday, September 8, 2008

Same . . . Different . . .

Today, I attempted to take the bus to work. However, the platform was empty: I was alone at the stop and it was quite obvious that I had missed the bus. A young man came over, figured he had missed the bus too, called bus information, and then informed me that the next bus wouldn't come again for another hour. (They had changed the times of the routes.)

I stood there trying to figure out what to do. I didn't need to be to work for a while, but I didn't really want to sit and wait for a bus. And I could tell that this guy was a little nervous about having missed the bus. So, that's when I decided to offer him a ride. He accepted. And on the walk to my car, he asked me if I had a parking pass for the university that he attended, his assumption was that I was a student too.

It seems pretty strange, I think, that someone would mistake me for a college student, until you look at the facts: 1) I look younger than older (my head isn't completely gray); 2) I was standing at an express stop that many students use; 3) I look somewhat like people who go to college look. In other words, this stranger surveyed me and the situation--subconsciously, I'm guessing--and concluded that I was more the same than different, and therefore I must be a fellow student at his same school.

I think we do this a lot. If someone appears to match up with us in some ways, we mentally classify them as THE SAME and then we ascribe a lot of our own attributes, experiences, and activities to the person. If someone appears quite different from us--like they have a tattoo covering half their face--we label them as DIFFERENT and we figure we're incompatible. I think we tend to trust THE SAME people (that's what let's us offer rides to strangers) and we are wary of THE DIFFERENT people.

It's sort of funny, though, the way we think we can pin ourselves--what we think, how we feel, our experience, our perspective, our philosophy, our school affiliation--on people we barely know and on good friends, too. Why must similarity equal SAMENESS? And how can it possibly equal that ever anyway?

I'm too tired to explore this more, but it's interesting, right? I think so.


Betty Edit said...

That's why we love people so much when we don't know them (like when we're first attracted to someone): we can thrust all our imaginary ideals and perfections upon our concept of them. It is only when we get to know each other better that we realize nope, we're not actually the same.

I've always felt like I am completely different from everyone else in this world. It's a rather isolating feeling, but I suppose it helps me to realize (or should help me to realize) each person matters individually.

A guy in my ward sat next to me and, after complimenting me on my talk, asked me if I was a freshman. I suppose he must have made the same assumptions your referenced fellow made. I couldn't figure out if I was supposed to be flattered or annoyed.

Oriana said...

Olive & Betty, you are wise beyond your years! Thank you for sharing your wisdom with me.

Betty, you should be flattered, not annoyed. :-)

Sheila said...

I think I look too old be mistaken for a student now. Be grateful you aren't seen as an old, boring grown up. A few weeks ago I was cheering for a friend at a triathalon and a woman asked if I was said friend's MOTHER. My friend is 29 years old. Ouch.