Thursday, October 1, 2009

Pigeon Holed

When we always see someone or interact with someone only within a given setting or context, it is hard for us to imagine them in any other situation. We can't seem to picture them wearing any other hat or starring in any other role. It is easy to pigeon hole and type cast. We tend to forget that our view of people is often quite narrow. Our experiences with them are just a small part of who they are and what goes on in their lives. A few months ago I was sitting at an outdoor cafe having a chat with Bill, a friend of mine from church, while we leisurely sipped our coffee. After we had been talking for about an hour or so, a colleague of mine, who was happened to be out on a java run, saw me and came over to say hello. Paul was visiting the lab where I work to attend some meetings. I asked Paul to join us and he was happy to have a seat and chat for a bit, he welcomed the company. I introduced Paul to my church friend Bill and we began with a bit of small talk about the weather and how nice it was to be outside. Finally Paul asked Bill what experiments he was working on at the lab. This got a good chuckle out of me. Paul and I have worked on the same experiments in Virginia and New York for more than 10 years. We have spent alot of time together, but always within the boundaries of a work environment. He has never seen me in any other context and this became how he saw me in his mind. If I was chatting with someone over coffee, he immediately assumed that I must be with someone from work. Paul could not imagine that I had friends or social interactions of any other nature. We all ended up talking for another hour before we had to get back to other things, but I enjoyed very much that evening and the idea of wearing other hats in my life.