Tuesday, October 29, 2013

First Impressions

Sometimes I can be a nasty, prejudiced, small-minded so-and-so. I see someone, make a snap assessment, and apply my opinion-laced first impression label with indelible ink. All too often I do this with a smile and a chuckle, thinking that I am being cute, that I am playing a harmless game. After a recent episode, my daughter told me that my behavior was not nice. She was 100% correct and I learned a valuable lesson. All it took was 40 some odd years of living and a trip to the home improvement store.

My daughter and I are presently engaged in repainting our living room. As part of this project we have made several trips to the home improvement store to visit their paint department. As we returned over several consecutive Saturdays, the same man was working the counter there. When I first noticed him, he wore a solemn expression and was a bit curt with me when I asked him a question. In that moment, I branded him with my label maker as "Mr. Gruff". Over the next couple of trips to the paint area, I would tell my daughter that we were going to visit grouchy Mr. Gruff. At one point, my daughter and I were waiting for our paint to be mixed and I had chance to watch the man in action. The number of folks coming up to the paint counter on a weekend is huge and folks are typically demanding and have a lot of questions. I recognized why he might have to be short and to the point with folks so that he could get his work done. As we sat off to the side, I watched him interact with a young girl, waving and smiling at her. In that moment his face did not seem all that severe any more. The next weekend, he spent time with me trying to alter a gallon of paint that I had purchased to better match what I was after. He was patient with me, explained what he was doing, and then didn't charge me anything after he did the work.

At that point I still made a little needling Mr. Gruff reference and that was when my daughter said that my behavior toward the man was not nice. She was absolutely right and I immediately threw my tin of labels into the trash, hopefully for good.