NYC Bound and First Impressions

Bill and I met some friends in NYC to see a new play “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.” It was a hilarious British farce that had us laughing out loud throughout the performance and singing the songs during dinner later that night. Another great day with great friends.

On the train ride down a woman sat next to Bill on the aisle. She was with a man sitting across from her so they spent the first ninety minutes or so talking to each other. At one point, before 125th street, she asked Bill something about the train schedule and the three of us started talking. She was dressed in casual clothes and wore little makeup. She told us she had grown up in Stamford but had lived in New Hampshire for the last two years and felt like a little mouse heading into the big city. She commented on my dress and makeup and compared me to the professional woman she sees in her town. I was wondering if she was trying to make a point when she told us she was a psychologist interested in first impressions. Prior to her comment my first impression of her was questionable but the more we talked the more interested I became. Our conversation only lasted about 15 minutes but we covered cross dressing and juvenile delinquency (she saw more of that while working in NY), manicures and pedicures (the women she knows in NH skip the manicures but splurge on the pedicures) and, of course, people’s appearances and our first impressions. Apparently it’s true that we only get once chance to make a first impression…and our first impression of someone generally sticks. Noting Bill’s tweed jacket and jeans her first impression was that he would blend right in with the other men in her small town near Dartmouth. She was animated and interesting. We never even introduced ourselves but the short and engaging exchange was a gift; I receive them daily if I’m paying attention. If I had dismissed this woman after her initial comment, compliment really, on my appearance I would have deprived myself of an entertaining fifteen minutes. Not life changing but entertaining all the same. That this woman was in the profession of studying and analyzing human behavior was a plus, a field that fascinates me. The next time an opportunity presents itself where I can be open and curious or indifferent and closed up I hope I remember the last few minutes of that train ride…and maybe learn something new. 

Categories: Musings, Travel, Uncategorized

4 replies

  1. A delightful vignette. When given a choice, and aware that there is a choice, I hope to choose open and curious, feeling connected with the world around me and living in the moment.

  2. This story brings me back to 1999 when I was working on my doctoral degree at UCONN. As part of my 62 credit plan of study, there were four anthrolpogy courses that I needed to complete. As part of my first ANTH course, my professor required us to write an ethnographic essay about an experience that was unfamiliar to us. I decided to go to a religious service from a faith quite different to the one in which I was raised.
    So I went to this religious service and then wrote about it. To my surprise, my essay was scored with a 71. My ego kicked in and I remember being quite angry about a C minus so I went and requested an appointment with Dr. Handwerker. The following day I went to his office and told him that I thought that my essay was quite good and did not deserved a C minus. He said something like: “Jose, you wrote a fantastic critique of your perception of what was happening which represents a distorted view of reality. Therefore, and when writing an ethnography, you need to be a fly on the wall and actually write and write about what you it is not what your perception of it”. As soon as he said that I totally understood what was the purpose of the assignment and why this form of writing is essential to social anthropology and the behavioral sciences.
    Dr. Handwerker taught me a lesson for life on that day and I am grateful for it. Your story on first impressions reminded me of the lessons I learned at UCONN.
    Thanks for sharing!! XO

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