I PASSED a bloke yesterday that I didn’t like.
His eyes were too close together, he was fat, he had thick lips and thick glasses and he wore a ring as big as a leg iron on his sausage fingers.
I’ve never met him before and, indeed, I didn’t meet him then. I just happened to pass him on the street. But you can tell.
You must have met them – people whom you know at a glance are arrogant, or pompous, or know-alls, or whingers. They don’t have to say anything or do anything. You just know.
I looked in my mirror this morning and looking back at me was a straightforward bloke. Not too supercilious, not too humble. A generous family man with a well-shaped sense of humour; a sociable chap, but not overwhelming. And I gave thanks I wasn’t a jumped up, overbearing, devious, shifty git like the fat bloke I saw yesterday.
And then I wondered what he sees in his mirror when he gets up in the morning.
Does he berate himself about his odious appearance? Or does he smile benignly back at his too-close-together eyes and consider himself an avuncular and judicious protector of small children; a sentimental man whose only acquiescence to flashiness is the large ring given him by his mother (he couldn’t possibly have a wife, could he?) that he wears as a token of his regard?
When he meets others in the street who resemble him does he snarl inwardly and damn them forever as thick-lipped, fat, sausage-fingered morons? Or does he warm to them, and experience a vague hankering to get to know them because they look like interesting people?
It’s a frightening prospect, but I think it’s probably the latter.
And I have a bad feeling my distaste for people built like him goes back to bad experiences with Kevin Holloway, a myopic cretin built like a bloated ox carcass who pushed my head down the lavatory at school (it was all downhill once I learned his name was Kevin because, as we all know, Kevin is a nerd’s name).
And then a worse thought came to me.
Is it possible that I pass people in the street and they don’t see what I see when I look in the mirror?
Is it possible that complete strangers want to hit me on sight because they see a smug, feckless and self-opinionated bastard with short legs?
The thought has wrecked my day. I walked to work this morning and I knew people were looking at me strangely, with narrowed eyes and bared teeth. I used to think they were smiling.
I wanted to stop them and say, “But you don’t know anything about me. I’m a really nice person when you get to know me!”
And then I thought about fatty from yesterday, with his collagen lips and his near-Cyclopic eyes… and I began to feel sorry for him.
It didn’t last long because he reminded me of Kevin Holloway.
And that reminded me that when we judge people by what we see, we’re actually judging them by what we know, and often that’s not very much.