Sitting on the A1, driving to work, I see in my rearview mirror a car cutting in and out of the others behind me; changing lanes at speed, darting and diving in and out between other cars so as to gain that extra few seconds. I spend a much of my life on the roads and see this sort of thing a lot. And before I can see what make of car it is, I know it’s not going to be a Kia or a Hyundai or even a Mini. At one time I’d have guessed that it might have been a BMW or there’s always a good chance that it could be a customised hatchback with the add-on wings and go-faster stripes.
But these days, if it’s not the latter, it’s more often than not an Audi. Why? I don’t actually know but my personal surveys tell me that on the A1 in the North East of England, nowadays it’s more likely to be an Audi that’s being driven aggressively than any other car.
So, if you drive an Audi, should I judge you as being an irresponsible driver? Maybe you’re the best driver in the world and show perfect manners to all others on the highway. But whether you like it or not, presently, if you drive an Audi, I think that you’re more likely to be the type that’s going to cut everybody else up on the A1 than anybody else. Not definitely, but more likely.
And again, whether you like it or not, we do tend to generalise when forming opinions of others. We’ve only so much information at our disposal when judging someone and therefore have to use our experience. So, even though all generalisations are wrong, we do tend to judge a book by its cover.
There’s a crowd of hoody-wearing youths walking towards you, late in the evening on that darkened pavement. You’re on your own. Should you cross over? Maybe they’re really nice lads who’re on their way back from bible class but it’s probably prudent, just in case. And you’ve just damned those nice lads’ reputations.
And my experience tells me that it’s the same with food. There are, without doubt, stereotypes when it comes to the choice of meals in restaurants. More women will choose chocolate puddings than men. More often women will look at the desserts before main courses and starters than men. More men will choose a steak than women will. More women will choose fish or goats cheese than men. Of course some men will eat chocolate puddings and goats cheese and some women order the biggest steaks but they’re in a minority. There could be multiple reasons for these generalisations including dietary and fashion but it doesn’t matter; there are definitely stereotypes.
I know it doesn’t seem right to generalise as we’re all individuals but most of us still do it. It saves time and is right a lot of the time.
So please have some sympathy for me when I potentially insulted a whole table of ten guests the other night in the restaurant by trying to be clever and guessing what they ordered. I got every dish wrong. And I sincerely hope that they didn’t realise who I was and assumed I was some new waiter who’d only started that day. Although why Oldfields would employ some middle aged, red-faced stutterer would have been beyond them.
Yes it’s wrong to generalise and make assumptions about people. But we still do. Just be prepared to be wrong. I generally do.