Here’s something that doesn’t always work out for me: I make snap judgments when I meet people. I like to think I’m a good judge of character, but that really should be something you decide after a little bit of time, right? Not what you think in the first five minutes. It’s perhaps not my best quality.
So it’s a good reminder for me when I’m proven wrong (also, though, I hate being wrong). Here’s the most recent incident that brought me up short…
I was at the airport this week, and it was early, about 7:30 am. Not that that’s so early, but when you consider what time you have to get up to get to an airport and through the whole TSA thing, well, there you go. So that part’s all over and I’m waiting to board when two big groups of teenagers park themselves nearby, all passengers on my flight. Some are loud, some look slack-jawed and have arrived in pajama pants and slippers for the trip. What th’…? This sets off my crabby lady alarm, the one that might say things like, “You kids get your bikes off my lawn!” So now I’m unhappy both because they bug me, and because they make me feel old. Even though, in my heart, I am certain that I’m right to not like them. Now I don’t like them and I don’t like me.
Time to board, and of course I’m surrounded by teenagers, in front of me, behind me, and a girl next to me, who immediately falls asleep. So I forget to be unhappy for a while, because I love to fly, and I’m off on a nice trip. When she wakes up, we start to chat. “Where are you all off to?” I asked, thinking they were a team of some sort. A college had invited them all out for a group interview. Oh. Turns out, though, that my new friend was a senior already, so this was a bit of a lark. She had applied to 25 schools, and her first choice was Yale. She was a little bit worried because she was only #2 in the class, and she didn’t much like being #2.
Now it turns out she had applied to my alma mater, too (not Yale), and before I knew it I was so charmed by her I’d given her my card and offered to write a letter for her should she get waitlisted.
Who am I kidding? This girl won’t need me. And have I mentioned I am a mentor to a student at Columbia who as a community project is trying to add a new major to the curriculum and worked for Michelle Obama last summer? Shouldn’t I be learning things from her? Sure, I was totally sincere in offering to write a letter for my seatmate, and that’s a very nice good deed. But better than that good deed would be if I could remember to say this to myself every once in a while:
Who do you think you are?