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Thursday, January 26, 2017

How people perceive me

I drove across the country and back recently (left on December 28th, returned on January 16th), so got to see myself through the eyes of a lot of strangers.

I don't dress particularly well most of the time (baggy pants and a sweatshirt), and from a distance, I look sort of like a Mexican day laborer. (See picture at right.) Up close, I look (increasingly) like an older laborer.

Because I'm lean, and appear serious, I also look sort of tough. (That, I promise, is nothing but protective camouflage. The only possible way I'm tough is by over sheltered, upper middle class standards -- which is to say, I'm not tough.) Anyway, people tend to react to me leerily when they see me.

But when I open my mouth I sound, if not cultured, at least educated, so people let down their guard a bit once they hear me. I tend to get chatty with strangers, as a way to let them know I'm not a threat.

One group which always seems to react to me (and everyone else) as a threat are the Indian proprietors at practically every motel I stayed at. I tend to favor Days Inns, which are cheap but acceptable (by my low standards). Most cost $59 a night, and were clean enough, and had wifi, which is all I ask.

But those Indian owners don't seem to have gotten the hang of hospitality. They all regarded me suspiciously, and between the lot of them didn't crack a smile or utter one pleasantry. I stayed at a Western Inn in Tucson one night, which also had an Indian proprietor, whom I had to speak to behind a thick plate glass window, the kind they have in liquor stores in certain communities. (Their rate was $33.95 for the night.)

In the cold light of the next morning, it was apparent it was that type of community. As I was about to get into my car, a scruffy young black guy about my size approached me and asked, "Got a cigarette?" I shook my head no, and he said, "Oh, don't smoke..." and veered off.

While he had been walking up to me, I, of course, had been thinking of exactly what I would do if he tried to mug me. He didn't have a particularly aggressive cast to his features, and was likely harmless. Probably, all he wanted was a cigarette. But if he had sized me up, I'm guessing that he would have thought me both tougher but also less athletic than I am.

There was no one else around at the time, and I'm guessing that at 6:45 in the morning, he was more likely late to bed than early to rise. I'd like to think that he was in fact out to mug me, but was scared off by my appearance. I'll never know, of course, but if that was the case, it wouldn't the first time my protective camouflage has helped me.


Anonymous said...

I tend to stay at Comfort Inns. Usually, the employees are white. I don't remember ever encountering Indians. I think that I look like a harmless middle aged white woman who could easily be mugged. God forbid that should ever happen though. You should write a book about your life experiences, but then again maybe your blog is enough. It would be an interesting read.

- birdie

John Craig said...

Birdie --
Thanks, but honestly, my life's not that interesting to anyone but me. And it's really not even all that interesting to me, especially these days, since I'm more or less a recluse.

Anonymous said...

Ha, Ha, wow, what an honest personality analysis of oneself. Couldn't help smiling reading it. You really manage to hit the nail on the head, accurately dissecting a person. Maybe you
could become an FBI profiler or write a series 'Personality analysis according to John.'


John Craig said...

Thank you very much Sherie. I'm pretty blunt when it comes to other people I write about, it'd be pretty hypocritical if I weren't the same way about myself. Thanks for the suggestions, but I'm afraid that at 62 it's getting a little late for me to be anything.

Runner Katy said...

What an interesting thought that you go through life with people perceiving you this way. Also, the fact that you can understand how you are perceived compared to your true self is wise. I think if he were in fact out to mug you and it were me, he would have whatever I had on my person. I know there is nothing about me that looks threatening, and doubt in that situation I would put up any sort of fight. I find it very fascinating the way Indians treat you. I assume you are meaning Asian Indians, and not Native American Indians? As you know about the way I look, Asian Indian men do treat me very differently than other men, in my experience, too. About 75% of them assume I am nice and they treat me very kindly, almost extra gentlemanly, but then once in a while, about 25% of them treat me like a 2nd class citizen with very condescending tone and treatment. I get angry when that happens, since I try to treat all people equally (try) until they prove me otherwise.

John Craig said...

Runner Katy --
Thank you.

Yeah, if someone held a gun on me, or even a knife, I'd just hand over my money. But if they were unarmed, and my size, well, I do have my male pride.

Yes, I was referring to Asian Indians. I also had some contact with American Indians on the trip, and was going to write about that, and contrast it to the Asian Indians, but that may be too much navel gazing. And yes, a lot of immigrants come from places where women really are second class citizens, and act accordingly.

Your attitude is good.

Mark Caplan said...

I assume you're using "Indian" as a catch-all for Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi. To the last two you would be a contemtible kuffar, which could account for their hostility.

John Craig said...

Mark --
Yes, I was, though with a couple of them, in an effort to make conversation, I actually asked them where they were from, and they said "India" in a tone which indicated that I was an idiot for asking. I don't get the impression that there are that many Pakistani and Bangladeshi motel owners in this country, though that's just a very superficial impression.

When I was staying at a Holiday Inn in NJ when I was getting treated for cancer last year, one of the guys working there was a young guy from India (I asked) with a Muslim name. Very pleasant guy, actually. If he regarded me as a contemptible kuffar, he kept his emotions well hidden.

Mark Caplan said...

You're right. There are articles online about the "Patel motel cartel." Almost two out of three budget motels in the U.S. are owned by Indians.

John Craig said...

Mark --
I just looked it up. Amazing that 70% of the Indians who own motels are actually named "Patel." And they all seem to be comfortable living in places like Pecos TX, or Sulphur Springs, TX, or Holladay, TN, all places I stayed in motels owned by Indians. And they're almost all Gujaratis, the same caste/group that Freddie Mercury's parents (and of course, Freddie himself) were. (I didn't even now that Mercury was an Indian until a few years ago.) None of the motel owners I saw looked as if they were about to break out into "Bohemian Rhapsody," but they were from the same group that produced him.

Anonymous said...

As an Indian i feel I must comment" there are different types of Indians like there are different kinds of Americans, Mexicans or Europeans, the liberal, the conservatives, the lefts, the rights, etc. Then there are state wise Indians. The Gujaratis(from Gujarat), the Malyalees (from Kerala, very famous for nurses), then the Punjabis and Sikhs(from Punjab and Sind - Sikhs come from Punjab but follow Sikhism), etc. And believe me each state has their own state language and culture. Like the state language in Bengaluru is Kannada. If you look at the Indian map you will find there are 29 states and 7 union territories. To be honest I don't really don't know that much. We are quite clannish. Stick to our own tribe. So if one Indian comes to the US you can be sure he will bring his family. Particularly the Gujaratis and Malayalees according to me. The Gujaratis are the business tribe and Malayalees are the educated ones. Since I belong to none of the above tribes I still live in India.

Also, are you forgetting that Trump is 70 years and he does not think he is too old to
be the President of America. You are 8 years younger.


John Craig said...

Sherie --
I'll defer to your knowledge of Indians. But yes, I'm aware that there are all sorts of different groups, and castes (though I'm sure that word is no longer approved of over there). And you left out the Gurkhas, known for their military prowess (though some of them are from Nepal). I hear about them from my son. Plus, there's that great divide between the Hindus and Muslims (as illustrated in "Slumdog Millionaire").

May I ask which group you belong to? And what part of India you live in? (If you don't want to answer I understand.)

One thing I've never quite understood is that India is a poor country (less so now), yet the Indians who come over to the US tend to dominate the Westinghouse Science Fair and do well in the national spelling bee competitions and produce kids who are math prodigies. Usually IQ equates with a country's wealth, but it doesn't seem to in India.

Another ting I've noticed, though this is a matter of personal taste. I see lots of Indian women I consider very attractive, yet I see few Indian men I consider handsome. An anomaly.

Re: my age, thank you. I don't think of myself as old, and I still feel good. But at 62, others would consider me old, and, for instance, the FBI would never consider hiring me for my knowledge of sociopaths. Plus, even though I know more about sociopathy than most psychiatrists, I have no official credentials in the field, and that would weigh against me.

Anonymous said...

Corruption is the scourge of India's progress. Bribing is a way of life, though I see
things changing. I grew up in Mumbai but have now moved to a smaller city close by.

Incidentally, Freddie Mercury was a Parsi born Farrokh Bulsara ( Parsis are refugees from Iran but speak Gujarati since they first settled in a coastal town in Gujarat, they are very different from the native Gujaratis who are strictly vegetarians.


John Craig said...

Sherie --
Ah, you're right. I had read Mercury's bio on Wiki once before but evidently not carefully enough. So he's more of Iranian than Indian descent. That makes sense, he doesn't look that Indian.

I get mistaken for everything myself. At one point on my recent trip I stopped off at a "Cherokee Trading Post" along the highway and went to their "Cherokee Restaurant" (which served nothing but standard American food, the only exception being the "buffalo burger" which I ordered, and which was mediocre). The girl I spoke with there was quite pretty, and obviously had (Native American) Indian blood. I asked her if I looked Indian to her, and she said, "Yeah.....sort of." I asked her if she was part Cherokee, and she said, "Arapaho, but only an eighth." (She looked more than that; an eighth is usually "invisible.") She then explained, "See, my mother is half Arapaho." I said, "But wouldn't that make you a quarter Arapaho?" She shrugged and said, "I guess....I don't know."

That goes some way toward explaining why Native Americans don't rank at the top on SAT's and the like, I guess. Native Americans are basically Asiatic Siberians who migrated across the Bering Strait, and Eskimos/Inuit are for the most part East Asians who came across in a later migration (they look much more "Asian"), but there seems to bean IQ difference between the groups. I guess 12-14,000 years is plenty of time for some divergent evolution to occur.

I also asked a couple of guys working at one of the motels I stayed at, "Do I look Indian to you?" (Meaning, subcontinental variety, like them.) They both just gave me a leery look and shook their heads no. (I guess it's sort of an off the wall question.) To be honest -- and no offense to you -- I was sort of relieved to hear their answer, as neither of these guys was overly prepossessing. I do think Indian women can be very attractive, but somehow the men seem mostly pretty wimpy -- the Great Khali excepted:

Anonymous said...

John--I'm wondering what you're bottom line synopsis is of your fairly long road trip recently? I haven't done something like that since I was 21 but often I'm tempted to do that again-sort of like the Jack Karawak senario. Please tell me if it was worth your while in retrospect and if you would recommend it to someone like me, 63 y/o retired dude-:). Thanks, Brian

John Craig said...

Brian --
The bottom line for me was that next time I either take an airplane or force myself to make more stops, get off the major highways more. I always think beforehand that it's going to be a great adventure, I'm going to see this and that, and do some big hikes in the national forests. But then, once I'm on the road, I start thinking in terms of making good time, and I end up skipping a lot of the things I had intended to do. And if you stick to the major highways, really, you see nothing except the same chain motels and restaurants and gas stations. You'll occasionally get some glimpses of nice scenery, but that's about it. So, I'd recommend it, but with the caveat that you force yourself to take a lot of detours and see some national parks and other points of interest along the way. (I did this with my family in the summer of '07, annam glad I did.) I'd also recommend if you're going to do a round trip to take the far southern route one way and the northern route the other, making sure you go up (or down) Highway 101 on the West Coast on your way. After a couple weeks in a car, living out of your suitcase, home will seem more appealing, but that's not such a bad thing.

Mike said...

John, I missed the fact that you were treated for cancer; I was too, and scan clear so far for years. The "plumbing" works a bit differently, but not so bad. I hope all is well with you.
In my forensic practice, I've had cases with folks from India and Pakistan, and have known Bangladeshis here in my University town. Had their kids on my soccer teams, along with folks from Iran, Brazil, and all over the place. You are right about the motel biz, but also many convenience stores are owned by folks from the subcontinent.
Case I had in South Texas years ago involved a family of Pakis with a guy owning somewhere around 60 stores all over South Texas. I was hired by another Paki fellow who partnered in biz with the first guy, and arranged for a cousin to marry the first guy from India. Neither had ever laid eyes on her, but wow... gorgeous. She moved in with first guy and his family: Father, Mother, sister, and brother, no kids yet (this is important later, as you'll see}
One night brother gets mad at him, shoots him deader'n a hammer. The family proceeds to start draining his accounts, hiding huge cash amounts, four cars, etc. They put the wife (remember, no kids) literally in the street.
As I understand it, in the old country property reverts to the man's family, and if the couple is childless, tough titty for the wife. She is damaged goods.
My part was to verify that the sister was forging his name on everything after he died in an effort to gain his entire estate. This I did in court as an expert witness.
The most unusual development came when I was called back to court a couple weeks later to determine genuineness of one final check in the amount of 5,000 dollars.
Non-genuine, of course; what was incredible was the fact it was a retainer check to an attorney. A defense attorney. For the brother that did the shootin'.
Think about it, the dead guy's money going to the defense of his killer.....

John Craig said...

Mike --
I had the same kind of cancer as you, which seems to be incredibly commonplace. I had proton therapy, which I'd recommend to anybody, I ended up with as few side effects as I could possibly expect, although they tell me that because of the radiation I got, I'm more at risk for other types of cancers ten years or so down the road.

Wow, that's an incredible story. The whole family was in on that despicable action, and figured they could do things the old country way. Women are treated quite badly in that area of the world. (It's funny, there's nowhere in the world women are treated better than in the West, and that's exactly where the feminist movement has taken root.) Anyway, yeah, I hope that case had a satisfactory resolution for the widow -- thanks to your help. Sounds like they really screwed themselves with that last check.

Anonymous said...

John--thanks for that reply, it gives me a lot to consider. Two things that if I were to take such a trip might make it a success. One is (as you suggest) take routes other than interstate highways as was described in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance which I read when I was about about 22. The other might be to have a companion like a friend, lover, wife (if she's interested) to go with-although that also can be dicey, depending. Also, great suggestion about going out South and coming back North. In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.....-:) Brian

John Craig said...

Brian --
Sure. Yes, companionship can help, though being in such close quarters for so long can also wear.

Ha, you and I are among the few old enough to remember that song.