Thin Slicing

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I'm pretty sure that the reason I enjoy writing at a bar is because after a few beverages I just enjoy talking, but talking out loud to yourself at a bar is pretty awkward. So I resort to typing my fingers away as fast as possible on this small phone. This current bar is actually a perfect fit for my writing. As I sit, I witness a gentleman by himself close out his tab. It's fascinating to think that every person here right now is here for a different reason. I wonder what his story is? He was wearing a San Diego Chargers hoodie, a shaved head and a grey beard, younger in the face. If I had to guess, he was probably recently divorced and still in the process of putting the pieces of his life together. She probably cheated on him due to his diminishing looks and mediocre career. But hey, I can only thin slice an opinion.

Now let’s discuss the group of two guys around their late 20's also sitting across from me. One of them is now balding and the other has long hair, sort of looks like Howard Stern. These two spew insecurity and a lack of success. They were probably best friends in high school and neither's life panned out how they had thought, much like most of us. Life is hard.  The one that is balding is now attempting to compensate by wearing obnoxious designer clothes and a bold hat while drinking a glass full of his own tears as he silently cries for help. Ok he’s actually drinking beer. I should buy them both a round to help drown their sorrows. I would guess that they are frequent visitors to this establishment. What else do you want to know? I’d rather not spend all night on these two, this bar is packed full of characters.

Alright I must get this wonderful gentleman to my right out of the way before he drives me out of here and I can't finish this article. Years ago I wrote a very similar article at this same place and this guy was in here boasting off about some nonsense and eating chicken wings. Then, I witnessed him pick his teeth clean of chicken wings and flick the pieces from his teeth nonchalantly across the bar. Of course he failed to realize that I was paying very close attention. Fast forward to now and nothing has changed. Loud, obnoxious and overwhelmingly incorrect information are most of the things that he is preaching, but I would never stoop to his level for an argument... It would take more than 10 beers. What does this guy do for a living?

Well other than annoying, I would bet that he's actually successful at his career. That or he inherited a lot of money. His loud and obnoxious confidence had to come from somewhere, and his commonplace in this bar shows that he can afford to spend money. I would bet money that he's actually pretty successful at whatever he does. I just happen to always catch him at his worst and he strikes a nerve with me. He's around his mid-40's, I still sense some young energy. He's probably in a successful trade industry like electrical, if he didn't inherit that money. I'm still leaning toward inheritance or some sort of way that he came across a lot of money without any talent or skill. His basic argumentative points aren’t what actually infuriate me; it’s everyone around him that listens to what he says. Ok I have to move on, people are coming and going and I can’t move off this clown. There are some really interesting stories in here. If only I could talk to myself out loud…

There is a father and a son, the hot female bartender, the older male bartender, young guy and his girlfriend, a middle aged couple directly to my left and a girl who just walked in by herself and sat straight across from me. They’re all unique in their own way but I'm fascinated by this girl who came in by herself... Are you kidding me? That takes REAL courage. Let's discuss her right after I finish this beer..

Okay it's not even 3 minutes later and the single girl had her girlfriend show up. The good news is that I finished my beer. The bad news is that I was looking forward to discussing her courage. But now she's just a boring typical girl who came here with her other single girlfriend, not that interesting. But wait, I was wrong! Now I’m intrigued. They aren't just friends, they are in a relationship. This is something that I wasn't expecting. When you really think about it, these two represent our new generation. I enjoy the new generation because I have taught myself how to embrace change. I believe that one of the best characteristics to have is the ability to adapt quickly to a changing environment. These two women are obviously very progressive. They probably wouldn't get along with most of the other older conservative folk in this bar. But those older folk better get used to it. These two girls are the future. I'm sure that their relationship won't last but their willingness to try new things and take risks is something the older generation secretly envies. Finally after an entire paragraph this waitress just got around to refilling my beverage… ugh.

On to the couple on my left. If they represent anything, it’s love. I've been listening to their conversation and some of the things that they have said have made me smile. It's encouraging to see two people who so genuinely get along. They have been here since before I arrived and they’ve been laughing the whole time. Both of them are in their early 40's and moderately successful. I think they have both been formerly married but since have split. Based on the maturity of their conversation, I would bet that they both have good relationships with their ex-spouses. One is drinking very moderately (obviously the driver) signifying maturity in their decision making. They have their stuff together. I would bet on this relationship to succeed based on mutual confidence and respect. True love just sounds more genuine than the fake stuff. I can spot a couple that won’t last from a mile away, or at least I like to think so.

As I go through more couples than I can even discuss before I drink more than eligible to drive home (don’t worry, I walked) let me just say this. All of these assumptions that I’m making have one thing in common, they are based on little information and it’s something that we all do constantly even without realizing it. Thin slicing is a part of all of us but we need to be aware that we’re doing it. Don’t judge a book by its cover.

So that finally brings me to myself. I can go in many directions with this, so let's take both extremes, maybe just to prove my point.

I’m a single guy at a bar on a week night by himself. There’s a piece of paper sitting in front of me that I occasionally write on and look at. That seems very strange at a bar this crowded. He looks younger, late 20's or early 30's. It doesn't look like things have exactly panned out for him in his life; why else would he be at a bar on a week night all by himself? He's probably depressed or on the verge of losing his mind, at least that's how he looks. His girlfriend probably recently left him and now he's lost searching for a new definition in life. I’m sure that he was defined by his girlfriend and their relationship. So now he's coming to this bar to write about all of his problems which I'm sure come across as a whiny little baby. He was probably a jock in high school and he will never experience the kind of success in life that he did in those days. Reminiscing about his high school glory will be his favorite hobby. It's a sad story.

Ok, that was brutal, and mostly not true. But to some people I’m sure that's how I look right now. But to other people I may look like this..

This is a young guy in his mid-20's, full of energy and vibrant. He’s clean cut with glasses, and an athletic build. This guy just portrays confidence. He's in the absolute prime of his life and he knows it. He's probably here on business and chose to go out for a drink and a bite to eat. They say that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover but this guy has a great cover. He's taking notes as he drinks, surely juggling a project at work even on his evening out. Whatever it is, he's multi-tasking, smart, and diligent. This guy is serving a purpose in society…. That was a little different than the previous example huh?

Based on my nationality and race, you could say that in general I've been a beneficiary of thin slicing throughout my life. But thin slicing eventually provides all of us with obstacles. It can at times be a valuable tool but always be aware and consider it. Remember that everyone comes from a different story and background. Everyone is dealing with a different set of problems that you can't ever see on the surface.

I'm naturally a pretty pessimistic person but I'm trying to teach myself to more often give people the benefit of the doubt. Being rigid can be good in the military but I think it's pushing us apart as a society. Republicans and Democrats have never been so combative, the millennials are clashing with the older generations, and the race divide seems to be getting worse lately instead of better. Our lack of understanding and inability to be flexible are pushing us all apart. We all need to understand that everyone is dealing with different problems and coming from different places. Not everyone is going to like and believe in the same things that you do, so deal with it. How about instead of always pointing out our differences, let's start talking about what we all have in common?