Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The eyes have it

Spouting pithy sayings is one of those adult pastimes that children adopt quite readily. I remember one saying in particular that we used to throw around as if we had learned it sitting at some great philosopher's feet.

When you assume, you make an ass out of "u" and me.

Now, it never really made any sense to me, but it was part of the prevailing wisdom so I didn't question it aloud. But I wondered, aside from the cleverness associated with picking the word apart, what value did this philosophical gem have? Why was I an ass because "u" made an assumption?

All of this came to mind because the other day someone mistook me for another person.

As I walked past her, a woman at the office where I am freelancing congratulated me on my new job and called me by someone else's name. I had no new job, and the name she used wasn't mine. But, still, I was curious.

Who was this person I asked, and why was she to be congratulated. The congratulating woman and her co-worker froze, realizing their mistake. They'd thought I was someone else. Not quite an assumption, but it was an error of a sort.

"Oh, but you look just like her." " She's taller than you, but she's very pretty," they assured me. As if it mattered. I am not her, no matter what she looks like. But we all assuage our guilt however we can.

People can only make an ass out of you if you let them. They assumed the person they saw was not me, but someone else, but why should I feel silly or insulted? I knew very well that this other woman was black and that to the unobservant Caucasian eye, I resembled her as I briskly walked past. I also know how many times I have confused on white person for another.

Still, it was amusing to see them get flustered.

No comments: