I stopped at the drive-through ATM for some cash today. There were two of them and each one had a car already. Since I didn’t want to do the dickhead-park in the middle, creating a single-line snake of waiting cars behind me that would get T-boned by a drunken Trans-Am and slice through the entire bank, toppling J.P. Morgan Chase in a way your ethical concerns and activism about finance corporations and their ruthless exploitation of the disenfranchised never will, I had to choose which line to join.
Join me in this decision making situation.
One car is a simple, modern sedan – the kind that’s meant to be quite ordinary – and the other is a big (I mean big) ole’ pickup truck, the kind that crashes through lumber pallets in the TV commercial just to show it can and you need a dumbwaiter lift to get inside of. Which line would you pick? I got behind the sedan and I realized why: my assumption about the Howitzer F9000 Megatruck was that he would be less comfortable with technology, or maybe even dumber overall, and would take longer to use the machine. I thought the sedan would be done first. And the sedan was done first.
After that, I was pulling out of the parking lot next door, coming through an aisle onto the main parking lot way, and saw a small convertible about to come out the aisle right next to mine, with a pair of giggling young blondes inside. I stopped and waited for safety’s sake, thinking, they’re not going to stop. And like I thought, the driver’s head never even turned to see that I was coming as she sped onto the roadway without stopping, arms gesturing to her friend in conversation.
The question in these situations is, am I a bigot for being right?
I don’t think anyone would (or should) feel comfortable defending stereotypes. But as you should know from reading neurological psychology books (what, doesn’t everybody), the ability to form generalizations about people (and everything) was very important in humans being able to rise up and form civilizations and modern progress and Instagram. Being able to group people and situations quickly into simple categories, and make predictions about their behavior through that, freed our brains up to focus on bigger problems (like how to make your face less round in a straight-on selfie), and kept us safe in dangerous situations. When you look at someone, your brain automatically makes a million little judgments about them, realize it or not, and a lot of them are right.
Another thing is that we actually try to conform to group descriptions. It all goes back to high school when you met a clique you wanted to hang out with, because you both liked listening to the Beets and 2 Guys N The Parque so when they brought up that they also like to listen to Bugsteak, you were like, YEAH, Bugsteak is the BOMB (we used to talk like that), and as it turned out, you actually did end up liking them. It was like a package: the type of people who like THIS also like THAT, even in unrelated fields. Now quinoa goes with Warby Parker, Audi goes with Breitling-wearing cocks, liberal social politics go with organic rooftop gardens, and overeducated creative writing majors go with aimless blogging.
The reason it’s good we feel uncomfortable with stereotypes, however, is now that we’ve established all this great society and modern standard of living (in our privileged countries, at least), we can start to spend more mental energy on examining people as individuals, getting to know them for the content of their character. Today’s information technology and our freedom to contemplate in the open forum remove our excuse not to judge others on immediate independent merits. Or at least by how much we want to double-tap on their shirtless pics.