Friday, May 14, 2010

Learning to READ people

Even in my youth I always enjoyed watching people at school, in the lunchroom, or moving to and from class. I never was particularly aware of status or current trends, but I would routinely try and see if I could learn something unique about strangers just for the fun of it. My interest was never particularly to judge or profile others positively or negatively as much as it was to judge my own ability to interpret nuance and hone my people reading skills.

Learning to read’people can be an important ability for fun or at work. Like any super power, it can be both used as a force for good or for evil. Though most of my life as an adult, I have tried to read people and situations to quell problems and provide comfort, but when I was younger however, I was not as kind. Particularly in third grade I remember some kid in class had caught my eye as being unusually insecure for reasons unknown. From my preferred perch in the back of the room, his head out of a sea of others seemed my best’prospect for distraction from a boring filmstrip in class that day.

The amazing part was before the lights went out, this kid ALSO knew that he had been marked by my evil intent. I sensed his paranoia as he looked back furtively to see if somebody was watching him. Remember we did not know each other at all, yet when he turned around the first time I was indeed casually looking at him. The second time he glanced back, I had begun to stare at him with more intensity and I could see him squirm more in his seat with discomfort. By the third look back, and almost the beginning of the film, when the kid turned around, I had widened my eyes into a demonic glare. I was absolutely in comic shock when the kid SCREAMED out, "That kid is staring at me!"”The teacher liked me fine. However, being aware of my past transgressions, she immediately took the side of the whiney kid pointing at me and without confirming evidence. I was told to SIMPLY mind my own business and stop staring. Why did these teachers never understand that this was NOT so simple for me?

Once the room went dark and the teacher became pre-occupied with the film strip machine, undeterred, I resumed my ocular fixation on the kid. Hey it's a free country I wasn't touching him or hurting anyone right? What's the difference if I stare at him or the projection screen I have to look at something? For a few moments the kid watched the film as did I, but from my vantage point, I could see his every twitch or squirm. If he even made a glance back to check on me, I would open my eyes wide and look in his direction. Through the dark, I’m sure my glowing eyes from the reflection of the bright screen haunted him until again he cut the blackness with another blood-curdling scream! The teacher turned on the lights and tried to console the kid from my "special" attention. Since I had not heeded her warning, I was told to sit outside the classroom and miss’the rest of the filmstrip. I did not lie to avoid my sentence, as punishments went,this was not bad for a people watcher like myself. Now I had the light of day and MORE potential 'subjects'to wander by the room. Thanks to school and that teacher, that's where I really learned to love Reading!

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