Thursday, April 22, 2010

The guy you met last week

I managed to make an instant enemy a couple of weeks ago. I happened to be looking at a beautiful leather Fossil laptop bag; a bag I could never afford but couldn't help trying on. My friend walked past with a friend of his. I gushed about how much I loved the bag. His friend decided I was a pretentious knob who spends his life buying R2000 bags and condescending to everyone who doesn't own one.

Admittedly, I wouldn't normally bother myself with someone who makes judgements so quickly, but because that particular summary of my personality jars so startlingly with the kind of person I think I am, it got me thinking about the randomness of first impressions. The timing of when you meet someone really does determine what they think of you. If I were weeping that day, or eating at Spur, I would have seemed like an entirely different person.

But it's much more than impressions. All of the perceptions we have about ourselves and each other and things are time-specific. I feel a particular way about lawyers now, for example, that I did not a few years ago. I have opinions and preferences that are new. I relate to my friends as the people they are in this particular lifestage, in their particular circumstances. I identify myself as 26, and a brand strategist, and a Capetonian. But not one of those identities is permanent, and not one of them was true two years ago. We have good days, and funny days and days when we're too tired to make conversation. We are generous and stingy, young and old, idealistic and jaded. We miss great loves because we were perfect for each other at the wrong time, or in sequence.

The more I think about it, the more I think we are are just balls of constant change blaring through life. So the trick is to never take anything personally, because the conditions that form people's perceptions of you right now are transient, and relatively random. Timing isn't just the key to great jokes, great loves and great brands.

All there is, really, is timing.


  1. Eugene de VilliersApril 27, 2010 at 9:09 AM

    Awesome piece of writing. Great pieces and so true. How many times in my life have I met people that would/could be such great friends/boyfriends or lovers but then due to the wrong time and place nothing became of it.
    Keep up the good work Al.

  2. Not only is this piece so true, but it also seems uniquely relevant considering recent events. I mean just consider the most unfortunate timing of Eugene Terre' Blanche's death after the infamy of Julius Malema's controversial lyrical expressions. Epic fail in timing. Time truly plays a defining role in history, it really is all there is.

    On a more personal note, I wholeheartedly concur with Eugene. Timing influences the relationships we have with others. I recently found a quote by Stacey Chater, which reads: "Life is all about timing... the unreachable becomes reachable, the unavailable become available, the unattainable... attainable. Have the patience, wait it out. It's all about timing." However, life never seems to unfold in that way, does it? Especially in a society like our based on the instant satisfaction that the Information Age has seemed to encourage. Waiting has become a relic. Maybe we should learn to wait again?

    Apologies for the arbitrary strain-of-consciousness ramblings.

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  4. Yup, which is why judging someone on first impressions is stupid. I couldn't stand many people when I met them, who have become really good friends of mine now.

    You'd think it would teach me to not take first impressions seriously, but I still do :S

    It is also weird on how we judge ourselves. You said "I identify myself as 26, and a brand strategist, and a Capetonian." and I certainly wouldn't describe myself as 26, travel writer and Capetonian. Although it's accurate, it's just not what springs to mind when I think about Simon Williamson.

    Ooh, you've sparked off some interesting thoughts here :)

  5. Just to clarify, I concur with Eugene de Villiers, not so much with Eugene Terre' Blanche...

  6. You're drilling me in followers. Fuck off.

  7. Thanks Eugene :)

    Mike, that's so true. Except for the bit about waiting. You do too much of that already. And as for the second point, we all know what you people are like in Stellenbosch :P

    Simon, glad to be of service :) There are obviously many things I identify with - those were just illustrative. My point is that all of them describe a state of something impermanent and time-specific, even the more ingrained characteristics like being shy or depressed.

    As for followers, it's neck and neck :) and you kill me on twitter so dry those eyes

  8. I do kill you on twitter, don't I?

    When we do jump back onto the dinner circuit (we'll have to send Original and Lawyer off to play putt putt or something) we'll have a good chinwag. I do think there are some fascinating points you bring up here.

  9. What a lovely blog. It must be so awesome getting comments on it, eh?