You know what they say when you assume, right? When you look or behave in a certain way, people assume things about you. I was reminded of this gem recently, and it along with today’s events have called to the front why assumptions aren’t bullet-proof.
I was in graduate school here. My bachelor’s degree had already been conferred, so while college degrees do not automatically equal brains, there’s something to be said about graduating from college with honors. The proliferation of online parchment factories, Writeaway U “institutions,” have allowed some less-worthy scholars to earn big letters to attach to their signatures. Whatevs. My point is that assuming something based on appearance alone can lead one down a path of faulty reasoning. The day this particular photo was taken was the day of a radio contest victory. I won the opportunity to hang out with and interview Billy Squier at his in-store appearance and signing. As she approached the signing table, a fangirl asked if I was his tour manager. I replied that I was not; I was just a graduate student who won a radio contest. The comeback rocker stopped mid-sentence, turned to look at me and asked, “YOU’RE IN GRADUATE SCHOOL?” He didn’t yell as the all caps thing may lead you to believe, but his tone of incredulity was 100% real. I stated that I was studying speech-language pathology at conservative Marquette University, and he just stared blankly at me. Obviously I still recall the exchange, so it left an impression. And obviously I didn’t exactly fit right in at Marquette University, but I was a lark, and they liked me OK. Plus I did well academically, much to the surprise of many a PhD.
Back in the day (see photo above), my friends and I used to go to hair band concerts all the time, and guys made assumptions about us. We were slutty (we were not), we were dumb (we were not), we would give them rides home (what the huh?). After a time, Mary Kay and I made it our practice to ask guys if they knew what the Pythagorean Theorem was. It was random as anything, but we laughed about it because we thought we were pretty cute and clever about this. If they could provide “A squared plus B squared equals C squared,” we’d continue to chat. If not, we had a silly conversation and moved on. No one thinks you’re a cerebral, capable person when your hair looks like mine did, and yes, I may be a little bit responsible for a small tear in the ozone. Ah, I miss the ’80s. But I was none of the things people assumed I was.
When it comes to major purchases, my husband and I are a riot to shop with, we are like a comedy team. When he’s lipping off, I assure sales people that he’s just being sassy, and I’ll shush him. He’ll shake his head at me as I so richly deserve, and we’ll eventually come to consensus on the best tile or coffee table or French Door fridge model. Sales people like us and we laugh a lot. We are nice and we are approachable, and we will probably spend too much money because we suck at money, but don’t assume we’re suckers, people. Yesterday my husband and I completed our appliance purchase for our new kitchen remodel. I didn’t want a new dishwasher because the old one works just fine, Tom, and the shelf slider can be repaired in $75 or less, but I acquiesced.
We paid the balance on the fridge, range and (unnecessary) dishwasher with a check from our home equity credit line. After handing him the check, the salesman provided me an invoice which promptly found its way into my purse. En route to the bank this morning, I took a peek at said invoice and found a line item for $299 for some extended warranty we neither discussed nor want. Instantly I go into beast mode, which I
sometimes often do when I feel wronged financially. I don’t have the kind of cashola to blow it off, so I pay attention when it comes to cash. I call the appliance vendor, and of course, my sales guy was off today. Mike wasn’t real interested in hearing my tale and referred me to corporate customer service. Bastard even gave me the wrong number. OF COURSE corporate customer service doesn’t answer, so I call back the store and lo and behold, our sales guy answers the call. He insists that the warranty was already on the order, and I say that I am looking at our original invoice and IT WAS NOT. Again, not shouting, but I do adopt a certain tone when I’m the underdog. Most people take the extended warranty, so he assumed we did too.
So sales guy says he’ll take it to corporate and make it right. I declare my disinclination to pay interest for something I neither agreed to purchase nor want. Hmmm, well, your check is on its way to the corporate office. Yep. Don’t care. Fix it. He assumed that issuing a refund would be OK. Yeah. It’s not enough. I have little faith that this will be solved to my satisfaction today, but you know what? I’m making an assumption based on previous experiences. And by previous experiences I am of course referring to the joy of getting screwed by different suspect salespeople in my life. I am so looking forward to being wrong. I really am.
Humanity makes assumptions based on appearance all the time. One has to look no further than today’s headlines to see living, breathing, and heartbreakingly dying proof of what assuming can do. It’s so far beyond making an ass of you and me. But this is not a post about the tragic nature of current events. Baseball parents have made assumptions on my little boy’s skillset because he’s a giant kid. He’s got baseline skills, so it’s kind of OK, but he’s 10, so let’s not expect him to pitch a no-hitter or smack a line drive every time. Random strangers assume my big kid is a basketball phenom because he’s 5′ 9″ already at age 12; he’s skinny now and lanky and looks the part, but his muscles are wasting away, weakening daily, so no, the NBA is not in his future. I’m nice, and people assume I’m always nice, but screw me over and I become not so nice. I’ve been screwed over too many times, and while I’ll remain polite, I do hold a grudge, just ask Wal-Mart (yeah, they’re corporate structure is crushed without my personal contribution to their world domination). And I can also write a devastating letter to the home office or Better Business Bureau, so you better be prepared, appliance people, and you better not assume I won’t follow up.
Really, this was just an opportunity for me to give legitimacy to revisiting and reposting my amazing ’80s hair. Victory goes to the smart girl on this one. Yes, the smart girl. The one who singlehandedly skyrocketed stock in Aqua Net White hairspray between 1986-1989. The one who will receive a fair, appropriate outcome from the appliance vendor’s (hopefully not intentional) error of assumption.