This happened to me on Monday, except it went a little different. HERE’S THE STORY:
Sitting in an office isn’t a great source of exercise, so once a week, I don’t take the van or the scooter. It was a nice day on monday, and I had enough time to either walk to work or ride the bike. I picked the bike, and sped off to a meetin’ at tim hortons.
Apparently, i’m in better shape then I thought, and I showed up to the meeting a half an hour early. Because I was on my bike, I didn’t pack a lot of stuff in my back-pack to do in the mean-time, so I basically just sat at a table and waited. I don’t know if you’ve ever waited for 30 mins in a Tim Hortons (or, if you aren’t Canadian, any doughnut shop or fast-food establishment), but you start to notice things. WEIRD things.
I started to notice that the computer animated “crispy chicken sandwich ad” which looped on the TV every thirty seconds, located inbetween the two menu boards at the front counter, had a pretty glaring perspective glitch in the last 3/4 top to straight ahead panning shot of the commercial. If you watch the lower bun, it shifts and shimmies in a way that is impossible and unnatural; it reminds me a lot of how 2d trees in 3d rendered environments always face you (for all you psx and n64 peeps). Anyways, when I first started to notice this, I thought it was my eyes playing tricks on me… surely, a company as big as Tim Hortons wouldn’t let an animating glitch like that fly, right? Having 30 minutes to kill, I spent every last second of it staring at that menu, trying to pin-point the animation error and what I would do differently. I tried to figure out if maybe they had done it on purpose, if it made the sandwich look better or something. It did not.
It was around the 25 minute mark where a nice man in his late sixties came over to me and said, “Have you eaten lunch yet?” He had a look in his eye that was… concerned? and slightly disgusted, one part sympathy and one part disciplining. I was confused… and then it dawned on me.
Having biked to Tim Hortons, I was a bit of a sweaty mess. My hair was probably pretty greasy and matted-looking from the bike-helmet. I hadn’t shaved in a week, so my beard was getting a little scraggly. On top of this, I had an empty, gross looking back-pack sitting on the floor next to me, I was wearing a sweaty t-shirt, and I hadn’t ordered anything… To him, I was just a guy, down on his luck, staring longingly at the menu for the last 25 minutes.
So, he thought I was a homeless guy. A look of horror flashes across my face, and then his face, and we awkwardly fumble through the whole,
“Oh, i’m not… like, you know, homeless…”
“Oh! oh. No, me neither… i mean… really? uh, that’s not what…. um…”
“Well, Ok then…” to which he replies,
“I hope you’re not embarrassed?”
At which point, a couple thoughts run through my mind all at the same time.
First, I felt like HE was the one who should be embarrassed. After all, I’m not homeless, and it was his mistake. Right?
Second, I felt INCREDIBLY embarrassed, because apparently I put off a homeless vibe, which is something I didn’t know.
Third, I wondered if it would make me seem LESS a vagrant if I tried to explain why i was staring at the menu, or if it would just cause him to think that I was crazy.
Fourth, I wondered why i felt so embarrassed to be thought of as homeless.
Fifth, I wondered where the guy had gone.
So I didn’t take him up on his free chicken sandwich, and we were both embarrassed, and I felt guilty for making an old guy feel embarrassed, and I felt guilty for being ashamed of being thought of as homeless.
I haven’t thought through why i felt guilty yet, but if i had to wager a guess, I think it would be… I realized how easily I judge people by their appearance, or their social status, instead of just taking the time to get to know them for who they are. I wonder how deep-seeded this is? I wonder how to change it?