I’ve got this thing where I place myself in other people’s shoes. Some call it empathy, but I call it a curse.
This past Sunday, I traveled to Burlington to go record shopping with some friends. After we browsed through a couple of stores, we decided to go to this tea restaurant. I had never been in a place quite like it. There were Asian trinkets covering the walls and candles everywhere. Because they ran out of tables, we sat on a raised patio-type platform surrounded by chains of hemp suspended from the ceiling.
We sat on cushions around a small table. I had been suffering from one of the worst hangovers I had ever experienced. As a matter of fact, I almost got sick from the ferry ride on our way there.
“God, we really don’t belong here,” I said, laughing to my friend Jordan.
I had begun thinking of the restaurant’s regulars.
“These people probably eat tofu and grass-fed things and talk about how hipster they are,” I said.
I got a weird look and realized that grass-fed things were non-vegetarian. I stuck out like a sore thumb at that place. Their menu contained names of teas I had no idea how to pronounce. If I were to order only water, I’d be afraid the waiter would ask what kind of water I’d like and what I wanted infused in it.
I ordered a green tea called Ja Xan and realized I had judged this place too quickly. This tea not only tasted amazing, it also cured my hangover. It occurred to me that these customers didn’t frequent this place because they’re hipsters. They went because the place has amazing tea.
The lesson learned? Don’t judge a book by its cover. It’s cliché, but it’s true. The same goes for people. Burlington is notorious for hipsters who view things as cool before they were cool. But these people are cool. They’re not afraid to try new things that aren’t the norm.
And then there are those who eat alone.
This is the one thing that saddens me beyond belief. Every time I see a person dining alone, I immediately begin to think of their personal life. Why are they alone? Do they have friends? Did they just lose a loved one?
I can’t help but to look at everything at face value and try to dig deeper into the minds of strangers. But by doing so, I’ve realized I’m trying to figure something out that’s not in my control.
Seeing things for what they are without experiencing them first is dangerous for our character. We pass judgment on so many people and activities because they are abnormal to us. But Paul McCartney once said: “I used to think that anyone doing anything weird was weird. Now I know that it is the people that call others weird that are weird.”
Email Chris Burek at firstname.lastname@example.org