December 17, 2010
How The Mentalist Helps Me Read People
Yesterday I was standing in a long holiday post office line felling like I was back in one of those countries where the term “urgency” has not yet been invented. [Yes, I’m talking to you, Mr. Postmaster] To relieve my mounting boredom, I decided to apply my mentalist skills on the people standing in line in front of me. This will serve as a good example of how easy it is to know what people are all about just by making several quick Sherlock Holmesian deductions after avidly watching two seasons of The Mentalist on DVD reruns.
Farthest away was an attractive young woman with long, brown chestnut hair tied back in a loose pony tail. She was wearing sweat pants and an active wear jacket from the same outfit. She was slim, in shape and clearly ready for action.
I’d say she was a runner, probably specializing in marathons. She’s not deep, but she can focus. She can do the long haul. But she is also insecure, and that’s precisely why she can focus. Once she gets something she stays with it. She stays with what she knows. She didn’t look around very much, and when she did, she just stole glances, she didn’t really look at anything or anyone. Mostly she stood very orderly in line and gazed ahead obediently.
She got a phone call from her newly acquired boyfriend. How do I know it was her new BF? Easy. She sounded nervous and she made a kind of fumbling comment about being stuck at the Post Office, “and we all know how long that can take,” which she later regretted as embarrassing. It’s the kind of thing you say when you talk out of nervousness, when you are reaching out for something clever or interesting. Who other than a new boyfriend would produce this kind of effect? But she shouldn’t worry. I think he really does like her.
Mr. Nice Guy
Second in line in front of me was a tall and well-built man in his mid fifties wearing a black t-shirt . He also had a pony tail, but it was much smaller, and his hair was thick and black. Around his neck hung a couple home-made wooden beadish necklaces. At first sight he seemed imposing and maybe even intimidating. But when he turned around, he had a pleasant expression and an easy smile. He also stood loosely, in a kind of sideways stoop that sent a very non-aggressive vibe.
He was impatient. He turned, looked this way and that, and he examined all the boring products the post office puts out for you to purchase. But he was good-natured bored, not irritable bored like some people. It’s just that his mind was active, looking for something to chew on. I deduced, of course, that this man is an artist of some sort. Maybe a musician, but I lean to the visual arts. Painting, graphic design. He’s not a writer. Writers are sullen and withdrawn, they don’t easily smile at strangers. Instead they stand off to the side and analyze them, thinking about how to use them in their next piece. He works from home. In spite of being a nice guy, he is recently divorced. He most certainly lives in a cabin or has at least decked out his normal house to be woodsier. When artist guy got to the counter, he was all smiles and pleasantries with the clerk. Not the slightest hint of irritation, even though he had clearly been impatient. See, I knew it! The Mentalist at work.
Right in front of me was short, solid – not fat – man. He was bald. He wore jeans and a black jacket with an emblem on the left side. He was patient, no doubt about it. He just stood there looking blankly ahead (he was half tuned towards me most of the time). He did not fidget, he did not look at his cell phone, he did not examine the displays, he did not look around at his neighbors, he did not get any calls from his girlfriend. He just looked straight ahead in an expressionless peaceful sort of contemplation. A good man to have on your side when the going gets rough, I thought.
He was cook, that was patently obvious. Cooks understand order, instructions, waiting for the right moment. Plus cooks like to eat and this solid – not fat – man clearly enjoyed a good morsel. Most importantly, though, the insignia on his jacket said, “[something European] cooking school” (I don’t recall the exact name) and his packages were in a plastic grocery back from the Olive Garden. It’s perfectly obvious that he had recently been a cook at the Olive Garden restaurant. Most likely he had been a cook at several of them, cooks being the nomadic sort and the Olive Garden being a franchise. I’m pretty sure he was sending a present to his mother, too. I can’t tell you why. After you do this for a while you develop a sixth sense, an intuition, and you just know. He’s a single cook, living alone, sending a present to his mother, who lives a long ways way. Probably back East.
And so you see just how easy it is to read people when you stay up really late watching episodes of The Mentalist on DVD. It’s uncanny, isn’t it?