I had a bit of a fight with my family, based on one family member backing out essentially at the last minute from plans made earlier. I was angry and decided that rather than doing the wise thing and sublimating that anger into finishing cleaning and packing my apartment, I would visit the corner grocery and convenience store. I meant to pick up some energy drinks for the trip and a Haagen Däs bar for comfort.
There were three people behind the counter today. A nice young man, about my age or a bit younger, a middle-aged woman who was doing inventory, and a woman who looked older than 50. The young man was serving an older man who directed a veritable torrent of sexist "jokes" at the two women. All employees were clearly uncomfortable with this, but he was jovial and almost done paying for whatever he was getting. He then said something that I had to reply to.
"It's a man's civic duty to be an asshole to women." I am, of course, paraphrasing. He repeated the line because there were people in his "audience" who didn't let out some nervous laughter, so I'm sure of all the words except "asshole". He might have said "ass" or "prick" or maybe "jerk". My response was "if you say so," said with a smile. The aim was to subtly tell him he was not supported by this particular male, while keeping the tone light. The reply from him was "well, it might not win you any points, but it feels good." "Iiiiiiiif you say so," I said, in a more fauc-cheery manner, as if I was a sitcom character and that was my catchphrase. The 50something who was serving me piped in right then.
"Well that's why...never mind". This prompted a slightly less friendly "what?" from the sexist guy, and my cashier handwaved it with "nothing." His debit payment (everyone in Canada shops almost exclusively with Interac debit cards) completed, and he was gone a moment later. The woman clarified to us "I know him, his wife left him not long ago. I was going to say 'Well that's why your wife left you' but I thought better of it." The younger cashier said that he figured the guy was single, and she said "yeah, he is now, so that's why..." and she left it hanging. Did she mean that's why he was acting sexist? That's why she was nicer where she didn't need to be? I'll never know. After a moment, my purchase was done and I said "and there's a reason for that." Laughter. "Have a good day, sir." I nodded, left.
Knowing little details can change a situation greatly. Was that man really a genuine sexist asshole, or was he really hard done by his wife who left him? If the one cashier hadn't known him, I'd have simply assumed he was a distasteful person. Now, I know he at least has a reason to be angry at women. Perhaps not a very good one, and perhaps he did cause her to leave him, but I'd never even consider the possibility that he was anything aside from a total bastard without knowing that one detail.
How many other times have I judged a person poorly knowing nothing about them aside from a single thing they did or said? I know we've all done it. How many times do we similarly judge those we know only through work, school, etc. How often do rumours of bitchiness or other similar things get started because of one bad day?
What I'm saying is we ought to be less quick to judge others before we know anything about them.