If you enlarge the photo, you might just make out the little chip sitting on the very top of this pile of Bath stone. It was the last straw.
This photo was taken at the yard of my primary local stone suppliers. Everyone who works there is called John, including the owner, and his father. This makes the personal touch in phone calls very easy, as I just say, "Hello John," whenever anyone answers.
It normally takes me a while to put a name to a face because I am usually not listening too hard when they introduce themselves. This is not rudeness, it is just because I am gleaning as much in-depth information about them from their physical appearance as possible, and this is done within the first few seconds, which is usually when they are telling me their name.
No words form in my mind when I give them the initial scan, as they would only get in the way. It is only later - when they have left - that I attach mental notes in the form of short descriptions which maybe useful in future dealings with them, and these can range from 'arsehole' to 'dangerous' to 'funny', and it is only much later that I may consciously remember minute physical details, such as the elongated ear-lobes indicative of autism, or frontal skull deformations which can be a tell-tale sign of psychopathy.
For some reason, I have the hardest trouble remembering the names of people who have the same one as me. It can take weeks, and sometimes years before I call them by my own name. You would think it the other way round, wouldn't you?
Judging people by their clothes never produces accurate assessments, though. Every time I have foolishly allowed myself to fall for the attempt of someone to outwardly portray an image of themselves which is merely a deflection away from the real person inside, I have got it wrong.
I have one young friend who dresses in Hip-Hop, Prison-White, Adidas clothes from head to foot, including a baseball-cap put on the wrong way round, and it took me weeks to learn that he is really a very polite, well-brought up lad from a middle-class background, and about as far from Gangsta as you can get.
He has just got himself a job as a night-club bouncer, and he spends all of those nights standing at the door of the club hoping that nobody tries to pick a fight with him after spotting the pussy-cat within. Even the black bomber jacket with 'Security' written in white letters all over it doesn't help.
I can spot an insecure and sensitive woman lurking behind a loud, aggressive and overly assertive frontage from a mile away, but I think that probably everyone can do that if they just calm down a bit.
I don't think any of us truly knows what effect we have on others, if we don't rely on clothing to project the image of our desire. I have often been told that I am 'scary' as an initial impression, but I can honestly say that I have never thought of myself like that when I haven't been trying to create any sense of fear for my own protection. I am too old now, in any case.
Young women used to scowl at me, but now they actually smile. I must look 'safe'. I could do with a bit more scowling, please. Just a bit, before my age makes me invisible.
Now can you see the chip?!