One problem I see rampant in our culture today is the desire to label anyone we meet and talk with (whether it's virtual or face to face) in a manner that classifies them. "Oh, you're a _____." These all-encompassing labels will allow us to know your political affiliation, ideology, religious beliefs, what kind of work you do, which side of the bed you sleep on, whether the toilet paper rolls over the top or correctly, and sometimes even what colour your underwear is. But these same labelers when asked what label fits them will say that they don't fit just one label. "I'm a new urbanist, civil, contrarian, neo-classical baroque, Hungarian-Irish, chi-peek-a-doodle Centrist."
A corollary to this problem is that more often than not if you speak disparagingly of what group that makes you a member of the polar opposite. For example, if you insult a Democrat you must be a Republican. Or the more important, if you make joke that has the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa as its focus you must be an Auburn fan. This also is not necessarily the case. (Just in case my favorite joke is when the cashier invites me to the express lane because they aren't busy but I have too many items and I ask if I have to act like an Auburn graduate that can't read or an Alabama graduate that can't count?)
My point here is of course dual but the main one is that we want to believe that we are multi-faceted but others are so easy to understand that one label covers all. That is almost certainly not the case. My second point is much less obvious.
I work with a German who is mostly a very typical German. He plans, he is prepared, he is on time, he doesn't break the law even if it's a stupid law like not killing the massive nest of hornets I have in my shed, and he puts his cellphones in the back seat of the car when he drives to keep from being distracted. While it sounds very spur of the moment to say he got married in Las Vegas, it actually was a very well planned out event when he and his wife toured the western United States and stopped where they arranged to get married in Vagas.
He is atypical in that he drives a lot. He actually drives more than I do, probably more than I drove in my last job where my daily commute was 1.5 to 2 hours one-way. We have driven many times together. Our trips to Wiesbaden or Garmisch are 3.5 hour trips one-way if we don't hit traffic. Driving through Wurzburg, Frankfurt, and/or Munchen we almost always hit traffic. When we started traveling together 2.5 years ago I would have my phone connected to the car's bluetooth but after a year or so he connected his to the car if he was driving.
Another atypicality of his is that he has never gotten a speeding ticket. Here in Germany they have speed cameras to give tickets. In speaking with a German lawyer on a different subject I mentioned a ticket I had received and he said, "Drive like a German. You'll get a ticket, pay it, and forget about it." Germans tend to get their licenses much later than Americans. He is six months older than me, but I got my license at 15, he did not. Partly this is because to get a license in Germany costs over 1000 Euros. The advantage is that their insurance is much cheaper. It should be, they can drive unlike us Americans with our cheap licenses and expensive insurance.
So it came as a surprise Friday when he told me he may have gotten a speeding ticket. You don't know until something gets mailed and since he was driving one of the vehicles I am signed for the notice comes to me. It arrives with a picture as well as the date and place so I can easily know to whom I need to send it for payment. I didn't think much of his revelation until a few minutes later when he said, at least I had the phone connected to the car so I wasn't holding my Blackberry to my ear. That would be a real sin in Germany. Another German I know got pulled over for just looking at his Handy (what Germans call their cellphones) while driving. Getting pulled over is a rarity because there are not roving bands of Polizei like we have in the US. They don't need to with speed cameras, and red-light cameras, and law abiding citizens. I may have mentioned before, in the US we will say, "That is the best law any politician has ever passed. I'm not going to obey it, but it's a great law." In Germany they say, "That's the stupidest law that anyone could have ever passed. It's so dumb we don't know how they dreamed it up. I mean, we're going to follow it, but it's dumb." And yes, those three sentences probably contain at least four 8 letter words that sound like you're angry when you say them even if you whisper.
A minute or two later in my conversation my friend revealed to me that his problem, and why the camera may have caught him, was that he was trying to connect his laptop to his iPhone for a data connection. This caused me to come to a full stop. I clarified, "You were speeding, because you were talking on your bluetooth, while trying to connect your laptop to your iPhone to access an email for a number?"
"Yes, for a conference call. The number was in an encrypted email," he said. We can't see encrypted emails on our Blackberry but to see it he would not only have to connect the phone to the laptop but log into the VPN and pull up the email. A third-order distracted driving task that only the most experienced should never attempt.
Shaking my head I said, "I'm wearing off on you the wrong way. You don't even sound German when you say that. I mean, you sound so American I think you'll be voting in the mid-term elections in November."
"Is that all it takes?" he asked.
"Pretty much," I said, "And if you're dead you could vote Democrat twice."
In answer to your unspoken question, no I have never been called right in the head.