There is something particularly special about the fact that wherever we go, regardless of the nationality of people we see around us, we always kind of know who to trust in an instant–by looking at their faces, the way they act, what they hold, what they do, even if we don’t hear them speak. Perhaps, I’m referring to what we usually call instinct. When travelling alone waiting for the boarding gates to open in an airport for instance, we scan the waiting area before settling in a vacant seat. Apart from being vacant, we also look for the area where we find people we feel we can trust most. Without talking to them, we kind of already know we’re relatively safer sitting closer to them than others.
This morning, on my solo flight to Manila, I realised how this strange subconscious thinking process works. A tall guy wearing sunglasses, a cap and a hoodie sat on the benches directly facing mine and watched me the whole time I was eating my McDonald’s takeaway. I thought it a bit odd but judged it normal enough not to create panic or move to another seat. Besides, I was surrounded by others I would generally trust (again, by my instinct’s judgment). And then right before boarding, when I was standing up to proceed to the gate, he suddenly came to me (I didn’t see from where cause he was not on the seat in front of me the last time I glanced that way) and said “Excuse me, which province are you from?” I turned my face and said “Sorry”. He repeated the question and I answered “sorry” one more time. He said “What? Why? Don’t you understand what I’m saying?” I said, “No, I’m sorry I’m not from the province.” I was completely standing up by this time with my backpack securely on my shoulders. He said, “Oh, where are you from then?” I said “I’m not from the province, I’m from the city.” I was already walking away while talking. And then he asked, “Which one?” and I walked hurriedly passed behind him and said “I’m sorry.”
The whole time inside my head, I was just telling myself “Do not speak to strangers. Do not speak to strangers.” And I didn’t look back, I hurried to the gates where I was caught up in the queue when I heard two old ladies talking from behind me, they were asking each other if they were supposed to queue or wait since they’ll be seated on the sixth row. I said, “They said rows 30 up should fall in line first but I think you should be fine. They’d probably let you in anyway.” We started chatting then and up till we boarded the plane. I even nicely said goodbye when they took their front row seats.
While I was walking to my seat towards the back of the plane, I realised they asked me some more personal questions than the tall guy actually did but I comfortably answered all of them. They also shared some information about themselves and I learned that they are US citizens who travelled to Sydney and now off to Manila for vacation with two other friends who were in wheelchairs and therefore, will have to board last. I wasn’t the only one too trusting, they also were, considering the vulnerability of their pack. They were really lovely, reminded me of my late grandmother who raised me up from childhood.
I don’t think what they were wearing were fancier clothes than the tall guy. They probably even hold the same type of passport and came from the same country. In the 21st century for a woman my age, who would turn away from a rich-rapper-looking guy to talk to some old grannies?
But our instincts just know who to trust. Is that being bad, perhaps judgmental? If one is travelling alone, is being selective with who you talk to considered bad? Is being rude justified? How do we know when to be friendly and when to be on our guards?
I could probably do some analysing here— think of all possible factors affecting our instantaneous level of trust, draft a model and then run the regression after collecting data from a good number of sample. It would be an interesting economic research paper. And then we’ll see which factor has the strongest correlation to our trust level of a stranger. But I can only do this with some data—a survey; questionnaires, interviews of some random people of different backgrounds who have travelled alone. More interestingly, I could explore deeper and try to find out which instinctive judgments made have been strongly, directly proportional to the actual personality of the strangers judged—this one would require more than a survey but a full experiment. Unfortunately, I do not have the time to do either of these. So I’ll just resort to trusting my instinct and common sense being particularly careful in situations like this.
In any case, my guess is that the results of such study will show that a person’s instinctive judgment would prove to increase reliability in direct proportion with age. I’m saying the younger we are, the more likely we are to misjudge people. There may be outliers of course, the influencing factor being experiences with people and how much one’s seen the world in general. That being said, I could probably conclude my research saying a person’s level of maturity, shaped by his/her experiences in life would show the strongest correlation value between his/her instinctive judgment of and the actual facts about a stranger.
This would incidentally explain how unwise our relationship choices were when we were younger and how many wrong choices we’ve taken when it comes to love. But then again, once the right level of maturity is reached, our instinctive judgment of a person improves. By this time, we may have already trained our instincts well and have increased the precision of its judgments and their correlation value with the truth. We probably would look less on the person’s physical appearance and begin to see right through him/her at the first word he/she utters.
A lot of us, young people rely on what we’ve heard somewhere that once you see the person who’s the one for you, it would only take a moment. You’ll just know he or she is the one the first time you meet him/her. That probably may be overly romanticising it. I think it’s true for some but more rationally put, they get caught up in that one right moment the first time they meet the other person because they talked and they found out that they just click and they end up being actually right for each other. These are the ones who have probably met when they’re level of maturity and instinct’s training were ripe and ready. So when their subconscious told their conscious mind “Yes, this person seems to be perfect for me and I can entrust him/her with my vulnerable side,” this instinctive judgment was as close to reality as possible that the risk of being wrong is negligible. They would then interpret this as falling in-love. The subconscious and its instinctive judgment, we then refer to as “our hearts”. Thus, we say the heart knows when it’s found its home. Although, thinking about it—the subconscious gets inputs uploaded to the brain by the conscious, so the two are still connected. So it’s actually our mind through this process, not our hearts, that “fall in-love”.
Yet for some people, love-at-first-sight is not the case. They are those who have long known each other for a long time but never quite realised any sooner that they were a good match and that they can live and make each other happy for a lifetime. These people would seem matured from the outside but remains unaware that their instincts’ training have not been enough. So they have often misjudged the one that is actually perfect for them as being just one of the other strangers—just like everybody else. It would take some time; and for others, some heartbreaks; before their instincts come to full maturity enough to see that the once-friend-zoned is actually the ONE.
And then there are those who grow old in age, face too many heartbreaks, make the same instinctive misjudgments again and again and still keep their instincts immature—keep spitting out the same kind of misjudgments leading them in cycles. I would like to believe that there is nothing in their conscious mind that wills this, everybody wants his/her own piece of happiness. I think there are just too many factors messing up with the subconscious that the natural process of maturity of the instinct and growth of that subconscious superpower to see through people is halted and this disorder goes on for an uncertain length of time. Sadly, some grow old and die never fixing such disorder, living with a malfunctioning instinctive judgment all their lives. But then there are a few lucky ones of this type who find someone with matured instincts, who can tell that the person are their match even as they can see exactly how messed up he/she is. These people get the chance not all people can experience in their lifetimes—to sort out another person who has a malfunctioning subconscious and a persistent inability to mature and see beyond strangers and people. We all have the ability to help repair another person with such disorder, but not everyone gets to try his/her hand on it. These cases usually make for the most unique and dramatic love stories.
Of course, these are all just theories inside my head with no way of me proving them at the moment. I’m just sorting out my judgments of people inside my head, wondering whether I am writing this with a matured instinct or not. You of course, dear reader, are free to hold on to the most famous theory of falling in-love, finding the one and experiencing magic in moments.
It’s not of much use to ponder on this for now. In the meantime, I’m sleeping in the plane just about now and will publish this as the first WordPress post I’ll ever do from my hometown in a few more hours.