A stereotype which nearly took me by surprise

7 June 2006

My wife insisted that I take a day off today and accompany her and the kids to the seaside, which I did. Whilst we sheltered from a cool wind behind a groyne three people climbed over the groyne to join us nearby.

The male was in his fifties or sixties and tattooed indiscriminately all over his visible body, almost as if a child had slapped stickers on him with no thought for the overall pattern. Accompanying him was a (dyed) black haired woman in her thirties also tattooed but not as extensively as the man. She was wearing clothes and accessories that recalled to mind the saying ‘mutton dressed as lamb’. Trailing behind was a sombre young girl aged about five years old. The man then went to help some other people, burdened down with prams and children also trying to hurdle the groyne.

Okay I thought to myself, I won’t classify this group of people too early, they look like a type but with that kindly act, the man had challenged my initial preconception. Within a few minutes however the man had lit a cigarette, the smoke from which drifted in our direction and irritated me. Shortly afterwards the man wandered off to a nearby shop and returned with drinks and snacks for himself and the woman. Our family then moved further up the beach as the wind had dropped and the children wanted to explore other areas.

Some time later I went for a stroll on the promenade and passed the groyne where the tattooed couple and sullen child had sat. They themselves had disappeared but neatly stacked on the groyne was what I recognized as their litter; polythene cups, empty cans and an empty cigarette packet, waiting to be washed into the sea by the tide. My original classification of these people was confirmed and how disappointed I was. Why couldn’t they surprise me with socially responsible behaviour as they did when they helped those people over the groyne? Why did they conform to the stereotype of intensely short sighted, selfish consumers requiring instant gratification? I was prepared to have my assumptions challenged – I wanted them challenged.

Maybe they just don’t know other people find their litter offensive. Maybe it has to be pointed out to them this trash simply builds up on the beach making it unpleasant for everyone who wants to use the facility until such time as the council is forced to clean it up costing the taxpayer more than it need to in rates.

Maybe these people don’t pay taxes and live on benefits which they spend on tattoos and cigarettes.

Maybe next time I ought to talk to these people and find out.

One Response to “A stereotype which nearly took me by surprise”

  1. [...] I wrote a post about a group of stereotypes conforming to their stereotype by leaving litter. At the end of the post I asked myself why I didn’t speak to these people and point out their inconsideration (in a polite way of course). Well today I took my own advice and spoke to a transgressor to see what sort of reaction I would get. [...]

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