One Thousand Words on The Two Types of People in the World

As I go through life, I quite regularly find myself thinking “there are two types of people in the world.”

Sometimes these observations are as mundane as “optimists and pessimists” or “introverts and extroverts.” I’m obviously not the first to classify folks in those particular terms, so my analysis doesn’t make me feel exceptionally observant, intelligent or unique.

But once in a while I have a moment of originality in my categorization of humankind; more subtle and telling ways people can be divided into two separate groups.

Below are three of my favorites.

There are two types of people in the world: those who listen to background music and those who barely hear it.

Over the years I have worked in several offices and stores that have music playing in the background. Sometimes it was piped-in elevator music and sometimes (like the shoe store I worked at in high school) it was the local college hard rock station on a transistor radio.

But no matter the music, I was always very aware of what song was playing. It didn’t matter if I was helping a customer or taking an acreage report from a farmer, I could tell you what song was on the radio and I was probably humming or whistling along.

I thought everyone did this, but apparently some people (maybe a majority of people, for all I know) don’t even hear the music, much less are aware of the artist and lyrics like I am.

Last night, for instance, we spent a quiet New Year’s Eve playing games and drinking wine. I turned on the satellite radio station that plays all eighties music and spent a good deal of my time saying things like, “Oh, I love Red Red Wine.” or “Whatever happened to Frankie Goes To Hollywood?”

I guess it was quite annoying because after a while my mother asked if I wanted to just listen to the music and forget about playing cribbage. It seems that if it weren’t for my running commentary, she wouldn’t have even realized there was music playing.

I don’t know if this difference boils down to being hyper-observant, easily distracted or just a love of music, but I don’t think I’d want to be oblivious to background music. So often a song will invoke a memory of an event or a person that brings a smile to my face. I’d hate to miss out on those moments because I wasn’t listening.

There are two types of people in the world: those who think the whistle is for them and those who know it’s not.

We’ve all been walking along a busy sidewalk or across a parking lot and heard a whistle (not a wolf whistle, but an attention getting whistle) or someone shouting “Hey you.”

Some people assume the person is trying to get their attention. They may react with a “who me?” look or pretend that they just want to know what’s going on, but deep down they really think it’s about them.

Other people don’t even look back over their shoulder. They know the whistle or shout has nothing to do with them so why bother.

I’m firmly in the “it’s not for me” camp. In fact I go to the extreme and assume if, by some long shot, it is about me, it’s negative. Someone making fun of me or distract me so their partner in crime can steal my wallet.

I wonder if this division is about physical attractiveness, or self-perception of physical attractiveness. Do pretty people more often assume the call is for their attention and ugly people assume it is not?

I’m a curious person, so I don’t think that has anything to do about with it. I want to know what’s going on and after a suitable amount of time I will often look to see what was going on. But I always wait so people don’t think that I think that it’s all about me.

Maybe that’s the crux right there. Maybe it’s not about thinking the whistle was for you or not, but whether other people think it was for you. The people who look back want others to think they are important enough or popular enough to warrant a “hey you” where as the rest of us don’t want to appear like we believe we’re the center of the universe.

There are two types of people in the world: Those who think rules apply to them and those who don’t.

You know how when you are in an airport you hear that announcement about “don’t leave your luggage unattended” over and over again?

I always take those announcements to heart. I don’t mean I clutch my suitcase to my chest in terror whenever the message reoccurs. But I don’t leave my luggage unattended.

But I’ve observed other people who wander off to the bathroom or to get a cup of coffee and leave their suitcases sitting beside their chair all alone. They don’t seem concerned in the least about terrorists putting a bomb in their bag, or about breaking the oft-repeated rule.

That’s why general announcements and rules don’t work. There’s a group of people in the world who just decide it doesn’t apply to them.

Sometimes in school when someone broke a rule, was chewing gum or brought a toy with them to class, the teacher would remind the entire class about the rule. They’d say, “Don’t forget there’s no gum at school.”

I understand that this is easier than confronting the rule-breaker directly, but it never works.

Half the kids, the ones who follow the rules, worry that they did something wrong; while the other half, the half that breaks the rules regularly, thinks the reminder is for someone else.

I don’t know how these divisions overlap. Maybe if you put the three of them together you get twenty seven distinct personalities, sort of like the Myers-Briggs types.

Or maybe I spend too much time classifying people into categories.

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