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Friday, December 5, 2008

Be A Lert

I was raised to be alert.

“Be alert,” my dad always said to me. “The world needs more lerts.”

I was expected, as a child, to pay close attention to the details.

“Where do you think he’s going?” my dad would whisper to me, his eyes darting to a man crossing the street. “Why’s he in such a hurry?” Or, “Look at her shoes. What do you suppose she paid for those?”

This wasn’t speculation for the sake of conversation. My father was a student of human behavior, a negotiator, a logician.

He was a salesman.

Everyone liked him, and I took all my cues from him. He was the first in the room to pick up on accents, no matter how slight; the first to catch the nuance. He was a clever man made cleverer by use of intuition. He saw what made other people tick and would offer them the cues they needed to say what needed to be said. When I caught him at this, that is, when I saw that a conversation was proceeding in a manner and time of his choosing, I would catch his eye, raising an eyebrow. He would wink at me, followed, sometimes, by him tapping the side of his nose with his index finger, a nod to our shared knowledge.

Physical alertness is where all of us start: Look both ways. Watch your step. Listen for sirens.

But my father also stressed intellectual watchfulness. He had a thing about history and was always concerned with the idea that history was being rewritten, that the people in control were planting seeds of false history in children.

“Watch,” he’d say, “someday there’ll be a movie about Hitler: Oh! He wasn’t a bad guy! He was just misunderstood!”

My father’s eye challenged me to notice, to witness. I watched faces, watched eyes and mouths for clues. The set of the lips, the shifting and blinking of the eyes, what did they mean? Why does that man look like that? Does he have a tic? Is the sun in his eyes?

I was fascinated by a story I read about a child, set in England during World War II. The boy had told the police about a suspicious man based upon the unusual shoes the man was wearing. The child had never seen shoes like that before. The man with the suspicious-looking shoes was detained by the authorities and later revealed to be a spy.

That’s the kind of person I want to be.

And I’m still watching for a pair of unusual shoes.


swenglishexpat said...

Hi you Lert! Your love and admiration for your dad really shines through. Keep lerting!

Comedy Goddess said...

This is beautiful!

It might be nice for him to read too. Although I couldn't do it without crying.

Braja said...

ohmigod, Pearl? I think we're sisters separated at birth...I do that stuff your Dad does all the time...all the time. I freak people out, but your Dad would love me :)

SassyTwoSocks said...

So weird! Braja and I were just emailing about intuition (and how I secretly want to be a yogi). As a pisces, I am very intuitive and pride myself on being able to read people. Perception is so important. I've always remembered a phrase I heard once, "Perception is reality". Which I think is so true when it comes to relationships. But it amazes how many people are clueless, and are so involved in themselves that they have NO clue what is going on around them. It's very frustrating at times.

Anonymous said...

I confess...when I look at other people's vacation photos, I'm not really focusing on the main object/person in the picture. I'm always looking at everything else in the background. This drives my husband crazy. I may be guilty of lerting...

word verification: depenism - a system of belief based upon the stealthy use of observed details; most commonly associated with lerting syndrom. :)

a mouthy irish woman? ridiculous! said...

observation is my most favorite thing. airports, malls, libraries, dining, movies...i'm on the lookout.

i have had enough of performing in the dog and pony show. i just want to watch it now.

Pearl said...

Hi, Swenglish.
Live long and lert!

Hi, Comedy Goddess.
I will send it to him. :-)

Hi, Braja.
I'll ask Mom. :-) I've already noticed we do similar things (although if that's a pic of you in that pose I bow at your feet NOW. I've practiced yoga three and four times a week for a year in October and am in awe of people like you.

Hi, Sassy.
I agree with you. I sometimes wonder what people see when they look at themselves. And then I start to wonder, what do I see?

Hi, Sweet Cheeks.
Lerting is one of my favorite things. It's why I'm good at my job and it's why I'm fun at parties. :-)

Hi, Mouthy Irish Woman!
I LOVE doing that. Why is that woman crying? What does that kid think he looks like with his pants around his knees? Where are they going? People are fascinating!


Word Verification: Luble
Definition: Your Russian REALLY needs work...

La Belette Rouge said...

Lert. I love how you turned them into a creature. Really beautiful piece. Like CG said, I am sure it is one your father would love to read.

Steve said...

Your dad sounds like a very cool man and I wish I was half as cool. I try to be alert, I really do, but I think I must overdo it as I just end up alone.... ;-)

KMcJoseph said...

Maybe you should be the spy...or a poker player.

Amy@Bitchin'WivesClub said...

What a gorgeous piece, Pearl! Your father must be so proud of his observant girl. I have never been accused of being subtle so I admire those who can sit back and carefully make things happen through observation and imperceptible adjustments.

p.s. I passed along an award to you. Come on over to pick it up. :)

Pearl said...

Hi, La Belette.

Hi, Steve.
Perhaps you've confused "lerting" with "lurking"?

Hey, KMcJ.
Actually, I really suck at poker. But I'm a great spy. :-)

Hi, Amy.
I may be observant, but I've also been described as "blunt". :-) And thank you -- I'll be right over


IB said...

Hi Pearl,

A beautiful tribute to your dad. Thanks for sharing!

And thanks for stopping by my blog.



Not The Rockefellers said...

Pearl this is priceless. My Dad was a bit like this too.

Anomalies drove him crazy !

KMcJoseph said...

All these keen observation skills and yet your cat keeps getting away with those assassinations!

darsden said...

Hey Pearl, those shoes you are looking for were at the New Orleans Airport..just ask Derfina... we both couldn't believe what we were seeing..!

Kavi said...

And so you write about intuition ! And the whole of yesterday i was in a workshop on Intuition ! How do we tap intuition for better communication and effectiveness was the theme of the workshop.

And i was wondering why there wasnt any blogging around this subject. And then intuitively realised that there has to be someone writing about all of this...

And bingo, here is your post ! Intuition works ! Doesnt it !!

And that unusual shoes...well, i am really curious !

Pearl said...

Hi, IB.
You're welcome!

Hi, Rene.
I'm always seeking patterns, myself. :-)

Hi, KMcJ,
Ah, but sometimes we only see what we want to see. :-) The purring, slumbering kitteh?! But she couldn't -- she wouldn't! -- I can't believe it!

Hi, Darsden.
Ooooh, now I'm intrigued! Note to self: Must ask Derfina about shoes at the New Orleans Airport. Shoot. New Orleans Airport. Honestly, that might be all you need to say!

Hi, Kavi.
I'm glad to hear that there is such a thing, and I"m glad to hear that you went, particularly in light of the troubles and what the atmosphere must be right now...

I believe in intuition. It has been my experience that "the gut" never lies; and I always -- always! -- go with my gut.

I am pleased to report that my gut knows, even when I will not see it with my eyes, my gut knows.

I think we would all do well to put ourselves in another person's head on a regular basis. We should all try to tap into the truth and the meaning in other people's eyes and demeanors.

:-) So ends the sermon. :-)


Adrian's Crazy Life said...

Your dad is my kind of guy! I'm totally fascinated by people and all the things they do. I always love to watch people and read body language. It's fascinating!

Anonymous said...

I think it was Kenny Everrett who said: Be a lert! Britain needs more lerts! I've always loved that quote.

Thanks for a lovely post. Here via BPOTW.

Anonymous said...

intersting :) and well written post !! will visit again :)

krissy said...

Well said! I love to people watch in big cities,and looking at their shoes is one of my favorite things to notice. It's fascinating!

karin said...

I just loved your post! I was taught the same by my dad. Sometimes my lertness has got me into trouble. I 'notice' stuff so quickly - spelling errors, an unsafe condition, a person needing help, something not quite right, you missed a spot kind of stuff. I really have to exercise caution because I can be too bold in pointing it out or running to help when no help is wanted. Was good to think on this!! Enjoyed your blog.

BPOTW said...

That's so cool. I love people watching, which naturally leads to questions. Sadly it seems like I've lost the time or ability to do it. It seems like I need some quiet for my brain to do that sort of lerting. And with a talkative six year old and a screaming two year old... yeah, no lerting lately.

Your dad sounds like an awesome man, and I'd love to hang out with you to see how professionals do it! ;)

Elizabeth said...

What a great post. I am a Lert, as is my dad, but we've never really talked about it. Successful salesmen need to have great interpersonal intuition.
visiting via BPOTW.
Stop by my blog, I'm having a giveaway!

Jenners said...

Visiting via BPOTW.

Very well written and what a lot of love for your dad! What great lessons he taught you. As a very unaware and unobservant person, I should pay attention to this and put it into practice!