Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Answering before asked

with 3 comments

One of my peculiarities is that I hate to be asked a question that I know will be asked. I do all in my power to forestall such questions. So, for example, as I approach the USPS service window to mail a package, I immediately say, “Nothing perishable, liquid, fragile, or potentially hazardous. No insurance or proof of delivery,” and then state whether I want it sent First Class or Priority Mail (to forestall the question, “When do you want it to get there?”). I say the last even when the package is clearly stamped “First Class” or “Priority,” because the question will come anyway if I don’t prevent it.

Okay, so you’ve been sitting outside the café, drinking your coffee, when a guy knocks a woman over, grabs her purse, and runs away. A copper shows up and comes over to you as a witness. Because you’ve read this post, you are able to run through a little alphabetic checklist and provide a description without having to wait for the (otherwise inevitable) questions.

The checklist:

  • A – approximate age
  • B – build (estimated height, stocky, thin, beefy, muscular, fat, etc.)
  • C – clothing (shoes, pants, shirt, jacket or coat, scarf, hat, gloves)
  • D – distinguishing marks (tattoos, acne, scar, mole, birthmark, sunburn, freckles)
  • E – ethnicity. (Also, eye color if you saw it)
  • F – face (shape, mustache or beard (and color), type of nose, heavy/light eyebrows)
  • G – gait (does he have a limp? (which leg?) long strides, etc.)
  • G – gender
  • G – glasses
  • H – hair (color, cut, length)
  • I – items (was he carrying anything? cane, book, briefcase, package, etc.)

Memorize that, and practice as you ride the subway or the bus or sit in front of the café: look at a stranger, look away, and run through the checklist to see how many you get. Try using the method to describe to your partner someone you saw during the day. Practice daily and it soon will become second nature. Like the International Spelling Alphabet * : another good thing to know that you can quickly learn with a little practice. And teach this to your kids, too: both how to describe a person and the International Spelling Alphabet.

In fact, if I were teaching fifth grade again, I’d get the kids all to learn this—first learn the alphabetic list of things to describe, and when they knew that cold and could recite it backwards and forward, then call on volunteers: have the volunteer walk back and forth once at the front of the class, then wait in the hall while the class wrote down their descriptions. The volunteer will then return for the students to check and correct their descriptions.

The list comes from a good mystery I’m currently reading: Visibility, by Boris Starling.

* Here it is. Learn and use it. It may someday save your life—or at least minimize frustration in giving information by phone.

A – Alpha
B – Bravo
C – Charlie
D – Delta
E – Echo
F – Foxtrot
G – Golf
H – Hotel
I – India
J – Juliet
K – Kilo
L – Lima
M – Mike
N – November
O – Oscar
P – Papa
Q – Quebec
R – Romeo
S – Sierra
T – Tango
U – Uniform
V – Victor
W – Whiskey
X – X-ray
Y – Yankee
Z – Zulu
0 – zero
1 – one
2 – two
3 – tree
4 – fower
5 – fife
6 – six
7 – seven
8 – eight
9 – niner

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Written by LeisureGuy

15 September 2007 at 10:19 am

Posted in Books, Daily life, Education

3 Responses

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  1. Okay, wait a minute – instead of sitting at the cafe reciting the alphabet to yourself, why aren’t you chasing the guy to get my purse back? I love that purse! It’s my favorite one!

    the wife

    15 September 2007 at 12:06 pm

  2. How about G for gender too?

    Linda McConnell

    16 September 2007 at 6:44 pm

  3. Good one. Edited list…

    LeisureGuy

    16 September 2007 at 6:50 pm


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