Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

03 Jan 2002, 21:39 p.m.

Today I entered a used books store in El Portal…

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2002 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

Today I entered a used books store in El Portal and ended up buying The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker, whom my sister and I used to mock back in the late nineties when he showed up on Oprah Winfrey's talk show and the like. Now that I live in a city sans parents, and personal security concerns me every damn day, I'm much less inclined to mock the "security expert" and much more inclined to listen to his advice. Don't try to explain away your intuition that "something is wrong"; trust that you are an expert at predicting other humans' behaviour, as you've been doing it all your life; remember that everybody is pretty much alike and context explains a lot. This is basically The Social Animal, chapter eight (the "tips and tricks" section), only about personal safety rather than love and relationships in general.

de Becker gives a list of almost-universal human characteristics: disliking ridicule and embarrassment, seeking connection with others, seeking a degree of control over one's life, etc. I read it out loud as a checklist (e.g., "Do you suffer from these symptoms?") to Leonard. He asked whether the checklist was intended to test how long someone could go without getting sarcastic. "I crave ridicule and embarrassment!"