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Stereotyping a profile

May 20, 2015
By Larry DeHays , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

There is something everybody does instinctively, which they often find effective and efficient when dealing with society, and yet can cause distress among other members of that society, and is therefore illegal.

No, I don't mean punching people in the nose. I mean stereotyping. That doesn't mean using a certain type of old-fashioned copying machine. It means profiling, which once meant shaping an object to a certain outline, but now means being prejudiced, which once meant you preferred something, but now means you don't. Wait. I got lost in the translation.

In a movie, a character appearing to portray a car mechanic is usually shown as dirty, with a rag in his pocket and grease on his face. Stereotype. If you're having car trouble in a restaurant parking lot and two men are within ear-shot, one in a suit and tie and one in a uniform shirt with his first name over his pocket, which one would you ask for help? You're stereotyping. The uniform guy could be a pest exterminator with no mechanical sense whatever, but you pegged him as a blue collar working man, therefore someone who knew something about cars. It's a normal response to our experiences. Most of the mechanics we have known were dirty, and most wore working shirts. However, sometimes profiling is based on incorrect assumptions, and not just for mechanics.

I was once at a meeting where a game warden was talking about their efforts to capture some black bears to relocate them away from neighborhoods. He said they had put out several cage traps, baited with jelly donuts. They hadn't caught any bears yet, but they had bagged three cops. Now see, that's what I'm talking about. That's stereotyping. Shame on them, but everybody laughed, even the cops in the audience. Sometimes profiling can be a little funny.

I was once having dinner in my house when there was a knock on the door. When I opened it, the house was surrounded by various cops, U.S. Coast Guard, Customs and Immigration, DEA agents and I don't know who else. They were examining my brother's boat, which was parked in a vacant lot next door. He has a go-fast style boat. They had profiled it as a possible smuggling vessel, because it was of the type smugglers prefer, and it appeared to be hidden from view. Sometimes profiling can be scary.

Stereotyping can cause some serious problems with having your car fixed by professionals. We should all check the credentials of the person we're dealing with. Everyone wearing a blue shirt is not necessarily competent to deal with your particular problem. Mechanics are always presented with diplomas after completing a training program, and those credentials should be available or on display.

We would do well to remember, all cops don't eat donuts, all mechanics don't wear blue shirts, and all fast boats aren't used for smuggling. I know about boats because I have one, I know about mechanics because I am one. I could be wrong about cops.

--Larry DeHays is the author of the book "The Car Care World", a compilation of his most popular columns. It is available now through Amazon, Barnes and Noble,, or at the DeHays Automotive office, 17617 Broadway Ave., Fort Myers Beach. He has been an ASE Certified Technician for 37 years and an arbitrator for the Florida Lemon Law for 16 years. For more information go to or



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