A few days ago I popped into the local supermarket and like most of us have done at one time or another I got caught short.
I needed the loo.
It was then that something happened to me which set me thinking and, in truth, I've kept pondering about it ever since.
When I went to the door of the Gents there was a sign saying something to the effect of 'Toilets being cleaned. Please use disabled facilities.'
Reluctantly but in urgent need I followed the instructions the sign was giving me.
In the very brief time I was inside the cubicle two things happened. Firstly, the cleaner must have finished his or her work and removed the sign from outside the men's loos. Secondly, someone knocked on the disabled toilet door!
As anyone would do I hurriedly washed my hands and unlocked the toilet. As I opened the door I was met by a lady in a wheelchair with her carer.
When the carer saw an able bodied man coming out of the loo he understandably, or so I thought at the time, made a sarcastic comment; 'Thanks a lot for using the disabled toilet!'
I tried to explain what had happened but clearly with the evidence of the sign disappearing and, in fairness, a disabled lady needing the toilet he neither had the time or inclination to believe me.
Let me be quite clear. I would never use the disabled facilities if others were available and I wasn't being directed to use them.
Of course I am truly sorry if I caused any inconvenience whilst using the convenience, so to speak!
It suddenly hit me.
The lady's carer had made assumption about me in a split second.
On the face of it I was a fit fortysomething using the wrong loo. But he didn't know whether that was the case.
I could have had a life-limiting illness. I could have had a serious medical condition requiring a little more space for dealing with personal care. I am eternally grateful that I have neither, but I could have.
There isn't a single one of us that doesn't make split second judgements based on appearances, quite often at times when we are under time pressures to complete other tasks.
It may well be that most of the time our instant reactions are right, but it may not. There is often a perfectly reasonable explanation why things are not as they first appear.
Perhaps we are all a little too hasty to judge? Perhaps we think we know the facts when we don't have them all to hand? Perhaps we should all take a little extra time and make a bit more effort to find them out?
In the scheme of things the effects of my 'toilet' incident last week were negligible. Someone understandably in a hurry thinks less of a stranger who seemingly and inconsiderately used the wrong loo.
But there is a point.
We never know for certain why someone is using the wrong loo.
We never know for certain why someone is in the wrong parking space.
We never know for certain why someone became homeless.
The list goes on and the scenarios become more serious.
Appearances can be a good guide and sometimes we jump to conclusions. We should never be so closed minded not to be willing to consider the alternatives. Sometimes first impressions are wrong.