Budd Davisson, November, 1993


My mother says it takes a week to know a boy of 15, a year to know a man of 25 and the rest of your life to know one of forty. As we cruise through life bouncing off friendships and acquaintances, we spend an inordinate amount of time trying to get inside other people's heads and lives in an effort to establish a common ground.

So often the first several minutes/hours/months of any relationship between two people is spent dancing around, as we look for that illusive common ground. We are in serious need of a short cut to the person's mind.

I have that short cut. The trick is figuring out how to make it work.

See, I have this theory that we leave indelible finger prints which clearly show who we are, how we think and how we run our lives. One of our most basic personality finger prints, for instance, is the stack of reading material in our bathroom.

If you wander into an acquaintance's bathroom and, among other things it is incredibly neat, with no reading material in sight, you know one of two things: This is the guest bathroom and they never use it, which says they are worried about their image. Of course it could also mean they don't go to the bathroom at all, since it is a proven fact that it is impossible accomplish certain biological missions without reading.

If they are "real" people and their bathroom shows the signs of hasty straightening up and the magazines are still there, you have a ready made window into the minds of your friends. It is in the water closet library that we find those subjects which are closest to the heart, since that's the one period of solitude during which no one (except a kid) can logically interrupt and expect us to do something for them. We reserve our most treasured reading for those times.

If the av-literature is heavy on Kit Planes, PP and Sport Aviation, you know you are in the reading room of a guy who is seriously in love with flight and all the nuts and bolts that keep it alive. If Business/Commercial Aviation and Flying head the list, the guy sees aviation as transportation, not a way of life, and I, for one, shouldn't be using his john. If a Phsycology Today and World Archeology are sandwiched between Popular Mechanics and Private Pilot, you know this is not your average nuts and bolts type of individual.

Something important is said about a person, if the stack is heavy on US News and World Report and the Wall Street Journal since, just at the time when the person should be letting his mind wander, it moves in serious directions, while his body moves in a different one. Something althogether different is said, if, as at my house, the old Trade-a-Planes, Shotgun News and Flying Models out number the towels and toothbrushes.

You'll get a good indication of where your host's head is at, if Hunting and Field and Stream magazines abound. However, if the stack is dominated by Soldier of Fortune, Survival Guns and 42 Ways to Prepare Road Kill, finish your business and find a reason to say good night. Also, don't open their refrigderator and definitely turndown their invitation for dinner.

Another window to a person's mind is in their car. Yeah, the make and cleanliness of the car says something about them, but that's too obvious. We're talking about the buttons on their radio. Start punching them, left to right, and see what comes up and how it's arranged.

If lite-listening drivel waifts over your ears from every button, you know this is a person with no strong tastes, probably wears white socks and loafers and, if he flies at all, he's a picture of confidence, as he walks up to the airplane, but licks his lips a lot once inside. He thinks those guys in the biplanes, homebuilts and classics are inconsequential and he won't land on any runway under 2756 feet in length. He has taken one cross country over 300 miles...and got lost.

A radio that is wall to wall country lets you know your boy/girl has strong, but narrow tastes, is probably addicted to beef jerky, wears any socks he can find and sleeps in boots. His airplane may be a well-used C-180 or maybe a tired looking 108 Stinson that matches his pick-up. And he may amble up to the airplane, but make no mistake, he can put it exactly where he wants it, every time, and to him there is no such thing as a short runway.

On the other hand, if in tripping across the buttons, a country station comes up right next to a jazz station, you know this is a person who might be interesting to know. If an oldies station works its way in there followed by both a hard rock and a classical number, get me the guy's phone number. This is a person I'd like to hang with. There's no way of knowing what he wears or flies. The only thing for sure is that it won't be boring or predictable.

If there are more than two rap stations in residence, the test is declared invalid. If this happens, you are either dealing with a mental defective or he doesn't listen to the radio at all because his kids keep messing with it. In that case, check the glove compartment for tapes and apply the same testing scenario.

The back of the sock drawer is another personality fingerprint. In the first place, if the socks are all paired, neatly balled and stacked, the guy is either married to a wonderful woman or, if single, has his priorities screwed up.

What we're looking for here is the stuff crammed in the back of the drawer, the miscellaneous little treasures he/she doesn't want to lose, but doesn't know what to do with, so he does the logical thing...puts it in the back of the sock drawer.

Taking a peek in my own sock drawer I found the Navajo silver watch band I love, but broke and can't wear. Then there is the cut silver dollar money clip that is too nice to use. My first E-6B is there along with an M-1 Garand clip loaded with prestine national match ammo I couldn't bring myself to shoot. There are my favorite pictures of my kids, Scott and Jenny, when they were young and didn't know the meaning of the word "tuition." The digital watch from my dad that I almost never wear is still in its original box, because I butcher watches and I want this one to be a keeper. 'Found my first arrow head there in a case along with my "outstanding cadet" medal from ROTC for being captain of the OU rifle team and my first flight instructor ticket is there stapled to a picture of me in the 7EC I started instructing in. And the list goes on.

The drawer only holds about 13 socks (unballed, not paired) but a lot of personal treasures. Spread them out and they identify me as surely as my own thumb print.

Look around your own habitat and you'll find you've left finger prints all over the place. Check them out. You may be surprised what they say about you.