A strange thing happened yesterday as I was walking to my car. I know that I am not able to describe it properly, because it happened so quickly and I don't really know how to interpret it, but I will try:
I was walking down the hill that leads to the parking lot. As far as I know, I was the only one walking in that area at that time. A large four-door pickup truck was being driven up the hill. The driver honked the horn. My first assumption was that it was someone from Tiger Dojo. The more gregarious members have a habit of honking at their fellow martial artists whenever they see them.
I looked at the truck, but did not recognize anybody in it. My blurred impression was of several college-age females* in the truck: the driver, passenger, and at least one in the back seat. The passenger reached her hand out the window and made the 'victory' sign as she yelled 'woo-hoo'.
This event may have had nothing to do with me. They could have been reacting to someone or something else that I did not see, or they may have chosen that time at random to celebrate something. But I had the impression at the time that they were looking at me and that these actions were directed toward me.
Based on my childhood, I generally assume that any strange attention directed at me is motivated by mockery or teasing. This almost never happens to me now, but old associations take a long time to fade away slowly. I generally feel that people who draw attention to me are hostile, even though I know intellectually that they are probably not. So my 'gut feeling' is that these people were making fun of me.
It is also theoretically possible that this was the equivalent of a truckload full of guys honking and yelling at a girl walking by. It could have been an expression of appreciation or flirting, possibly combined with a need to express a feeling of power.
I will never know which of these possibilities is the truth. Because there is no information that can be gained from the event, my brain filed it under 'random chaos' and did not attempt to analyze it further.
But I know that I would be able to learn something from this if I had a better understanding of human behavior. I would have been able to pick up on some subtle cue that would give me a hint about me what they were thinking, and why they were doing what they did. I know that there are probably dozens of incidents every day that could teach me something about human behavior, if I knew what to look for. But I don't have the background understanding required to interpret or even notice such events, and so I learn nothing.
Learning requires feedback. You have to make a guess, and then find out if your guess is right or wrong. But when you see people doing things, it is almost impossible to get the truth about what motivates their behavior. You can't ask them. People habitually lie about their thoughts and actions. Often they don't even know why they are acting a certain way. Without a really good frame of reference, it is almost impossible to gain knowledge by observing the behavior of someone that I have never seen before and will never see again.
The only way to really learn about human behavior is to be enmeshed in a close-knit group of people, where you can observe behavior and its consequences over a long period of time. You also have to hear most of the gossip about their behavior, to tell you about events that you cannot see. After a few years of that, you would be able to reliably identify behaviors and their motivations.
But I never had that experience. And since that basic knowledge is required to gain more knowledge, it will be very hard for me to catch up and develop enough knowledge to figure out what people are doing and why they are doing it.
* I never know to describe undergraduate females. Neither 'girls', 'ladies', nor 'women' seems appropriate, and 'coed' is such an archaic term.