I'm flying home from a trip, and the woman beside me discusses her profession. She's a criminal investigator who has become an expert in observation. She's highly trained to notice patterns and inconsistencies in a person's mannerisms. She's also trained to gather incredible amounts of personal information about a person within a few seconds of meeting them.
Within a few seconds!
"For example," she tells me. "I can tell you many things about you just by the kind of purse you carry, your glasses, your nails, your body posture, and your hand gestures."
She tells me that I'm trustworthy, organized, confident, and warm.
"How did you know that?" I ask her.
"You touch people when you talk to them. You touched me on my elbow and then on my arm while you were talking. That tells me you are comfortable with yourself and with others right away. You are someone with great interpersonal skills."
Then, since we have two hours left on the flight, she trains me in the fine art of detecting a lie. She remembers every thing I've said to her and the way in which I communicated information to her. She points out my verbal patterns and mannerisms. She explains that when someone is lying, they simply break the established pattern somehow. "I'm always looking for an inconsistency or a break in a pattern when I'm investigating a witness."
She lets me practice on her, and I'm able to detect subtle lies by her change in tone, posture, or sentence patterns.
Then, she tells me that criminal minds know how to quickly find vulnerabilities in people, and they manipulate people based on what they feel most insecure about. I think of my own insecurities and pray that God strengthens me against any kind of manipulation.
As our plane nears our destination, I comment that I wonder what life must be like for her to be trained in such intense, alert observation. All day long, she intensely observes. That's her whole life; it's just how she lives. She's reading everything in her environment all the time. Everything means something. Everything contributes important information for her.
"It's fun!" she says. "I love it! I learn so much!"
I'm suddenly observing everything I can and learning more than I thought I ever could about people. The criminal investigator says goodbye, and I suddenly wish I could go back to school and learn a whole new field. I want to see the details of my world as contributing important information. I feel more alive and more present. I feel so curious and awake, even after the longest day of travel.