On First Impressions and Seconds


Do first impressions matter?

A week ago I was walking home from work, down a busy Lagos street, exhausted and barely keeping the adrenaline pumping when I stopped to buy bread. Bread because I don’t know how I’ll survive in my house without it for a whole weekend.

The woman was rude. That was my first impression. She spoke like I was interrupting something and shot daggers when I tried inspecting the bread. I asked if they were fresh. Yes. They all say yes, but you ask anyway hoping someone will say it’s a day old. Or two. Or maybe a week. But asking buys you time to block out the rest of your senses and use just the nose. If you’re lucky the pleasant aroma of freshly baked bread will fill them in no time.

She looked irritated by my presence and I regretted stopping in the first place. Naturally I’d walk away, but I didn’t. I stayed, allowing our mutual irritations overlap. For a moment I wondered how she managed to keep any customers at all.

Three days later I walked past the same stall and heard someone call out. When I turned it was the bread seller, waving and asking if I wanted to buy more bread. I’m not sure if I succeeded in hiding my surprise, but even before thinking I could feel my lips returning the smile. This thing betrays my emotions.

The next day I stopped over to buy bread. She called me her friend or something like that. I don’t mind, I’ve been called many things by women ranging from darling to sweetheart to love and my baby. It’s all the same to me.

Everyday I walk past my eyes do a quick search for her. We lock gaze. Smile. And communicate a silent good night. Yesterday I stopped to buy bread. Two? Yes, two. She remembers I bought two loaves the first time. She remembers the brand I like. I don’t even inspect it. Don’t take too long to eat this one. I nod.

I’m surprised she recalled my face since we met on a dark road illuminated by candles from other traders. Maybe I have one of those faces you don’t forget; maybe I look like one of those customers you know will always come back.

Should first impressions matter?

I don’t know. I met a bread seller who was rude the first time, I was sure I never wanted to do business with her again. A week later and we’re exchanging secret smiles. There are many things that could have been wrong that day. She could have had a bad day, and yet all I could think of was how I deserved a nice, cheerful person serving me… even when I wasn’t feeling so cheerful myself.

What does that make me?

I don’t know. But I hope that someone out there will be more generous with a second impression of me.

59 thoughts on “On First Impressions and Seconds

  1. Uju: You are right in saying that her day may not have been the best. She may have sold bread to a customer that didn’t make the best impression on her, and was still in recovery mode. What I love is that you remained yourself. You didn’t allow her mood to affect yours to the point that you changed into someone you would later regret being…even for a second. I smile at pretty much everyone who makes eye contact with me. Most are returned, some not. I want to go through life as me regardless of who I meet, and what they may or may not consciously/unconsciously attempt to rub off onto to me. I’m successful more times than not. When I’m not, I simply grow from the experience. And life goes on with new learning!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your insights are refreshing, Jen. I read an ethical theory which states that one must act as if they wish th principles of their actions to be universal. That’s what I believe– that one must act like they wish to be treated. If bad behaviour changes us all the time, then the ripple effect we create will always be negative.

      I love your attitude to life, Jen. I hope it remains.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I know majority live on sentiments and emotions so at any instant in time they’re affected by moods that can give off different vibes at different times. So it’s not like people just get prepared to give good impressions to anyone anytime because we all know it matters (*rolls eyes*). But I can’t help it, i judge people silently based on my first impression of them. Not that I’ll take it seriously, its just some mental assessment. And it ends there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think someone called that Bluetooth opinion’ 😀 But so long as it doesn’t form the basis of your long-term assessment of others, then I suppose it’s fine.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Uju, I am here to occupy your blog until you give us a new post! You didn’t post anything in April! I’ll be here daily until I see a new post.


    1. Chai! I hope the cobwebs and dust don’t give you the sniffles 😀
      Have a big exam on the way my dear and this brain is so fried.

      Thanks for reminding me I have an abandoned house. Maybe I should just upload that thing I wrote and have been wondering what to do with.


  4. Hi Uju,

    This was lovely to read, I found it quite heartwarming. You captured human relations and its complex layers articulately.

    It made me reassess the the manner in which I sum people up. There have been days when I have succumbed to PMS’d moods, I hope no one summed up my packaging on those days as being the full extent of my content. 😀

    Sometimes, we take people’s forgiveness for granted, assuming that we are entitled to it and believing that they are somehow able to discern on their own that the bits of us that they saw the very first time isn’t the entirety of who we are.

    Still, I believe people deserve second chances, first impressions barely scratch the surface, second impressions just might.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. @cassandra..They might be wrong but sometimes it’s all you have got..thats why it’s better to put your best leg forward when meeting people for the first time as they say..”first impression last longer”..


  5. The truth is we can fully know a person just within the 30s mark opinionated by professionals. Humans are too a complex being to fully dissected, diagnosed and form opinion about within a few minutes of interaction with them. Opinion are simple what it is called- Opinion, an unverified fact.
    Naturally it irkes foodstuff sellers when you asked them if their goods/wares are fresh. Most of of them have this mentality that you are judging them as sellers of spoilt goods/wares. Maybe if perhaps you have rephrase the question, perhaps she won’t be irritant.

    O OK I got the drift, some of them are naturally abusive though

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It amazing that most people don’t even completely know themselves ALL their lives, and yet someone out there presumes to form an opinion about you in a few miserly seconds.
      It is the way the world works though… and I hope we can be more generous with second impressions.


  6. A beautiful experience and writing. I’ve been wrong on my first impressions of other people often enough that I question if I get a negative vibe 🙂 This story of yours reaffirms my experience and view. Cheers to a great week ahead.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lol @negative vibe. I doubt you have that. Perhaps we could avail more people the benefit of doubt in our dealings with them.

      You have an awesome week, Dalo 🙂


  7. I believe that first impression matters becus i can still recall my experience in school when i entered into on lecturer’s office. If not the way i dressed, behaves and looks innocent, I don’t think he would have grant my request that soon……..

    You even try by smiling with that bread woman again… Lolz!!!

    So first Impression matters alot.

    Sis. Uju…. I love it when you write

    Also visit: http://www.pearlgist.blogspot.com


    1. I know it matters since people place so much value on it. What I’m questioning is if it should matter so much. Getting to know someone in 30secs is stretching it a bit, don’t you think?

      Thanks Chidera 🙂


  8. Honestly believe me when I say I am not washing you.

    Your style of writing humbles me with every post.

    It’s beyond amazing how you can merge communication of highly valuable life lesson and excellent writing (like a verbal form of a very good photograph) in one post.

    Whatever it is you are doing, keep at it.

    I keep learning.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I know that I have first impressions but I hardly ever settle for them. It’s hard for me to believe that I’ve seen everything there is to see about a person within the first few weeks, months and sometimes years of knowing them, to say nothing of seconds.

    I’ll admit that I’ve been frustrated with some vendors or service providers on some days that were incidentally first encounters that left an unsavory taste in my mouth and made me hesitant to deal with them again but dismissing or avoiding them right out of hand always finds subconscious resistance from me. Because I find it hard to believe that the story ends with that singular experience.

    I think that makes me generous in expectation.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Honest? It’s like everyday is a new story. I know it can be hard to believe but every time I actually reach a conclusion about someone there’s always a feeling like I’m still missing something. So, I tend not to bother with a conclusion anymore. It’s more like a never-ending exploration. Probably why I can’t handle more than a few friendships in my life.


      2. That’s kind of you to say. I suppose generosity begets generosity. If I had not experienced the generosity of God knowing what I know about myself, I don’t know that I could live this way.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. First impressions are why one of my future options is raising a family of dogs and listening to Jazz in the mornings while reading Emily Dickinson poems and pondering the meaning of life, because I really suck at appearing decent in 30 seconds.

    We really can’t blame people who judge in the first moments of meeting, after all, don’t we all agree that life is too short…?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ah Ife, who’s to say in that race down the rabbit hole we won’t miss some spectacular view, or a supposedly ordinary person who needs 31secs to put an ‘ex’ to ordinary?

      Lol @family of dogs and jazz. You do have your life planned 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Do first impressions matter? Yes, they do. I’ve learnt to be very polite to strangers ‘cos like Timi hinted; you’ll never get a second chance to make a first impression.

    I’m all for making good first impressions but i’ll never agree with what iv termed ‘bluetooth opinions’ – drawing conclusions about someone u see often but have never interacted with.

    So many things could have been responsible for the woman’s attitude swings: ; May be she had a bluetooth opinion of you that changed after you guys met; or she was proly beefing Ty for not staging the photo-shoot in her hood on the first day u stopped by.

    Have a blessed April you’ll & Happy fools day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lol @beefing Ty 😀
      I love ‘bluetooth opinion’… just might steal that as a post title. And yes, that is something people often tend to do. No one deserves to be known on the basis of our expectations; everyone deserve to be heard and given a chance to make themselves know. It’s the least courtesy we can avail one another.

      Bluetooth opinion *chuckles*
      I’m definitely writing about this 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Hey uju…nice to see you.
    I agree that first impressions are important and I understand that many people don’t believe in second chances especially when it comes to service. But I’ve experienced too many instances in my life where I found out after the fact, why someone may have reacted the way they did. Being in a service business is tough. You always have to be on regardless of what difficulties you may be experiences in your life. So, with rare exceptions, I give everyone a second opportunity to make things right. In your case it appears as if the women you met during your first encounter realized she may have been rude and tried to apologize in the only way she knew how.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Being in a service business is tough. You always have to be on regardless of what difficulties you may be experiences in your life.”

      This is so true. It seems so unfair to demand poker faces as a prerequisite for service jobs. How can anyone even maintain that facade of cheerfulness everyday?
      Still I’m learning the importance of second chances. I’m glad we resolved our differences.

      Hi George, nice to see you 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Once I took a course where we were taught that people form conclusions about you in the first 30 seconds. We were taught how to make good first impressions for often we don’t get a chance to correct the first impression.

    I may be wrong, but this type of ‘grudging’ customer service isn’t uncommon. I prefer to give my money to a responsive seller any day. I’m glad to hear that you and the bread seller have resolved any resentments from the first encounter. As they say, don’t judge a book by its cover.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Timi. I’ve heard as much too (some say 7secs, I wonder who’s counting) and often find myself guilty of this. I agree that first impressions count for as long as we allow it to, but they are often so unreliable. I shouldn’t expect that every man I meet out there should be ‘feeling great’, nor should i expect that we all have fully developed poker faces or cheerful masks to don on a bad day.
      I’m glad we resolved our differences eventually, too, and certain to think twice next time before forming opinions of others.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. 😀 I really don’t recall. It was a work day apparently, so i must been wearing a gown.
      Should my addressing affect how I’m addressed?


        1. Aii. I get that. Reminds me of a quote that talked about having good visual impressions, but placing more emphasis on what comes out of a person’s mouth.
          I think it all goes to show we’re not as objective as we would want to be, and perhaps we demand too much from one another.
          But sheesh, I hope no one important meets me on my bad day.


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