We Love

Friday, June 24, 2011

Don’t judge a book by its cover unless the bookstore is closing down

1. Books By Their Covers

Recently, I was one of the fossickers of a bookstore’s Closing Down sale. Always so sad, isn’t it? A shop drifts by on less than efficient KPI budgets until UNTIL it goes bust. Shuts down. Liquidates. Then, don’t the plastic-card armed shoppers walk in? Yes, they certainly do. And buy a lot of stuff they don’t need.

What’s all this got to do with not judging a book by its cover? Well, please remain with me further, patient reader, and you’ll see.

So, books. There were books everywhere. Well, over a few shelves anyway.

Somehow, the fruits of this once expansive and diverse bookshop had been condensed to only a few shelves (the shelves being for sale too: “Won’t last long. Make an offer.”) 

Room was scarce, shoppers were plentiful and optimism was high.

Time, however, was poor. I was on a “work” break and didn’t have luxury to discern through an avalanche of 90% off books,

I had to do the unthinkable but also the quite convenient: judge a book by its cover. 

2. Words of wisdom

“You can learn so much if you look past the exterior. It’s like, if you’re judging them – it’s not them whose missing out, it’s you.” says Michelle, an interviewee who happens to be my room mate.

3. Let me tell you a story.

The other day I was at Myer. The stock take sales were on, it was my pay day and I was a woman. Skincare was calling, something was calling: time for to get that periodic high from making a luxury purchase. To some, maybe it’s a video game. To others, it’s probably a 10cm cylinder containing lipstick with font in French. That was me.

So here I was, suddenly feeling – not exactly comfortable. In the land of perfectly groomed make up faces, where a stray eyelash was simply not acceptable and the deceit of “perfection” was something genuinely strived for, according to marketing packages, suddenly I was swimming in deep water. Not really but I felt like my no-make up, messy hair and opp-shop get-up suddenly made me vulnerable. Or invisible.

Then I saw a friend. Well, a posh lady who’s always been nice to me. (A lady who had coiffed hair and wore neck-scarves and probably used a lipstick mirror.)
And she helped me – fussed about like a protective kangaroo to a joey, that sort of thing. 

As I walked away with my very cheap but lovely purchases, I thanked her. I explained that, because I wasn’t wearing make up or dressed particularly “well” – I just didn’t feel as “nice” there. Girls, ladies, you know what I mean! That feeling when you walk into a cocktail party wearing jeans and a t-shirt, that sort of thing…

But guess what, this lady knew exactly what I meant. She nodded: firmly, secretly. Then she told me that just yesterday she met a lady who was ignored by other nearby staff. Staff who didn’t offer her any help, though her presence was obvious: they preferred internal chats instead.

Then this lady found my hospitable friend, who took her under her perfumed wing and was nice her. Sold her a lot too, but that’s not the point.

In the world of tightening KPIs and customer service standards, what had made these first two shopkeepers deny this lady customer service? Sad as it was – superficial as it was, my knowledgeable friend told me her suspected reason for this lack of hospitality.

“She was wearing trackies.”

My kind advisor then told me what’s relevant to this article, relevant to me and relevant to you.

“Who knows who could be walking around in tracksuit pants? Who knows who you could be serving,” she mused.
Or not serving, I thought. 

Would the girls have served this customer if she was accompanied by pack of well-groomed dalmatians, nibbling caviar like a Le Snack and struggling to stand upright because diamond earrings the size of golf balls were competing with her ears for space?

Or what if the same person was wearing hand-me downs from seven generations ago, hands stuffed with food vouchers and smelling less than a lavender garden?

But what if, this second customer was really just an eccentric billionaire, hiding their platinum credit card inside a forest of dreadlocks? And the former subject was actually an actor – someone who plays the part of a millionaire for three hours before returning to a candle-light bedsit?

These are just hypothetical, ideas but they are certainly not fairytales. 

4. Chuck their shoes on and go for a walk

When I was in year ten, I read a book for English which I didn’t realise was so significant until years later, even now as I muse on the topic of not judging a book by its cover.
The honourable lawyer Atticus Finch told his curious daughter Scout something.
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb inside his skin and walk around in it.”

I work at a soup kitchen sometimes: it’s actually serving a barbeque but let’s say soup kitchen because that better paints a picture.

One of the clients there is a guy named Matthew*
Matthew wears the same clothes every day, has long white hair, a beard and sometimes pours through bins, pulling out other’s wasted half-lunches. 
He seems a bit mad but at the same time comfortable in his space.
He is very humble and speaks with the articulate edge that very educated people like professors and doctors can’t hide. Turns out Matthew is a doctor – or was.
He was a doctor, lived in a classy part of town and would have been considered “rich.” Maybe he still is. 

However, when his wife died he flipped out: went crazy. I don’t know the story but somehow he’s on the streets. 

I’m telling you this because a lot of people look at homeless people or people in extreme need and catergose: “Alcoholic. Drug addict. Etc. etc.”

What about: “Heartbroken, striken by grief?”
But does it really matter? The point is we can’t judge and certainly would be mistaken if we assumed anything.

5. Pride and Prejudice but for the purposes of this article, let’s talk more about prejudice

Have you read the book Pride and Prejudice? Before my male readers dash away, already feeling awkward by the fear that I’ll be talking about Colin Firth in his white thermals swimming in the lake, I just want to talk about that. Not that, but the concepts of the book (SPOILER WARNING!)

So, Lizzy and Darcy meet at a party. Doesn’t go so well. Skip to the last page and you’ll find out they actually got married, (ended up having the 2.5 kids and happy dog probably) and it all ended well.

However, the reason Lizzy wasn’t interested in him was because of her prejudice. She assumed things about him, false things. As she got to know him better, she soon discovered her preconceived ideas were false and – they subsequently got together. 

Yet, isn’t that interesting? A destiny of love almost didn’t come together because Lizzy judged on face value only. How much we miss out on when we do this.

Every person on this planet has a story, has more than a cover.

An 89 year old lady is really still a little girl inside. 
Is that smooth talking guy in the suit really someone to trust? 
Why is your neighbour crying?

I’ll leave you with a thought.

A friend gave me a I LOVE NEW YORK t-shirt, those famous ones tourists wear. I wear it as pajamas. 

Someone sees me wearing it and assumes I’ve been to New York and savour the t-shirt as a kind of memento. 

Actually, that’s not the case. A friend was cleaning out a whole heap of clothes and I snapped up the ubiquitous item. 

If you see me wearing it and assume I’ve been to New York, that’s actually a lie. 

Yet, that’s what we all do – make assumptions which are actually lies – when we size up a person according to how they look or “face value.”

*Name changed to protect his privacy


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