NJ SBDC at William Paterson University

Don’t judge a book by… oh, bugger it, go ahead!

by Ira Reed

Some of you might remember when I got back from the Dominican, I mentioned a couple of interesting characters that popped up alarmingly frequently during the trip. We first met Louie and Peter on the bus from the airport to the resort. They sat separately, but both wore Large Gentleman On Vacation Hawaiian shirts and hats. We sat behind Louie, who kept looking back and making obnoxious comments and asking far too often “where the rum was”. It was dark, and we couldn’t tell if he was addressing us, or someone at the back, so we found ourselves with tightly-grasped hands, smiling and nodding through gritted teeth. Whoever this bozo was, hopefully he was being dropped off at the next resort.

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The first morning there, we attended our “briefing” meeting with the rep, who told us all sorts of helpful things about booking tours through her (which we ignored), where to go, and when to check the binder on our last day to see when our bus was coming. It was about 10:00, and we sat, with another couple behind us… and a couple of loud oafs in front. When we heard the Chris Griffin-esque whiny voice complaining and asking what time the bar opened, we looked at each other in panic. Louie was here to stay, and he disappeared for a few minutes, returning with two drinks firmly in hands, making the meeting start a full half hour late.

Sweet and I had quite the game of “Name That Oaf” on the first day, making observations about where they could possibly work, if they were together, why were two mid-fifties gentlemen out on their own in the middle of the Caribbean pretending not to be together anyway, and what their names might be. We decided on “Roy and Norm”, before we were introduced, the second night in, when we found ourselves seated at the table elbow-widths away at dinner. I’d gone to the loo, and Sweet and I spent the first half of dinner making faces and grinning at each other as we listened to obnoxious inanity – and I returned to a grinning Sweet, who introduced me on first-name basis, which not only put my poker face to the test, but made it lock itself in a room and replace all meals, sleep and social activity with a pile of Cole’s notes. It was too funny to be happening.

Days in, they kept popping up here and there, maybe the funniest of which was when I was popping upstairs for some sunscreen, and I saw two older blokes racing toward the resort on scooters, slowing right down to go over the sleeping policemen – bump, bump – and whizzing off up to the hotel.

On our last day, we were all packed and had, as per the rep’s instructions, checked the binder to see when we were being picked up. 7:15 pm, it said, so we packed up in the morning, relaxed by the pool, had some lunch, showered and were getting ready for dinner at about 5 when we had a phone call. “It’s 5:00 and you’re still in the room!” a curt female voice informed me. “You know you’re going to have to pay a $50 late checkout fee.” Click. Sweet and I didn’t know about checkout times – he’s never travelled, and my last few trips have involved staying at company villas, Hollywood sailboats, and relatives’ homes in the UK. We went down, and she insisted the rep had told us in our meeting, which she hadn’t. She got her on the phone, and she talked to the manager, insisting she had, and the phone was just about to be passed to me when I saw, out of the corner of my eye, our two resident oafs by the pool, talking to a lady half their age. I ran over, and told Louie the situation. “Of course she didn’t tell us! We had to go and ask two days ago!” Proof! Glorious, unexpected proof from our resident entertainment. When we next spoke, we had a note put in The Book. Louie walked past us and whispered “raise hell”. We didn’t have to pay.

We later went back to the poolside to thank him for saving the day, when he left us with his words of wisdom: “The squeaky wheel always gets the oil, folks!” We looked at each other, baffled for a second, while he went to get another drink. Did he just tell us that the more of a pain in the ass you are, the more likely you’ll get what you want? We couldn’t help but laugh – this was clearly his motto in life, and despite the exterior loutish behaviour, he’d done pretty well for himself. We smiled, and asked him where he was headed home. “Toronto,” he told us. “But there’s been a lot of snow this week, and we have a lot of Asian and BROWN people who don’t know how to drive in the snow; they’re going to make the roads hell.” And off he went, leaving our jaws planted and rooting firmly on the floor. The moral of the story? Even if you do judge a book by its cover, it can still enclose a pleasant surprise. But it’ll probably end up being a jerk anyway!

It’s times like these when I desperately want to learn and explore more about the world of physiognomy – something I learned about in literature years ago, the study of what people’s physical face structure and external appearance says about them as a person. To judge a book by its cover based on exterior observation – or to dig deeper? Even after dear Louie, I still like to explore and be surprised. Seeing Susan Boyle first open her mouth and sing so beautifully, putting all pre-judgers firmly in their place, was enough to move me to tears. And I love when people are surprised when they first get to know me that I have tattoos, love all things sci-fi and nerdy, and listen to Scandinavian power metal as a guilty pleasure. People can often surprise you in wonderful and interesting ways - but I find, just as often, end up being exactly how you imagined. What are your thoughts on first impressions?