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

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.

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?

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36 comments

  1. Too funny! Every vacation seems to have some complete moron like this. And always in a Hawaian shirt too. I love how even though your first impression was totally right he ended up being the thing that saved the day anyway. Before proving you guys completely right hahaha.

    Theres something to be said for the power of first impressions, I don’t think things like this physiognomy stuff would even exist if there wasn’t a lot of evidence to prove that more often than not somebodys external displays show a lot of insight into their character. But its always nice to be surprised. Susan Boyle was a really great example.

    1. LOL yes they do always seem to be in Hawaiian shirts! And sweating. lol. Susan Boyle was an amazing example – I think when Britain was sitting at home watching their Saturday night telly EVERYONE (myself included!) thought she was another nutcase. I actually cried when she sang so beautifully because not only had she proved the entire world wrong, but it also made me aware I’d judged somebody without knowing a thing about them. Which is horrible. But I think we do it all too often. It’s good to become aware of though, to try and stop – and be more open to wonderful surprises 🙂

  2. Oh the characters you meet when you’re trapped in a confined space with people, hey?

    The idea of physiognomy really than creeps me out, even as a literary device. To me having moral and good being tied to people that area pretty is just simplistic and strange. But you’re right, people assume things based on what you present of yourself through your actions.

    If anything, I find that by always letting people prove themselves to me and by asking the right questions before I decide things about them, I’m always surprised.

    1. Yes I was worried he’d be next to us on the plane! (Although I’d have taken him over the screaming infant any day!)

      I always try and let people prove themselves to me – especially since I’ve been working where I am. All too often people’s first appearance is just a product of circumstance, and if they’re given the change to prove themselves in a non-judgmental environment, what comes out can sometimes be amazing 🙂

  3. Bwahaha! Louie sounds like a really interesting fellow. 😉

    I’ve changed my mind about people so often that I don’t put much stock in first impressions anymore. I think it often takes time for people to show who they really are.

    1. Definitely, and as I’ve got older I’ve found myself doing the same thing – being more open, not so quick to judge, and trying to always see the good in people first rather than assuming something bad.

  4. Oh the Louies of life always make me just shake my head and laugh. I think there is something to be said about telling visual cues otherwise where would phrases like “kind eyes” come from – and why would things like Disney movies employ strategies of the good guys having big eyes and little noses, and the bad guys big shoulders, crooked features, thicker eyebrows…..it’s psychology related I’m sure. People are more attracted to a certain kind of physical makeup initially because it promotes what, a better character? not necessarily but if you look back in history it was probably because those who looked more ‘perfect’ would be less likely to have some kind of health problem….better mate, better chance in life….better person? I don’t know. It’s definately interesting that’s for sure!!!!

    1. Oh this sort of thing is fascinating to me! There’s something to be said for the psychology of it all, where it all started, why physical “stereotypes” continue to be used in movies… and does that only serve to hinder our progress as a society in becoming more forgiving and open minded? We’ll HAVE to continue this discussion!! 🙂

  5. Well I tend to judge a book based on it’s title. :-p

    I will form an immediate opinion about someone based an appearance, but it’s always flexible. The more I learn about the person, the more that initial opinion will change (or be confirmed).

    1. Exactly! I try NOT to judge, but I think it’s just engrained in the way our society (and the media) cater to making it almost habit – and the more time someone has to show themselves, the initial opinion will either be confirmed (Louie!) or changed. Couldn’t have said it better myself 🙂

  6. I *try* to not go by first impressions. I have been wrong about some people after first meeting them vs. getting to know them.

    But not matter if it is the first time meeting someone or not, I always hate fakeness. I have no patience for it!!

  7. I dont put much value in first impressions. I would rather get to know someone before making judgements. Personally I dont like being judged by my appearance so I dont do that to others. Keeping an open mind is for the best.

    1. Absolutely. I hate being judged by my appearance – people so often think I’m a pushover, or shy, quiet, traditional, unopinionated and I hate when people don’t take the time to find out what lies behind the exterior. But at the time time I love surprising people who do 🙂

  8. Vacation always brings out the most interesting characters. 🙂 I try not to judge someone based on first impressions, but at the same time I think it happens naturally. I just try to keep my mind open so I can get past the initial thoughts as I get to know someone. I’ve been wrong more than once!

  9. sometimes I wish I could write a book, just snapshots of people I encounter on trips. or even on a day our around town. but vacation tends to bring out the…. freer spirit in people? haha nicely captured, oh louie..

    1. What a fabulous idea! Sometimes when I’m on the bus I try to imagine what’s going on in the lives of the people I see… just based on initial, external observation. A notebook to jot down these characters (especially the ones on holiday!) would be a fun idea 🙂

  10. I’ve certainly met a few Louie-like characters in my lifetime! I think, by nature, we all form opinions when we first meet someone new. It’s up to us whether or not we want to get to know the person and see if that impression is right or wrong. I do try not to judge people based on that initial impression or by their appearance, because they’re always apt to be different on the inside. I can’t tell you how often I don’t get taken as seriously as I should, especially in the professional world, merely because I look so young. (I could pass for still being in high school, and I graduated almost 8 years ago!)

    1. You’re totally right, and I continually try and minimise “judgment” even though opinion is hard not to form at first meeting. But I always give people the chance to show their true selves. I have the same problem as you – people think I’m a LOT younger than I am, and I find form opinions of me, especially in the workplace, not being experienced or skilled enough to do the job I’m doing, which is another big reason why I want to keep working toward being more comfortable speaking in front of ‘intimidating’ people – to prove that I am perfectly competent, even if I look like I’m 20 years old! I think I’ll be ID’d forever 🙂

  11. You’re such a good writer/story teller. 🙂

    I don’t know – I think I do judge a little on appearance. Well, maybe not judge, like Samantha said, opinions. But I don’t write a person off just because of those opinions. I’ve been pleasantly surprised too much in my life to go completely on a first glance.

  12. Oh Em, you’re such a sweetheart. As much as I’d love to not judge a book by its cover, time has made me cynical. If I’m on vacation and obnoxious people are flapping their gums, I’ll simply block them out. It’s my paradise and I earned that break from the annoyances in everyday life. 😉

    Appearances make me less judgy than actions.

  13. I just have to bring up how insightful the comments thread has gotten because of this blog post.

    With everyone so unanimously basing their judgments on content of character and not appearances — it really helps to restore my faith in people.

    Awesome discussion.

  14. I’m definitely the type to judge a book by it’s cover. For example, I would NEVER think you would have any anxiety/insecurity issues. If I saw you without ever knowing you, I just see a gorgeous woman and I might even form a bad opinion, thinking you’re stuck-up and full of yourself. But I’ve learned that you are SO not like that!

    So, yes, while I do judge a book by its cover, I also have the ability to change my opinions and make new ones. And I do that a lot.

  15. Why do people feel the need to wear those big Hawaiian shirts everytime they go somewhere tropical? I mean, you wouldn’t those on a normal day because well, they’re ugly, so why would you wear them on vacation?

    1. I don’t know but even SWEET pulled one out while we were away. It had palm trees on it and I was MORTIFIED lol. At least it wasn’t two sizes too big though, and he did the buttons up 🙂

  16. This made me laugh out loud! *smile*
    I’m a first impressions person- rarely will how you look affect me, but how you act the first time? Deadly. I generally go with first impressions (though I have no reticence in changing them if i’m proven wrong) but I’m usually eerily correct.
    *smile*

  17. I think it’s only human to judge a book by its cover, but it does happen that people turn out to be completely different. And many times people turn out to be just the way you thought they’d be. But even then, it doesn’t mean that the Louies in the world cannot save the day every now and then. No matter how annoying they are.

  18. Hmmm, I think I can agree with you that first impressions can be both wrong and right. I always feel like i’m really good at first impressions though! I’m particularly good at diagnosing someone w/ a mental illness…sounds weird, i know – but it was all the years working at a psych office i think!

  19. Ha, Louie saves the day! I’ve been told that before too… the squeakiest wheel gets the oil. I try not to be squeaky but every once in awhile you have to raise a little hell. Glad it all worked out. Some people will always try to cover their asses which is super annoying especially when you know that THEY Messed up, not you!

  20. Wow. Speechless!! Great story!! I gasped as his comment about the asians & brown people. Seriously? Wow.

    I go back and forth on first impressions. I think they can be wrong as I Have been wrong about people in the fast, but I feel like most of the time, my first impression is usually right… but I know i don’t always give off the best first impression so I try to give people the benefit of the doubt…

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