Thursday, October 23, 2014

Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover

Idioms are passed from one generation to another.  They are phrases that we grow up with. Tidbits of advice, collapsed into a sentence which can be interpreted literally, but are usually meant metaphorically, with regards to a situation at hand.

While I was doing errands about a half-a-dozen Octobers ago, a brief encounter got me thinking about the commonly used phrase, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”  I put those thoughts in writing, and I recently found them in a file in my computer. This is what I wrote that day:

Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover 
The covers on these books have seen better days, but the contents are still classic. 

Don’t judge a book by its cover.  A worn out cliché, but it rang true for me today.
This afternoon, I stopped at an auto-parts store to look for the jumper cables I had promised to purchase. These would be our donation for the “Car Care” basket my son's class was assembling for a Silent Auction at the School PTA Halloween Carnival. 
I wandered up and down the somewhat scruffy and cluttered aisles, feeling very out of my element. I was surrounded by men, all seemingly with a purpose and appearing comfortable locating what they needed.  I perused every aisle, but couldn’t find the jumper cables.
My frustration mounted and I was nearly ready to concede defeat and leave empty-handed.  Suddenly, like a white knight, a man in a store vest said, “I’ll be with you in just a moment, Ma’am.”  (He must have read my mind . . .)
Seconds after he spoke to me, my eyes alighted on “just the thing” – an inexpensive “Emergency Car Kit,” complete with all sorts of emergency items, including the jumper cables I was needing to buy! When the salesperson returned to my side, I asked him if the contents of the kit were accurately depicted on the packaging, and told him why I needed it.
He confirmed the contents.  To my surprise though, he said, “But you probably want another one. This box is worn and stained, and the packaging is cut through.  Let me look in the back, as I think we have a newer-looking one there.”
I was very taken aback, and more than a little ashamed of myself.  Somehow, I had placed this person in a stereotype, based on my observation of the disorganization of the shelves and dirt on the floor, and even (unforgivably) his gender.  I had just assumed details of packaging and the aesthetic appearance of an item would have been unnoticeable and unimportant to the men managing and working in the store.  
Not only did this sales person find an impecable emergency car kit for me, he also voluntarily provided some store coupons, and a free t-shirt to add to the basket as well.
Quite different from the cover, indeed.
As I recall, the “car care” basket was a popular item at the auction.  I'd like to think that my family’s contribution of jumper cables provided an increased feeling of security for the driver who acquired it. The awareness I experienced while purchasing them, however, was priceless.

I recognized the absurdity of some unconscious stereotyping, while shopping for jumper cables.

When was the last time you made an assumption about a person, but once you got to know them better, you realized it was not true?

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  1. Great post, Susan! I love your photograph of the books. It's easy to jump to conclusions based on appearance. BTW, we have to make those types of baskets for the PTO silent auction each year and the car care idea is a good one!

    1. I'm glad the idea is a helpful one! The best thing about a car car basket is that there are a wide price range of items kids can bring in to put it together. Thanks for the compliment on the photo! I was really pleased to have the pumpkins to use as bookends!

  2. Very good point - I guess internally i'll have some sort of thought but externally I truly try to be courteous with everyone I meet . I am reminded of this about the President of the company I work in - without getting into specifics if one would see him you would never guess he runs a very successful business- then there is a quote about angels in the book of Hebrews something like this be kind to strangers you don't know if you are meeting an angel - sadly in today's world we approach with caution at times - have a great day

    1. Good thoughts Marisa. I hope you have a wonderful day week as well!

  3. Great post Susan. My son just experienced this earlier this week. A man came in to have his car serviced - a very old, beat up truck. C found out later that he is the founder of Zumiez, a very successful clothing company, and is a multi-millionaire. He keeps the truck because he likes it - C was amazed that he didn't have the latest, most expensive version. It was a great lesson for him.

  4. Oh, those books. Have loved them all.

    I can't say I am perfect in non-judgment area, but have learned some lessons over the years.


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