On Not Judging a Book by its Cover

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“Never judge a book by its cover.” I thought I was quite good at that, trying not to leap to conclusions, taking a while to make up my mind about things, people, experiences. Not so, as I discovered a few days ago.

I was in the waiting room while my son had his Physiotherapy appointment. A woman came out of the treatment area and sat down. The radio was on quietly in the background, and she started singing along to the song that was playing. At first she sang quietly, almost under her breath, but as the song went on, she got louder.

I found myself thinking, “Must be a bit of a fruit loop.” Instantly ashamed of myself, I took my first look at her. She was wearing purple and had an ‘Om’ symbol round her neck. “Oh,” I thought, “a yogini.” it somehow made more sense that she would sing along, and felt less threatening. I began to relax. I hadn’t realised I was tense.

An older man came in for his appointment and sat down. “You have a nice voice,” he said. She did – she had a beautiful voice.

She smiled and thanked him.

“You have an accent,” he said, “Where are you from?”

“I’ve lived in the US, the Netherlands and Indonesia,” she said. “Where are you from?”

“I’m a Polack,” he laughed. “But I haven’t been there for many, many years.”

“You never lose an accent,” I said. “I’ve lived here for twenty five years and I still sound like I stepped off the plane yesterday.”

We all started chatted about travelling and languages, experiences of living overseas, and then got on to what we did.

The man was retired and just about to visit Europe, including Poland, for the first time in forty years. He became quite emotional at the thought of it, of al that would have changed. The woman in purple was a Neuropsycholgist here on an Australian Research Council scholarship, doing a PhD in early diagnosis and intervention in Autism. Yes, the same woman I had thought was a fruit loop and not wanted to engage with. I had judged her on the fact that she loved singing, and couldn’t contain her voice. And yet, how often do I push my trolley round the supermarket humming along to the muzak, and even – yes – singing! Shame on me.

“What do you do?” they asked me.

“I’ve just had a novel published actually,” I said.

“Fantastic. What’s it called, where can I get it?” they both asked.

I gave them my card with the name of the book written in it. They both said they couldn’t wait to read it having met me.

I’m ashamed that I judged her so quickly, and was so completely wrong! So I will try harder not to judge books by their covers or people by their actions, and I will sing more loudly in Woolworths when next I shop, and if people think I’m a fruit loop, I’ll be in good company.

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