I’ll admit it did look a bit embarrassing the moment a worried British Airways official approached me during breakfast in the airport lounge.
“Madame, I am sorry to inform you that we are not allowed to serve alcohol before 8:00 in the morning.”
“I should say not,” I thought, but wondered why she was telling me this until I saw her eyes rest on the wine glass sitting on the table in front of me.
“It’s apple juice,” I exclaimed experiencing the same kind of anxiety one feels when glancing in the rear view mirror and spotting a police cruiser following close behind. I knew I had done nothing wrong but somehow the guilt was reflexive.
“Really, I just like the glass,” I explained.
“I am so sorry,” she said apologetically “but I could get in trouble.” And then deftly whisked away my glass and any risk she might be accommodating the peccadillos of an early morning lush.
But not before offering, apparently as a consolation prize, more ‘juice.’
“No thank you,” I said.
“Now, go away,” I thought, as I took a look around me to see how this scene was playing out among the lounge crowd.
“Poor thing,” some one had to be thinking. “Can’t get your morning top up, eh?”
“It really was apple juice,” I wanted to scream.
Really, I would never start a party before 8:00 in the morning or even noon for that matter despite the fact that, as the singer Jimmy Buffet says, “It’s 5:00 o’clock somewhere.”
My preference of the more aesthetically pleasing shape of a wine glass to that of a tumbler must go back to those days of my youth and the thrill of inclusion and pretend sophistication orchestrated by my indulging parents as they ordered me a Shirley Temple so I could share in the glamour and sociability of their early evening cocktail hour.
But the incident did make the case for remembering that looks can be deceiving, and you should never judge a book by its cover.
Unless, of course your observations are coupled with instinct described beautifully by Agatha Christie in The Mysterious Affair at Styles.
“Instinct is a marvelous thing. It can neither be explained nor ignored.”
“He is just getting worse the older he gets,” a friend of mine said about a relative of hers I instantly found trying. “He wasn’t always like this, she added.
“I suspect he was,” I thought, reasoning she was just being kind, a characteristic I clearly have in short supply. But a very forgivable failing as observed by Flavia de Luce in the book, Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d. “Giving someone the benefit of the doubt is not so simple as it sounds. What it means, in fact, is being charitable-which, as the vicar is fond of pointing out, is the most difficult of the graces to master.”
Charity was once tested at a dinner party when I was seated next to a man who was immediately such hard work. Not fun. Not curious. Not happy. Such a surprise as he lived a vastly affluent and outwardly successful life. After dinner, feeling perhaps that I had misjudged him and should have been more sympathetic to the unknown, like poor health or loss, I questioned a mutual friend.
“Do you think my dinner partner was so miserable because he is old.”
My friend’s answer suggested that the reason was far less complicated.
“An old crank was a young crank,” he crisply responded.
Obnoxious people are obnoxious because they do not know they are and there is nothing you can do about it but recognize the condition quickly and then choose to accept them as they are or jettison them from your life at your earliest convenience. A poor personality is not like bad breathe. It cannot be fixed it with a mint. Your traits are ingrained and, like your height, pretty much permanent.
Now although first impressions and instinct are not the same thing, they are a nifty combination albeit one that failed my lovely BA agent that morning.
But I don’t blame her for jumping to conclusions because as a rule our first instincts are usually spot on as Malcolm Gladwell wrote in, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking when he said “There can be as much value in the blink of an eye as in months of rational analysis.”
So we should trust ourselves. Life’s short. Don’t waste precious time questioning whether you have sized up a person or thing correctly. Chances are, you probably have.