Maybe it was the way I was dressed. Maybe worse, it was just the way I looked. Sloppy, un-shaven, not so much a sight for sore eyes, as a pitiful sight that would make eyes sore. But what did I care? It was vacation, and I was in vacation mode – as my wife describes this downtime look of mine – relaxed and unkempt – with heavy emphasis on the unkempt part. Think the late John Candy, only with more wrinkled clothes.
So, little wonder I barely warranted a glance, let alone a single, “Can I help you,” as I wandered this otherwise classy art store on vacation. Perhaps the proprietor just hoped this fat, frumpy fashion shock would prove the disinterested ugly American she no doubt suspected, and soon stumble out her gallery, no doubt, to the nearest Burger King (close, but it turned out to be a coffee shop next door).
She would not be so lucky this day. Nor would she pick up on the fact that the woman she was helping some yards away, and of whom she clearly thought more highly, was in fact, my wife. Let’s just say my better half radiates class, dressed-down I do not (sometimes dressed “up,” I don’t do much better).
No, my wife warranted a fuss; I did not. She asked the engaging questions; I appeared to barely register a pulse – maybe because I was so darn hungry and so darn bored – a bad combination.
Still, I’ve seen this behavior before. I’ve encountered this reaction before. I call it the“before-they-know-me look. It’s what I also like to call the pre-oh-my-God-it’s-Neil-Cavuto-anchor-god!” dropped-jaw expression.
But enough about me. Back to this woman who clearly, and oddly, didn’t know me! Go figure! Because let’s just say this snooty salesperson not only didn’t know me, she clearly didn’t want to know me. I’m absolutely convinced that once she spotted my cherubic stubble, and my eyes glanced hers spotting my cherubic stubble, I’d spare us all the trouble – and just leave.
All seemed headed in that direction until a passing customer happened to recognize me – alas, such is this icon’s fate. But this wasn’t just any customer. This particular customer was a frequent customer of said proprietor’s. She was, as they say, a “regular.” And shock-of-shocks, this regular was a Fox regular – she loved Fox – and I mean really loved Fox and anyone and anything having to do with Fox. She fawned all over me (and who wouldn’t), began recounting shows, and even specific interviews, right down to favorite closing comments. Turns out this woman was so loud she brought my presence to other shoppers’ attention as well. They, too, Fox fans. They, too, smitten at the sight of the star in their midst (again, no surprise, right?).
Yep, they, too, instant Financial Factor fans. They, too, such fans my fashion statement almost seemed to make a statement and make them even bigger fans! Behold Cavuto’s indifference to fashion conformity! To them, it seemed my very anti-style MADE ME STYLIN’!!
Now it starts getting good! That store owner or saleswoman or proprietor of Satan, or whatever you wanted to call her seemed to have a double-take, then seemed to noticeably change at the clear celebrity in her presence. I have that effect on people, what can I say?
She quickly adjusted to this reality, and in one of the most remarkable attitude shifts I’ve seen in my lifetime, immediately began fawning all over me. This woman who only minutes before had tried to pretend I wasn’t there, couldn’t do enough to make sure I wouldn’t leave, and started fussing there might be any artwork in which she could interest me.
I had gone from John Candy to John Kennedy faster than you could say “Camelot.” She even showed me some ridiculously over-priced sailboat sculptures to make the point! “You can almost smell the sea raging,” she said.
I could smell something raging, all right, but it wasn’t the sea – I’ll just leave it at that. But what was remarkable was how her demeanor changed, even though I had not. And when she realized that this otherwise disconnected woman for whom she had shown genuine respect was indeed, attached to me – double sales jeopardy! It was as if we had suddenly become this store’s “it” couple, even though we hadn’t said anything differently or done anything differently or acted even remotely differently.
Suddenly we were seen through the prism of notoriety, even though just minutes earlier, my clothes warranted little notice. No, way back “then,” I revolted this woman. Now I was rejoicing this woman. And all because I apparently was seen in a whole new light by this woman – not because of “who” I was, but “what” I was.
This fat frump of a hump in her store was now a beauty, not a beast. And this shallow-as-they-get proprietor was just as suddenly a beauty and not nearly so beastly. I relay all of the above to remind anyone, not only about the danger of judging any book by its cover, but demanding why the cover should even matter.
Imagine for a moment how stingingly subliminal all this surface-fixation was, and how it all played out. Imagine if the same were applied to a shopper based on the color of his skin, rather than the content of that shopper’s wallet. I’m not saying anything profound here, except to remind anyone and everyone how we are often judged not on the things that matter, but invariably, the things that do not.
Who’s to say the fat frumpy ugly American Neil Cavuto isn’t closer to the more lovable character than the usually shaved and appropriately dressed anchor Neil Cavuto? I’m the same guy. I don’t act any differently. Yet there are those who judge based on things that are hardly deep, but deeply flawed.
They say that you never get a chance to make a second impression. They’re wrong. Beware the shallow disingenuous worm who’d change on a dime based on a wrong impression. They’re usually in sales, and they’re usually more than happy to sell you…short.
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