I have two secret vices, and I love to be caught out on both. The first concerns driving.
When I am chatting with friends in the car, I become so absorbed in our conversation that I do not pay 100% attention to the road.
“Watch out for the car on the left!”
“There’s a stop sign ahead!”
“Yield, for God’s sake! Yield!”
More than once, an observant passenger may have saved my life. Ergo, I love back seat drivers.
My second secret vice is that I make snap judgments about people based upon their appearances, and if not often, often enough, I am wrong. Particularly about books.
My late husband, for example.
When I first met him, all I saw were those gorgeous blue eyes and the romance of his profession: Law enforcement. Arson detection. Chasing bad guys. Solving crimes. Justice triumphing.
Dating him was like being in a movie. I, the writer. A veritable literary princess. He, the fire investigator. A text book tough guy. Or so I thought.
But … what do I find out?
That we cry at the same movies. That he only has to hear the words “semper fi” for his eyes to tear up. That he would rather watch competitive ice dancing on TV than football. And … and … and … that he reads more than I do!
This bad habit I have of misjudging people has peppered my relationships over the years, and occurred most recently with a new neighbor. I’ll call him Bruno.
Bruno is a stocky, fiftyish guy with curly black hair, a thick neck, and hairy knuckles. He owns bowling alleys; he loves NASCAR; he drives a Harley motorcycle on weekends; he drinks a lot of beer.
And … and … and …he is an avid reader!
By happenstance, we met last week after a storm to gawk at a tree that had fallen on a nearby powerline. After discussing electrical outages and debris removal, the subject somehow segued to books, and half a gasp later, we’re bemoaning the demise of our local bookshop and the way-too-early death of a mutually favorite writer, Michael Crichton.
Then, off we go. We’re discussing books!
Bruno had found out that one of my novels was nominated for an Edgar award, and right away, he tells me that he loves Edgar Allan Poe. Next thing you know, he leaves a big stack of thrillers on my doorstep, and goes on-line to buy one of my old mysteries.
A kind-hearted, book-loving, NASCAR aficionado with hairy knuckles who owns a bowling alley.
Then there‘s Lydia, a waitress at a local grill.
Lydia is a skinny redhead with a Brooklyn accent and three kids (all in college and all doing well) who scorns romance novels, eagerly reads just about everything else, writes rhyming poetry, and can quote from my favorite speech in the French play, Cyrano de Bergerac (the Brian Hooker translation) without missing a word.
We also have Thomas, the auto mechanic I’ve been going to for years, who plays the piano, restores classic cars, and has been reading and re-reading Sherlock Homes’ stories since he was thirteen.
There are countless others as well. Wearing overalls, horn-rimmed glasses, aprons, badges, and three-piece suites. They listen to country music, rock, opera, love songs, ragtime, and jazz. They have long hair, short hair, or spiked hair; they are guys or gals; married, single, old and young. And all of them – Yes. Civilization has a chance – all of them are still reading books!
Once again, I have misjudged my fellow-man.
And I couldn’t be happier.
Copyright © Shelly Reuben, 2017. Shelly Reuben’s books have been nominated for Edgar, Prometheus, and Falcon awards. For more about her writing, visit www.shellyreuben.com