Judging A Book Before You Read It

Posted: October 7, 2010 in Life

I’m not going to say “stop me if you’ve heard this before”.  Mostly because I’ve probably told it in a blog before – likely over on MySpace.    Nevertheless, we’re going to explore it a bit now, so bear with me.

Or, in other words – “tough”


There was a knock at the door.

One of my four sisters was excited.   “I think that’s him, Wolf.”

“Ok let me answer the door.”

“Well don’t say anything.  In fact, let me answer it.”

I glared at her.  “No. I’m your brother.  I’m answering the door.”

Mom looked over the top of her newspaper.  “Let Wolf answer the door”

Thus, it was done.  Decision was made.  No one gainsaid her. 

No one would dare.

I walked over the door and opened it.

A scruffy-looking guy stood there.  He had thick blond hair that covered his ears.  He shoved his hands deeper into his pockets.  And, as he looked directly at my nose, he said “um, is Cindy there?”

Immediately I sensed that something was amiss.  “Hi.  I’m Wolf.  Cindy’s my younger sister.”  

For some reason, I felt the need to glare at him.  I didn’t question it, or hesitate.   So we stood there.  Him hunched over with his hands deep in his pockets, and me just standing there.

It was only for a few seconds, but it seemed to be enough.

“Wait here.”

I shut the door and went to my sister.  “Cindy, be careful OK?  I don’t like him.”


I swallowed my fear and watched as she left the house.

Fast-forward and years later I found out that he attempted to attack her that night.  She got away OK.


A year after I moved into an apartment (after separating from my wife), my superintendent brought a couple over to view my apartment.  They were hoping to move in upstairs.   She was bright and cheerful.  A truly likeable person.   He, on the other hand was quiet.  And his hands were in his pockets.  And he couldn’t look at anyone in the eye.

I had that same unsettled sense about him.  Only there was nothing I could do about it. Except observe.

A few weeks after they moved in upstairs, I heard them yelling at each other.  It sounded as if stuff was being thrown.  And the screeching was loud. 

Just as I was getting ready to call the police, the yelling stopped.  So I put the phone down.

This happened a few times.  

A few weeks later, my superintendent was paying a visit (we were friends).  He said “did you hear what happened?”


“Remember that couple I showed your apartment to?  Well the guy beat up his girlfriend.   Put her in the hospital.”


“Yup.  The cops were called and they had a hard time trying to take him away.   It took three cops to drag him out of the place.”

I looked him, and my stomach fell.   I should have called the cops the first time I heard them.

“He must have been hopped up on something.   They struggled with him all the way down the hallway.  Ended up busting through another apartment door.”

I could only imagine.


Most people are big on getting empirical evidence before rendering a judgement.   That’s just logical.

Sometimes you don’t have the information handy to make a decent judgement though.

Sometimes all you have is intuition and instinct.   Cops call it a “gut feeling”.  

Sometimes you just know that you know.

It has taken some time but I’ve learned to trust my instincts, about most things.  You get some of this instinctual knowledge through having living hard experiences.  Sometimes you just have it, and you don’t know where it comes from.  But, through trial and error, you begin to realize you can trust it. 


A few years ago, my girlfriend and I were talking about someone we’d met at a party.

She said “you know she doesn’t like you, right?”

“She doesn’t?”  I was honestly puzzled.

“You didn’t see that?   It came through with what she said.  She was totally being passive aggressive with you.  I’m kind of surprised you didn’t pick up on it.”

I shrugged.  “How exactly did you figure that out?”

“It was the words she used.”   My girlfriend had used logic to reach her conclusion.   It was irrefutable, too.  And I had missed it.

She looked at me.  “I hope I didn’t ruin the evening for you by telling you that.”

“No.  Not really.  It doesn’t bother me.”  And it really didn’t.

The flip side of trusting your instincts is that if your intuition warning isn’t buzzing red, you don’t imagine there’s any problem.  And so you get the privilege of thinking the best about everyone.  And on the few occasions where your intuition fails you, about something so unimportant as learning that someone dislikes you, it’s not a big deal.

I like it when the glass is half full.  

It means I get to drink some more.

  1. Momma Fargo says:

    So true…all of it. Great post. And gut feeling is the best asset we have sometimes to protect us and others.


  2. Hmm…I was all the way with you till that last paragraph where no matter how many times I read it, I’m confused, But, I’m chalking that up to hunger at the moment, so you’ll have to excuse me.

    Here’s what I’ll say about judging a book by it’s cover and your gut feeling — A book, more times than not, tells you exactly what kind of book it is. Instinctually we can tell from the cover of a book whether it’s a cheezy romance novel or a boring old history book. That “saying” never did work too well for me — truth is, I judge all the time. Now, do I act on it always? No. Because my experience says, that it’s possible that the book that seems to be a boring old history book might just be the best book of poetry ever.

    Your gut instinct was right about both situations, however, based on experience you made a judgement call. You can’t beat yourself up for that. Thankfully your sister is fine –and hopefully the lady upstairs turned out to be okay too. What I’m trying to say is, if you really knew that the boring history book was really a history book — or that either one of these guys were really jerks, you would have acted accordingly. On that I have no doubt.

    But, we’re human. We do the best we can — and when we know better, we do better.

    I guess I’m just saying: you’re being a little hard on yourself. I think your gut feeling and radar are working perfectly fine!



    • wolfshades says:

      I like your heart in this, Carmen.

      Honestly, I’m not really putting myself down for either occasion. Now, anyway – though, back then, I certainly felt pretty awful about the woman upstairs, and really beat myself up over it. So to speak.

      Both occasions served to be harsh learning experiences. Sometimes you get to the point where you know that paying attention to your gut can be a matter of life or death.

      In the last paragraph I was trying to show how my instinct wasn’t working, and someone else picked up on what was going on, through sheer logic. The truth is – I”ve been oblivous to many such personal slights. Maybe when it comes to myself, my instinct isn’t that strong; maybe it only kicks in when someone I value is the target. I don’t know. I like to think so.

      But then there was that time on the bus when no one I knew was being threatened. Yet there was a real *strong* sense of evil emanating from a guy who was just sitting there, minding his own business. I can’t explain it at all – but I certainly trust that feeling.

      Ultimately you’re right – we do the best we can with the tools that we have at hand. There’s hardly ever any point to lamenting over a tipped jug of milk. :)


  3. JayBird says:

    I feel like people like us are really intuitive. I hear a lot of “People with ADHD can’t read social cues, it’s almost reminiscent of non-verbal learning disorder.” But then I find from my own experience, and from hearing things like this, that we’re excellent judges of character.

    I’ve had experiences like this, but I find for me it’s more that I can read emotional states that people are trying to hide. Maybe it’s a keen radar for detecting when someone is annoyed with me honed from years of bouncing off the walls. I call it my when-to-shut-up detector. :P It’s not just social safety either, I’m very good at pegging who to watch while I’m alone at a bus station at night, or when I’m being followed.

    I think it may be an interesting factoid for you that non-verbal communication (paralinguistics) make up at least 70% (an even up to 90%, depending on the study) of all communication. It’s not just the words that come out of our mouths that tell people about us. People who work with people on the Autism spectrum call it a person’s “mind reading ability” because people with autism lack this ability and that makes up a large percentage of their difficulty. They say don’t judge a book by it’s cover, but as humans we sure do rely on it a lot.


    • wolfshades says:

      Yes, I’ve always been really good at reading people in social situations. It’s been almost scary, being able to pick up on stuff that other people missed, just because they gave no verbal clues. I’m not certain (in some cases) that it was even a matter of body language either. It seems to be a confluence of factors.

      I believe ADHD folk have a knack of seeing the big picture on some things, just because they tend to see everything at once, and not in portions. On the downside, it’s also what limits us when it comes to doing painstaking work.

      So, seeing a person entirely, in the context of their surrounding, the way they’re holding their head, the words they speak, the expression on their face, and where their hands are (among other things) becomes almost second nature. If you’ve ever seen “Lie to Me” – there’s one character, who is described as a “natural” who is all about that. Certainly that’s the case for me most of the time too.


  4. izziedarling says:

    Great post, Wolf. That gut feeling … well, we must pay attention to it. I’m no therapist, but your girlfriend telling you another woman doesn’t like you … well, it sounds as if she was threatened by Miss Passive/Aggressive. Women don’t usually make snarly remarks about other women unless we feel insecure. Just sayin’


    • wolfshades says:

      I’ve been with women who are precisely as you describe, so your guess is a good one. In this case though, I was with someone who was entirely self-assured. Her description of what went on was factual, and I was able to understand and agree with her after she explained it. So….in this case, hers was an altruistic observation.

      (And now I’m trying to remember just why we ever split up) *grin*


  5. redriverpak says:

    Great post there Wolf buddy! As I have gotten older, I too tend to lean towards my gut reaction to someone or something. My gut is usually right much more than my brain.


    • wolfshades says:

      Yes. Your gut sometimes knows things before you do, doesn’t it?

      It’s like when you walk out the door and go to your car, and something *something* holds you back. There’s a nagging suspicion that you’ve forgotten something important.

      I’ve learned, when that happens, just to stand there motionless until my brain gets a chance to catch up to my gut. Too often I’ve ignored it, only to discover once I got to the office that I was supposed to feed the cat before leaving.


  6. Abe's Blog says:

    Your comment about your girlfriend sensing someone didn’t like you and you not seeing that–I can relate. I think it comes down to threat level. If a girl at a party doesn’t like you, that is Threat Level Brown, in other words, you couldn’t give a crap. Really.
    But when you get a sense that another man (especially another man) is a danger to you or to those around you, you get your hackles up. Like a wolf. Threat Level Neon Orange with flashing lights. That”s our kind of instinct. Now the question is, what do we do about it?


    • wolfshades says:

      What a great – and accurate – description! Doesn’t matter when we personally are threatened but when it’s our loved ones? I’ve only ever found two reactions: fight or flight. And I’ve done both, depending upon the options available.

      Although come to think of it, there was one other occasion that comes to mind, where it was me and my cat that were being threatened. And it was MOST bizarre, too.

      I was standing at a bus station, with my cat in my cat carrier, waiting for a bus. This grubby old lady came by, mumbling to herself. And then she started talking out loud about her vagina, and she started getting graphic. But more than that, there was this ominous thing about her. Hard to describe even now, but I was more than just a little unsettled. So I walked to the other end of the bus station. (Keep in mind there were crowds of people around, too)

      Wouldn’t you know it? She shambled over toward me, still mumbling the same disquieting stuff, only now she was verbally including me and my cat in her ramblings.

      I walked outside and got as far away as possible. And she followed.

      Eventually a bus came. I got in line, and saw her get in line as well. I think I got away by walking off of the bus just as she got on. (Can’t recall for sure – only I knew that I got away)

      Certainly worth waiting for another bus. But I don’t to this day understand why there was such an urgent sense of evil about her.


      • Abe's Blog says:

        Your story about the vagina-talking crazy person threatening you and your cat had me laughing like…a crazy person! That is a great story and is worthy of a blog, or a short film. A blog is cheaper.


  7. Like you, I have excellent instincts. But like you said, if my intuition warning isn’t buzzing red I will blithely think the best of people and that, my friend, has cost me dearly a time or two.

    I started to say something about how I was raised, then realized it’s too personal. Suffice it to say that I sometimes don’t trust my instincts they way I should, just as you didn’t with the boy your sister dated and the couple upstairs. It happens.

    And once I deliberately overrode every warning bell… My mind was screaming FIRE! but I didn’t run for the exit. I paid dearly for it, too. In the end I learned a valuable lesson: my instincts are good, if they’re screaming at me, it would behoove me to listen.


    • wolfshades says:

      It’s kind of like a Spidey-sense isn’t it?

      You can be out on public transit, and it’ll kick in. And that’s when you notice someone looking – but not looking – in your direction.

      Just yesterday, I got off the subway and waited for the next train because of that sense.

      And just occasionally – that sense will trigger a response that provokes you to act in a way that you would never think, to mitigate the situation. Which you only realize after the fact. Like the time that guy took a dislike for me to no apparent reason (maybe I looked like one of his enemies, or maybe he was on meth or just had mental issues). My Spidey sense was going off like mad “DANGER DANGER”, and I knew that if we made it out to the street I was toast. (The man was a giant). I calmly reached one hand into my pocket. He saw what I did, and broke off the aggression and took off.

      Wasn’t until afterward I realized what I’d done, and how he had interpreted it. He thought I was going for a (non-existent) gun.

      I’ve told this story before, but it still amazes me.


  8. Just Me says:

    Excellent post! The more you trust your gut the better it seems to get, I find. I bet you REALLY wished you had trusted your gut with that couple upstairs when you found out, eh? Sometimes you need a bit of a nudge before you realize that you just “know” something though.


    • wolfshades says:

      Yes, I really wished I’d listened to myself. Felt *very* bad for the girl, who was really quite a sweetheart. My hope is that she never went back to him – though I know that in a lot of situations like that, the abused partner will often go back.


  9. You have to trust your instincts…or at least the ones you learn with the years to be true – the tried and tested ones if you so like, because often we can be swayed by our own wants, blinding the true gut feeling. With the years one learns to distinguish one from another. At least that’s what I have started to do : )

    Nice post!


    • wolfshades says:

      Thanks! Seems we’re always taught not to judge unfairly, before we get to know all of the facts, but sometimes there’s just no time to wait for that, and you have to go with your gut. It’s been proven to me more often than not, that the instinctual stuff has merit.


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