It was in the halcyon days of the mid-70’s. I was working in the wine department of a Shoppers Village Liquors (later to become Liquor Barn). I was wearing blue jeans, an army surplus shirt, Dingo boots, and my hair hung down to between my shoulder blades. I was a certifiable hippie-type who knew his wines. There were plenty of certifiable hippie-types in Lexington in those days, but most of them knew more about Pabst Blue Ribbon than Mumm’s Cordon Rouge.
One afternoon, I approached a middle-aged gentleman in the French wine aisle with my best; “May I help you?” He continued to gaze at the Beaujolais Villages selection for a moment (lost in the Fleury and the Brouilly) and murmured; “Are these all Beaujolais? What’s the diff-f-f-f…?”
Along about “diff-f-f-f…” he had glanced up at me, assessed the likelihood of any credible assistance from such a creature, and reached the conclusion of zero, zip, goose egg, and bupkiss. I caught a spark of despair in his eyes.
“No…I’m just looking.”
I’d seen this play before.
<< Let’s take a little reference side trip shall we? >>
In acting, an actor should quickly learn the difference between what they do and what others see, or they’ll never progress and they’ll never know why.
- I go on stage and do my piece, tell my story.
- When I finish, I step off the stage and the watchers (director, teacher, critics, audience…hecklers) tell me what they saw.
- If there are differences between what I did and they saw…I change.
- My story is paramount.
If my watchers don’t get my story, it doesn’t matter what I thought I was doing. If I want to succeed, I change and change and change until my story gets through the way I want it to be heard and understood.
I’m an actor and a storyteller. I’m foolish a goodly bit of the time, but I’m not often stupid.
And I wasn’t in the mid-70’s.
<< End of little reference side trip. >>
I lapsed into a hard ponder after receiving my congé from the fellow struggling with Moulin-au-Vent, and realized I was tilting with a few windmills of my own.
I really liked selling wine. I wanted to do more of it. But the signals I was sending were inhibiting me. I knew my hair and my fashion choices spoke nothing my quality, but others were making instant negative evaluations. Their prejudices were obstructing me. I was paying a price I no longer wished to pay.
I scheduled a haircut.
I called my professor from UK and asked him to teach me about tweed coats.
I had learned to tie a double Windsor a few years before from my friend Chuck Pogue.
I had an eye exam (previously scheduled) and when the doctor suggested contacts, I opted for glasses.
“Perfesser Lesser” was born.
I was amazed and delighted and a little bit disgusted by the change in fortune.
People respond to the signals we send. We may ridicule them for their response, but we choose the signals. We are in control of the signals we send and thus are in control of the response we elicit.
I was not my hair.
I was not my boots.
I was not my army shirt.
Nor was I my tweed jacket and my glasses.
These were simply signals I chose at different times of my life.
Similarly, the young man from Covington Catholic standing in front of the Native American drummer was not his hat.
But the hat was his signal.
The signal was his choice.
He was in control of the response.
It took me until my mid-20’s to decide I no longer wanted to pay that particular price.
I had the Côte d’Or to explore.
And yes, the choice has been golden.