Appearances can indeed be deceiving

urlI hate to shop.  I’d rather flop, or even drop than shop.  I  do enjoy gawking at some of the other shoppers, however.  Apparently I am not alone.  On one recent trip to the local grocery, I spied two “over-fifty” men shopping together and making comments about the other shoppers.

They both had on rather quaint outfits (in from the hills for the day?). The taller man was Ibis-like and was wearing a mackintosh and what appeared to be what was commonly known in the very old days as a deerstalker’s hat.

The slightly stocky fellow was dressed in a wool suit and had a kindly, muffin-y look to him.  I had seem them gawking at me for an extended period.

I parked my partly-filled shopping cart in an area with little traffic and decided to do some spying, myself.  I positioned myself behind a tall display of pork and beans and was straining my ears when I heard:

“Are you getting anything out of this, my good man?”  The Ibis-like man asked.  “Shopping in these stores is a good exercise for techniques of observation, and that which follows, the art of …”


“She undoubtedly is a char woman.  Her red, callused hands and stubby fingernails would indicate such.  Although she did not purchase any hair dye, we can assume that she dyes her hair as she is over sixty and there is no grey.  Her stop to the pet area where she purchased many bags of cat litter indicates that she is most probably one of those cat-hoarder people, tsk, tsk, and a vegetarian, herself, as she bought no meat.  Her propensity for wearing dark solids, indicates that she is terribly weight-conscious and may be one of those yo-yo dieters.  Her dialect indicates hill-williamism.”

“Yes, I see.  Very good!”

“Her purchase of coloring books and crayons indicates that she has at least one grandchild who lives in this general area.

“And what would you say about her current marital status, if you don’t mind my asking, my good fellow?”

“Not widowed! Single or divorced.  Widowed women continue to wear their wedding rings and she has none.  Elementary!”

I could contain myself no longer.  I eased myself out from behind the pork and beans.

“Pardon me,” I interjected in my hillbilly dialect.  “I could not help overhearing (a lie! I could help it!).  Your deductions are flawed.  I work in a school system, and bought the coloring books and crayons for my job.  Elementary! (as in grades one through four)  My hands are red and chapped from scraping my windshield in the mornings.  My hands are callused because I am an artist and bang them up a lot, especially when doing woodcarving.  I have recently taken on Arkansas Red Oak, by the way.  My fingernails are stubby because I am also a writer and long fingernails get in my way on the keyboard.  I am not a vegetarian—I stocked up on meat last week and it is in the freezer.  I am not a cat hoarder.  I buy cat litter when it goes on sale to use for traction in my driveway on icy mornings.  I am widowed, but no longer wear my wedding ring as it has gotten too loose and I don’t want to lose it.  I do not dye my hair.  I am steel grey at the temples and have that hair tucked under the rest where it stays, most of the time.  I wear dark solids because I like them, often adding one bold touch of color — it’s called an accented neutral — but I ran out of the house in a hurry today, so what you see is what you get. While you profess to the ‘where there is smoke there is fire’ school of thought, I profess to the one that states, ‘appearances can be deceiving!’”

The two men stared at me in disbelief.  Finally, the kindly one uttered,

“Yes, yes I see.  Holmes, what would you make of it?”

The man he called Holmes said nothing, but continued staring blankly.  Then after a moment he turned on his heel and left, his friend in close pursuit.  Where did he go?  Back to 221B Baker Street, I presume, to partake in some of his seven percent solution and play the violin.

      —Authors note: I am an aficionado of anything Sherlockian.  I have The Annotated Sherlock Holmes among others, and have seen most of the movies.  Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce are my two favorite portrayers. I consider Sir Arthur Conan Doyle a true genius.

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