Character Assassin: Golden Rule Corollary #1

cabinets“Deasley?! Deasley Finkmeyer? Do I know Deasley Fiinkmeyer? He’s my roommate! And you can’t seriously be thinking about working with him. He’s the weirdest, strangest nut case I’ve ever met.”

I decided to pass on asking my friend Mort why, if he had such a low opinion of Deasley Finkmeyer, he was sharing his apartment with him.

I was clerking in a cabinet shop. Business was good, and I was feeling like I could use some help. I told my boss Ted, and a few days later he suggested he could get me a guy named Finkmeyer. That night I had dinner with Mort, mentioned Finkmeyer, and Mort flipped out.

So I went back to Ted and told him I’d wait for another candidate. Why? Had I interviewed Finkmeyer? No, I had not met him, but Mort said — Hold it right there! Mort? Mort, the most pessimistic and cynical person we know? You formed your opinion of Deasley Finkmeyer based solely on the second-hand report of a guy like Mort? Uh… yes. Yes, I had.

Then came the zinger, which I have come to think of as Ted’s Corollary to the Golden Rule:

“How would you feel if you knew that people, who had never even met you, were forming a bad opinion of you based on things Mort told them?”

Ouch. Mort and I were old pals, but I had to admit the scenario was plausible, and the thought made me cringe. I told Ted I’d give Finkmeyer a shot.

Years later, I was hanging around with some guys in the break room, including a new kid Grimsdale Smith (we called him Grimmy). Turned out Grimmy knew my friend Lester. (You keeping this all straight? Do I need to draw a diagram?) Now, I went way back with Lester, almost as far back as Mort, but it had been a relationship with its ups and downs. Grimmy mentioned Lester and I flipped out.

“You can’t be seriously thinking of going over to Lester’s place for Movie Night?! Let me tell you something about Lester and his self-styled, so-called movie critic persona –” and I proceeded to destroy my old friend’s character and credibility, throwing in a few anecdotes from our days in a punk band for color and effect.

My tirade was followed by a brief, stunned silence. Then Grimmy remarked “Well, I am surprised to hear you say these things. I find Lester to be a pretty good guy, and I generally like what he has to say about the movies he shows. I think he’s pretty insightful.”

Suddenly my feet hurt like crazy, and it was, of course, because the shoe was on the other foot. I recanted, repented, and begged Grimmy to formulate his own opinions of Lester, and build his own relationship with him, untainted by my past experiences.

That’s the problem with this tongue of ours: it has a mind of its own.

And incidentally, Finkmeyer was indeed one of the oddest people I ever met. He was also a fine clerk.


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