Friday, December 02, 2011

Judging Covers

He was covered with tats and the whites of his eyes were turquoise. We were unlikely travel companions in a long flight from Denver to North Carolina. But there we were, seated side by side, and our conversation began when he watched my attempts to find a free wi-fi connection for my new Kindle Fire.

I tried hard not to stare at those turquoise whites, and was struck with the thought that if it weren’t for that and the tats, he was quite presentable. He was neatly groomed, quite mannerly, and said please and thank you to the airline personnel. In short, he quite suitable for my granddaughter to date.

We pleasantly discussed our destinations. He was going to North Carolina to see to his tattoo business. And so it began. I politely asked if he had done the work on his arms, etc.

And ahem. About those eyes. Let’s face it, anyone who does this is inviting questions. He said it’s a permanent process, turning the whites to turquoise, requiring multiple injections into certain sacs near the eyes. However, one can turn the turquoise to purple by adding red.

Tattooing is a family thing now. A bonding ritual. And everyone is doing it. He estimated over 70% of the passengers on the plane had a tattoo. Parents now come in with children, husbands with wives. And of course, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was great for business. Dragons are  now one of his most popular motifs.

The demographics are interesting. There are definitely sexual undertones. He insisted men are attracted to babes with tattoos. Minors must have their parents consent. He cards anyone who looks like they are younger than 31. It appeals to teens who want to rebel within boundaries. Older women who would like to be thought of as hip.

It’s painful. For some people it’s extremely painful and they wimp out. Basically, one is injecting poison with thousands of needles and human bodies react differently to this onslaught of foreign chemicals. He has never had to make a 911 call, but some people in the business have found themselves in that situation. Sanitation is paramount. He’s careful!

I was struck with the oddity of this unconventional young man giving all this information to a little old lady. There is my gray hair. No getting around that. I was obviously not a spring chicken. He asked if his tattoos were offensive to me. I gulped and felt compelled to answer him truthfully. He had been honest with me. I felt like I owed him the courtesy of the same quality of frankness. Yes, I said. However, I did not find them nearly as offensive as extensive piercing.

I was enriched by this forced encounter. We didn’t choose to sit side by side. I learned. I doubt if I’ll ever have a better glimpse into an occupation I knew nothing about.

Since I’m a writer, I pass everything through a writerly lens. I began thinking of books I pass by because of a strange or off-putting cover. Knowing how little I stray from my established reading tastes, after meeting Max, I decided to broaden my horizons. I really don’t know much about Vampire fiction. In fact, there’s an array of genres out there I haven’t explored: classic westerns, Christian suspense, teen literature, romances, fantasy, and graphic novels.

Thank you, Max!


Donis Casey said...

One of my favorite library assistants back in the day was a kid with black spiky hair & black eye makeup who always wore a bicycle chain and padlock around his neck. He was sweet, hard-working, smart, and respectful. He taught me a lot about judging covers.

Charlotte Hinger said...

Donis, this really was a great experience for me. It's too easy to make assumptions based on appearances.