I’m sorry, but do I know you?
October 4, 2005
It’s a good thing I see my name in print frequently. Otherwise, I might not remember it.Others, on the other hand, always seem to remember my name. Either they’ve met me in person or they recognize the stupid photo that runs with this column. I’m not sure whether the instant recognition is a good thing or a bad thing. Everyone can place Abraham Lincoln’s name with his face, but on the other hand, everyone recognizes an image of Adolf Hitler, too.No doubt I fall somewhere between the vast extremes of famous and infamous, which is of little consolation when people offer a friendly “hello” on the street and I’m completely clueless as to their identity.Sometimes the face is familiar, but I can’t quite pin a name to it. Other times, I could swear I’ve never seen the individual before in my life. This happens more frequently than I’d care to admit.I recently managed to greet by name an acquaintance I actually recognized, congratulating myself on my ability to dredge it up from the recesses of my muddled memory on short notice, only to realize about an hour later that I’d called her Kristen when her name is Andy. How embarrassing.I’m better off sticking with the nonspecific “Hi, how are you?” and smiling, and hoping no one gets wise to my consternation.That was my strategy during a recent encounter on Smuggler, when an approaching hiker brightly proffered a “Hi, Janet.” It was only after I returned the salutation to this stranger that I realized she was talking into the headset of a cell phone, greeting another Janet and probably wondering why the heck the nutcase passing by was responding. What are the odds?It only recently occurred to me, though, that many of the people who say “hello” as if they know me may, in fact, think I’m someone else.I was waiting in line to use the restroom at a friend’s wedding reception when one of two other women in the queue paused in their conversation, looked at me and said, “Hi, it’s nice to see you” or words to that effect.I must have had a couple of drinks, because I bit the bullet and admitted my ignorance. I responded, “Hi, and you are … ?”Then she said, “You’re not [so-and-so] are you? (I can’t even remember that name). You look just like her. “Doesn’t she look just like her?” she said, turning back to her companion.”Yes, she does look like [so-and-so],” stranger No. 2 concurred.That’s when it occurred to me that someone else out there is using my face. People spot me, assume I’m her, and say “hello.”Apparently, she’s very popular.I wonder if my friends are greeting her on the street while she racks her brain in a futile attempt to place a name with a face she has never seen before.There are lots of things Janet Urquhart can’t remember. Remind her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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