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Like Pete Townsend Says, “Who Are You?”

I don’t recognize people and it’s not because I’m not observant. I pay close attention to my surroundings, as every situation has the potential to end up as a scene in a book. My memory is freaky good. I know what you’re thinking- how good can it be if I can’t identify people I’ve met before? Let me demonstrate. I remember the day I got my driver’s license (August 25th, 1987) was a Tuesday. I can recite all thirty-two NFL teams and their starting quarterbacks (go on, quiz me. I dare you). I remember the Friends episode from 1995 where Brooke Shields licked Joey’s hand at dinner (that one might have stuck with me because there are a few special people I’d like to lick. And if Brooke’s character, Erika Ford, can do it, in a restaurant, in a burgundy dress, there’s hope for me). I wasn’t kidding. My memory rarely fails me.

So why don’t I recognize people? I wish I could tell you. It’s extremely inconvenient not to be able to retrieve someone’s name or even know who they are. It makes introductions awkward. Small talk is difficult when I can’t figure out if I know the person from my kids’ school or riding or maybe through a friend of a friend.

But, like many others with deficits, I have developed coping strategies. If someone who seems to know me is wearing breeches and boots, it’s a safe bet they’re from the horse world. If they are super fit and extremely bendy, he or she is probably one of Kurt’s friends.

So when I ran into a woman in the parking lot of Essex Elementary School, I banked on her being a fellow parent. She clearly knew me, as the first thing she said was that she’d seen me on TV. She looked familiar, but I couldn’t recall her name or exactly who she was. But, I definitely knew her… from somewhere. Unfortunately, after our initial greeting, she dove straight into critiquing me.

The more she talked, the less convinced I was that she was an EES parent. We have a great group of kids and an equally wonderful bunch of parents. I couldn’t imagine one of them would tell me I might want to try wearing make-up next time I’m on TV and that I was fidgety. Although, come to think of it, a different woman who is very definitely an EES parent informed me that she was too busy to come to my “little book thingy.” She was referring to the launch party for NIGHT BLINDNESS where more than two-hundred people turned out to show their support. Crap-could they have been the same person? That’s another thing that happens, everyone looks alike to me. Imagine sifting through a shoebox of out-of-focus pictures, in the dark, trying to identify the people in the photos. I’m not being flippant here. It’s slightly terrifying when I’m talking to two people who I know share no physical similarities, but they still look the same to me.

So, we chatted for a few minutes about how she watched my Fox interview in the middle of her daily two hour run on the treadmill. Lord knows I’m no super model, but this lady might need to rethink her workout regime if this is what she has to show for twelve miles of running every day. Anyway, she checked her watch and informed me she was late. Kudos to you, mystery woman, for using my method of escaping people who I am mentally done talking to.

It was only after she was safely inside the school that it clicked who she was. I always say I’m impossible to offend unless you are mean to my kids. While this twinkie wasn’t overtly nasty, she did grossly underestimate Ainsley. In my book, that’s a much bigger sin than unkind words. I briefly thought about trying to catch her in the foyer and punching her in the face. There’s not a jury in the world who’d convict me if they knew what she’d done. But, alas, the door closed behind her and she was gone.

Had I known who I was speaking to, I might not have been so sweet. Even after she pointed out my lack of looking like a girl on TV, I continued to smile and play nice. Small town living has taught me that everyone knows someone who knows you and most of the time, Kevin Bacon has nothing on us. Never mind six degrees of separation. It’s bordering on an incestuous two degrees. So, I held my tongue and missed a perfect opportunity for payback. So for once, whatever disconnect is going on in the facial recognition part of my brain worked to my advantage. It kept the woman’s nose intact and my arrest record clean.

I’ve never been one to subscribe to the ridiculous belief that everything happens for a reason. It’s a cop out at best and a scapegoat at worst. But, perhaps something good finally came out of me never knowing who the hell I’m talking to. If I’d broken my hand rearranging her face, typing this blog would have been challenging.  And, the principal who is a good guy but also a mandated reporter would have felt obligated to call the police. That might have put a damper on our morning drop-off pleasantries.

So, in the spirit of being able to chat at the front doors of school without the ugly scars of handcuffs reminding me that it’s not polite to assault people, it turned out okay that I didn’t recognize that woman until it was too late. But consider yourself warned, treadmill lady. If we cross paths again off school grounds, I’m pretty sure I’ll remember you. You and your nose might want to run far and run fast.

{ 2 comments… add one }

  • Stacie November 11, 2014, 11:39 am

    I have this same affliction. I stood next to Jamiroquai for about 10 minutes and just thought it was an odd dude.
    Who is this woman that thinks she is the know all of everything? Would you walk up to someone and tell them all the things they did wrong on TV? I can’t stand people who feel it’s ok to give unsolicited criticism. I’m glad you didn’t get arrested though. Makes it awkward for the kids 😉

  • Jessica November 11, 2014, 8:23 pm

    You are hilarious. And I totally get it. I have four kids, so I’m constantly running into their friends’ parents and I never know who I’m talking to. And believe me, there are plenty of people in NYC I’d like to punch. Nice writing.

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