I'm Sorry, Do I know You?

Yesterday at Pearl Paint I was standing in front of the glues, trying to decide which one was useful for what I needed, when a woman reached over in front of me to grab something for herself. In the process, she bumped into me and so we locked eyes for a second. She smiled and said, "Hey!" in a way that seemed to indicate familiarity. It was the sort of greeting that you'd give someone that you met once, six months ago, at a friend's birthday party.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that I don't have a good memory for names. Working in theatre exacerbates the problem because for every show I do I meet six or a dozen actors, with whom I become passingly familiar. Quite often I see people on the subway, or in passing on the street that I recognize. It usually takes me a few minutes to place exactly how, but it usually winds up being that I worked with them on a show in some capacity.

With that in mind I responded the way that most anyone would, with a non-committal greeting that acknowledged that I knew her, but didn't directly use her name. It went along the lines of "Hey! How have you been?" Her face went immediately slack, to a sort of neutrally pleasant expression, and she responded, "Uhm... Fine." Her smile never wavered, but the words had the tone of dismissal. She turned and walked away. It was then that I realized that, in fact, I didn't know her at all, but that she was Rebecca Cole, from the television show Surprise By Design. Obviously I had misread her original familiarity, and the reality show nature of her series had added to the feeling that I knew her from somewhere. I tried not to look too embarrassed.

Today in Borders I looked up from the art books I was flipping through, and at the other end of the aisle was a man who had a very familiar face. The embarrassment of the previous day still fresh in my mind I chose not to say anything to him. He hadn't noticed me anyway. I turned my back and tried to figure out who he was, afraid to say hello, in case he was a contestant from Survivor, or a former Real Worlder or something. After a minute or two it came to me, he had been in a show that I costumed last year. I turned to say hello, but he was gone.

Every couple of days I stumble across a celebrity, or a pseudo-celebrity at least, and then of course the people I see who I actually DO know. New York is really just a small town, with a lot of people crammed into it after all. My faulty memory just means that I don't even know the people that I know.

4 Response to "I'm Sorry, Do I know You?"

  • Jen Says:

    Interesting post - I have similar issues sometimes, and a name-forgetting phobia, which usually becomes a self fulfilling prophecy! I have designed all kinds of gimmicks to get people to offer their name AGAIN. . .

    I'm reading the Painting That Ate Paris, and it's one of the most creative stories I've ever read! Morrison's mind is beyond amazing. . .

  • jen Says:

    And, I've been reading the Alien Loves Predator archives - that guy is hysterrrrrrrical.

  • Susan Reynolds Says:

    This is a great story and perfectly describes how it feels to live in a great big small town. I'm just outside DC and it's not uncommon to find that the neighborhood also is home to people one sees in a senate committee meeting or a football field. My weirdest experiences of this sort tend to be picking out grapefruit across the counter from Joe Theisman or running into - literally - Greta Van Susteran at the airport.

    But those are the exceptions - and as for the rest, when I run into them at Borders, or Starbucks and am not sure why they look familiar - I tend to suspect it's a parent of an old art student or someone who was my daughter's brownie leader a few decades past. I smile and indicate a casual greeting & hope they'll remind me who they are. How embarrassing.

  • David Zaza Says:

    I had a writing teacher who used to say "There are 100 people in New York, you'll see them everywhere."