Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Don't I Know You?

We've all experienced this awkward situation. Someone approaches you and starts talking to you as if you know who they are. You know they look familiar, you just can't put your finger on how you know them. I run into this situation a lot with families I have worked with through Head Start. We enroll 168 families a year, so after 11 years of that, it is hard for me to keep track of over 1600 faces, names, and family histories.

But what is even more awkward is when someone strikes up a conversation with me as if we know each other, but I still have no idea with whom I am talking to. This happened two times to me recently. The first time was when we went to Chuck E. Cheese a few Saturday nights ago. I was standing by the Whac-a-mole game, waiting on Anna to win her two tickets, when I felt someone tap me on the shoulder and say, "Hey, how are you doing?" I looked up expecting to see a familiar face, but I had no idea who this man was. He must have noticed the confused expression on my face, because he proceeded to say, "Frank, remember, from the cross country team?" I will have to admit that really didn't help me out at all, but I put on a fake big smile and said, "Oh yeah! Hey, how are you doing?" as if him telling me his name was Frank suddenly cleared up my confusion. At least he had given me the clue "cross country team," so I at least had a point of reference to talk about. I assumed he meant that he had been a part of the IWU cross country team, so I started up a conversation with him about some friends of mine who had also been on the cross country team. We caught each other up on mutual cross country team friends, told each other where we were working, that we were married, and how many kids we had, and then it was time to say goodbye. It was at this point when he said, "Yeah, I saw your IWU tennis team sweatshirt (yes, I still wear sweatshirts that are over 10 years old and say Porter on them) and I thought you were Morry's wife." Morry was a mutual friend who was on the cross country team, and his wife was also on the tennis team, and in Frank's defense, I am built like her and we both have short hair. So I guess the joke was on both of us - I'll bet after I turned around when he first approached me that he felt more awkward than I did at that point.

The second time I experienced a case of mistaken identity was at Papa Murphy's. First I want to say that I LOVE Papa Murphy's, especially when I have a $2.00 off any pizza coupon and can get an incredibly cheap pizza that lasts at least 3 meals. On this particular Papa Murphy's trip as I walked up to the register to order, the cashier said in a loud voice, "Hey, I haven't seen you since therapy." Many, many things ran through my mind at that point, not having a clue of who this person was and what kind of therapy she was talking about, but I wanted it to be known to the rest of the people in Papa Murphy's that I was not at one point GOING to therapy with this person. Again, I had a confused look on my face, so the cashier added, "The hospital, right? You do therapy at the hospital?" Well at least now I knew we were talking about PHYSICAL therapy, but I had to assure the woman that I had never worked for the hospital, that I don't do therapy, that I don't go to therapy, and we had probably never met before. I tried the standard, "I've worked with Head Start preschool for several years, did you have a preschooler in Head Start?" but that wasn't where she would have known me. Yes, another awkward moment, I paid for my pizza and left.

Just last week I was going from the main office at Tucker to my office when a familiar looking face stopped me and started talking about her son. Her face really looked familiar but her name and family situation just wasn't coming to me. However, I was able to play this one off good until finally through the course of the conversation I figured out who she was. Then I made sure I went overboard with facts about her family just in case she had suspected at first that I didn't know who she was. I don't want people to feel unimportant or slighted if I can't remember exactly who they are.

When we were in Florida over Fall Break, we stayed at a condo and went swimming often. While swimming one day, I saw a woman who looked exactly like a teacher I have seen at an elementary school here in town. I don't know this teacher at all, I have just seen her in the halls and have had maybe one conversation with her ever, so even if I was for sure it was her, I still would have felt awkward going over to her and asking her if she was who I thought she was. So instead I did the next best thing - I kept staring at her trying to figure it out. That was MUCH less awkward, especially when she kept seeing me stare at her. I saw that same teacher today at the school, and I still didn't have the guts to go up to her and ask her if she was in Florida over Fall Break.

And thus, the stories of the "Mistaken Identities."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just wait until someone mistakes you for me, or vice versa! :) Uncle Jerry one time mistook me for Aunt Judy (my back was to him) and he came up behind me and kissed me on the back of the neck. Boy! Were we both surprised and shocked! The older you get, the more people tell you that you look just like ... their teacher, mother, aunt, somebody out there. That would be an awesome joke to play on someone--strike up a conversation, implying that you know the person, and see if they'd go along to avoid the embarrassment.

December 05, 2007 9:57 PM  
Blogger Deb said...


December 06, 2007 6:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, Mom.

December 06, 2007 11:14 AM  
Blogger Deb said...

That makes much more sense. I didn't even THINK about it being you. That's what you get for being anonymous.

December 06, 2007 12:14 PM  
Anonymous Jen said...

I have a horrible memory, which is bad for a teacher. I see formaer students all the time and can't remember their names. I just smile and say, "Hi, how are you doing?" and hope they don't linger to chat!

December 07, 2007 12:25 PM  

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