Have you ever walked down the street or into a building and see someone walking towards you and have a momentary sense of panic? What is her name? Where do I know her from? I know I’m not alone. Mostly you can get by with a ‘Hello’ and a smile but if that person stops to talk to you, what do you do?
Many years ago, I was in Penney’s, browsing the rails and I said hello to a woman I had met the previous weekend at a fundraiser. She looked at me blankly and walked on. Five minutes later I bumped into her again and gave her a half smile, you know the type, should I smile, should I say hello, should I pretend I don’t see her, does she remember me, so your smile is a half grimace, half apology type of smile. She stopped, put her manicured hand on my arm and said, ‘do I know you?”
I remember praying that the ground would open up and swallow me. Not a new concept I know but one we are all familiar with. Red-faced and stuttering I explained that we had met the week before at a function. When I mentioned my husband’s name it suddenly clicked with her and we both laughed and passed it off. Her embarrassment for not knowing me was matched by my embarrassment at once again being the face that no-one remembers.
I walk down the street sometimes and I see faces I recognise and some I don’t! I don’t have a head for faces or names. My husband never forgets a face, names not so much. I was going out with him three months before he remembered my surname.
Anyway, on a day when all is good with the world and I am feeling confident and sure of my place in the world and I see a face I know, I will smile and say hi or lovely day and walk on. That greeting is nearly always returned, mainly because it’s a catch-all for everyone, the comment of the weather, the smile, but that one incident so many years ago left a wariness in me, a fear even, of stopping that person and starting a conversation just in case they don’t remember me.
I did it to another person once, unintentionally but I did it all the same. This familiar face stopped me in the street and chatted away about how she hadn’t seen me in years and how were the kids etc and I smiled and chatted back while racking my brain as to who this person was or where I had met her before. I tried but eventually, she realised that I had no clue who she was, or where we had met, and the conversation tapered off into nothing but embarrassment.
With hindsight, I should have been upfront. I should have said, ‘So sorry, I can’t remember your name, how bad am I?” People are always forthcoming with information. They will give you their name, where they are from, where you met and suddenly you do remember them. You can converse with them and enjoy their conversation. At the end of the day, very few of us have photographic memories for every face and every name we encounter in our journey through life. It’s nice to get a little reminder, a prompt to jolt the memory.