'Matter of Laugh or Death,' the award-winning humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
I NEVER FORGET A FACE
When I’m out in public, I often recognize faces. However, now that I’m in my mid-forties, when I recognize a face, I frequently have no idea about the name, place, or circumstances of why I recognize the face.
I’ve accumulated a lot of “eras” in my past: high school, college, various apartments or houses and their neighborhoods, and different jobs in different locations. During each of these eras in my life, I became acquainted with a lot of different people.
So now when I recognize a face, my brain frantically searches through old memory files trying to find a match. The other day I recognized a familiar face and my brain quickly sprang into action.
Hmm…do I know that guy from high school? College? Whoa, there seems to be a lot of missing files in the college era section, along with a pile of deceased brain cells. Let’s see…did I ever work with that guy? Was he one of my neighbors when I lived in West Hartford? Rocky Hill? Westbrook? Hmm…
After an awkward few seconds—which seemed like a few hours—my brain finally found a match and I remembered the true identity of the person.
“Hi Dad,” I said. “How have you been?”
“Fine, son,” he replied. “Not much has happened since I saw you last week.”
Those awkward few seconds with dad weren’t all that uncomfortable since I could tell his brain was also frantically searching through old memory files trying to identify me—and dad’s brain has a lot more “eras” to sift through than mine. There are many types of these clumsy situations, for example:
The I.D. Blunder – This is were you meet a person and your brain makes an incorrect match, so you spend twenty minutes talking about those wild keg parties back during college, and then you finally realize you actually know this person from a more recent era: the parents against alcohol abuse group at your child’s high school. Oops.
The Media Mistake – In this situation, you see a person, recognize the face, and are convinced you know him or her. As you initiate a conversation—“Hey there! Long time no see!”—your brain is whirring through its search routine. Moments later your brain comes up with the answer: this person only resembles a character from television and you, in fact, have never met him or her in your entire life. Double oops. At this point, you must quickly but gracefully terminate the discussion. My favorite techniques include dropping to the sidewalk and faking a heart attack, or asking the person for money.
The Why-Didn’t-I-Just-Pet-a-Rabid-Wolverine-Instead? Error – Have you ever recognized a face, said hi, and then moments later remembered the reason you know this person is because you had a huge fight with him years ago? Triple oops. The best thing to do is let bygones be bygones, refuse to dredge up old wounded feelings, and engage in a civil and friendly conversation. Some amiable discussion starters include: “So, what did you do with the settlement money when you sued me into bankruptcy?” or “How did everything work out at the office after you fired me?”
The Blank Stare Scenario – Every once in a while you are the recognizee rather than the recognizer. Someone will approach you and begin a conversation as if the two of you were recently-separated Siamese twins. As the person chats away, you feign comprehension with a plastic smile while your brain’s search engine comes up with the same result: No match found. After he leaves, you ask your wife, “Do I know that guy?” “You mean Phil, our next-door neighbor for the last 16 years?” she replies. Fourple oops. “Nevermind…” you mumble, while slinking into the house to do some research on area nursing homes.
There’s only one thing I can do at this point. I must stop worrying about remembering names and start addressing everyone as Buddy, Pal, Honey, or Darlin’. I just hope my dad doesn’t get upset when I call him Darlin’.
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