Have you ever seen someone completely out of context, recognized their face, but it took some time to come up with the venue where you typically interact with them?
Maybe you know a policeman who you always see in uniform. Then you run into him at your son’s baseball game. The face looks so familiar. “How do I know this person?” you ask yourself until it finally clicks.
Or possibly you are at your favorite Portuguese restaurant and a familiar-looking woman you positively should know is seated three tables away, only you can’t recall her name. Maybe she is an old girlfriend (you’ve had so many), maybe you worked together, or went to the same high school. Also escaping you is whether you know her well enough that you are compelled to say hello. Through the appetizer, salad, and main course you glance so many times she is wondering if she should call the police or if you are going to buy her dinner. Finally during desert, it comes to you that she’s the teller at the bank, leaving you nothing to worry about except her surly husband whose eyes are riveted on you.
All of that leads me to something that happened recently. For many years, I was an early morning gymrat. I love going to the gym, but hate much of the meat-market style interaction that goes on there. I hate waiting for the lat press while Joey finishes texting. I loathe the flirting, that guy doing curls in the mirror hoping someone is watching, the girl who is wearing less fabric than my sock, and the people who sweat like they are being interrogated but don’t feel the need to wipe down a seat. So I started going to the gym at 5 am. At 5 am, the gym is full of people who are serious about working out. I made many friends over the years and joined a group of people who ran a few days a week as well.
One evening while at the store with my lovely wife, I saw a lady I knew I should know. While her husband didn’t look the least bit familiar, her face did. Across several aisles, I stared her down. I wracked my brain to come up with my association with this woman, but could not. Finally our paths met, she smiled and said, “Hello Mark.” Upon hearing her voice, I knew immediately she was part of the running group from the gym.
I replied just like anyone would in the situation, “Hello Patty, I was having trouble placing you for a minute. I didn’t recognize you with clothes on.”
Those words hung there for a second while everyone besides me tried to make sense of them. Me? Oh, I didn’t really know what I’d said, I was just relieved to have the mystery solved. I stood there with a contented smile on my face until I noticed the shock on their faces. I did a mental recount of my statement and went directly to panic mode.
I’ll have that back, please!
Nope, no taking it back. I could only explain that I meant I was used to seeing her in very appropriate work-out clothes.
Yes, I’m still married and no, her husband and I did not tussle! (I could have taken him, though – with all of my bicep curls into the mirror.)