The other day I saw someone I recognized at the McAlister Intermediate School’s open house.
I smiled and nodded my head. The gesture was reciprocated.
Who is this guy? How do I know him? My 52-year-old brain performed a database dump of everyone I might possibly know in the Town of Suffield: Neighbor? No. Parent of child’s friend? No. Friend of a friend? No. Church? No. Former co-worker? No. Observer volunteer? No.
Running into friends and acquaintances is one of my favorite random events, right up there with winning money and zipping through a series of green lights. I love reconnecting with people.
But, not recognizing someone, that’s different. It’s embarrassing – for them in that they obviously made no impression; for you, because you didn’t bother to register identifiable characteristics. And, when you know you should know someone, it’s maddening. I can see why so many folks in Suffield pretend they don’t see people they might know. It’s just easier.
This guy in the McAlister hallway wasn’t exactly a friend, but we had been at some point friendly to each other – a fact made apparent by his warm reaction upon seeing me. I approached him from across the hall to greet him, whoever he was.
I felt I did know him. We had been supportive of each other. There was a feeling of comradery as if we had collectively endured a mutual trial. Still, I couldn’t recall one detail of this guy’s personality, interests or history. It was as if I knew him without ever really speaking to him.
A second or two before I shook his hand, I remembered who he was or at least where I knew him from.
“I haven’t seen you at the gym in a while.”
The gentleman was someone I used to see at 5 a.m. every morning in one of the local fitness centers. There was an unfortunate incident when I, trying something different, accidently tipped over a heavy piece of machinery that he and his friend helped me set right. Like many people at that hour of the day (night?), I am not very talkative and am plugged into whatever motivational music keeps me focused on elevating my heartrate. I hadn’t seen him in roughly a year, a fact he attributed to his reluctance to get up at 4:30 a.m.
After a minute or two, it was time for us to head into our respective classes.
The next time I see him, I’ll make sure I remember him. He was the guy I chatted with during the open house.