October 19, 2005

Encounter In the Checkout Aisle

I recall reading a blog entry recently about someone trying to avoid someone she knew in the grocery store. Was it you? If so, I've done the same thing you did and will certainly do it again.

But how about when you run into someone who knows you but you don't remember you know them and as such are not aware of the need to employ evasive maneuvers? That's what happened to me last week. Friday afternoon. I was stocking up on requisite items for our sports-watching-stay-at-home weekend: chips, cheap beer, salsa, bananas and spinach. Oh, and mayonnaise.

As I transferred my items from the cart to the conveyor belt, a little old lady got in line behind me. I glanced at her and smiled. She practically gushed, "Why hello, Suzanne! Haven't seen you in years! How are you?"

I am, of course, quite used to old women gushing at me in the grocery store and other places all around town. My gray hair leads them to believe I am one of their own. I also must have that air of "it's fine to talk to me, I'm ready and willing to be patiently bored by the trivia you have such an obvious need to share." It's a curse, I tell you, a bloody curse.

But this one knew my name. I tried to keep my face neutrally pleasant, concentrating on not letting my eyes clue her in to the fact I had NO idea at all who she was. I replied with another smile, "Oh just fine, just fine. Beautiful day, yes?"

Could I have been any more generic? I think not. Meanwhile my little brain was working in overdrive. "Maybe she looks familiar," I thought, "A teeny tiny bit. But who the hell is she?" I tried to keep my brow from furrowing with consternation. What is up with little old ladies who have memories like steel traps?

Thankfully, her next words gave me a humongous clue: "We're working with the marching band this year. How is your son doing?"

Click. Boom. Ray of bright light. A partial identification! Obviously I knew her from the high school. My mind spun. Did she have a student in the theatre program? I met so many people while volunteering copious hours as the Chief Dorkette In Charge of our cadre of theatre parents. Some became fast friends, others I really miss, many were as easily forgotten as the date my library books were due.

But damn it. She was really too old to be a parent of a person The Boy's age. Then she offered another hint, mentioning someone named Chris and suddenly it dawned on me who she was. Not a parent, but a grandparent. I still didn't remember her name, but at least I could make reasonable conversation. And believe me, she was dead set on making conversation.

I'm handling those blasts from the past much better now. I feel like I've crossed a threshold of sorts from my place in the world then to who I am now. I'm certain y'all are all glad to hear it. I know I am.



-Ann said...

Dublin is nothing but a gigantic small town and when I'm with Peter, we are forever running into friends of his parents that haven't seen him in years. There's always this awkward bit of standing around where I try to fade into the background because I know he's not rude and if he doesn't introduce me right away, it means he can't remember the other person's name.

Anonymous said...

"I also must have that air of "it's fine to talk to me..."

So, Ms. Why-Doesn't-Everyone-Try-Smiling-At-A-Stranger, do you really think it's a curse? Hmmmm?

I hope you picked up some mustard while you were at the store.


WordsRock said...

Smiling does not mean start a conversation full of meaningless drivel. Smiling means just that. A smile. No words. No nods. Just upturned corners of the mouth.

Mustard? You running low, eb? :)


weese said...

three times now i have seen someone around town who will stop me and say - 'you're Lisa [lastname], aren't you?
all three times are people from high school, only one of which i remembered (after i reminder introduction). i am thinking...i must be holding up well for people to recognize me so readily.

Mel said...

Spinach? Dorkette? I love how you weave these words into a single blog post. You rock.

Anonymous said...

I would *cough* agree *cough* with Mel *cough* onceagain *cough* except that you do not like mustard and therefore, Ms. Thang, you are not as rocky as you could be if you liked mustard. I'm so very, very sorry.


Shelly said...

You used "dorkette." :)

I usually hide behind things when I spot people I do not want to talk to.

(This is Shelly, by the way, back from the abyss of no-blog with a new blog.)

Cris said...

I have picked up this habit of just smiling and nodding and making generic comments until someone lets go of a key piece of information to identify themselves.

I have too many irons in the fire to keep track of all the faces and names. When I was getting thousands of volunteers out to tornado damaged homes, I saw a couple faces I knew, and some I should have known. At that time, I didn't even stand on ceremony, just said to one "You look familiar, but please help me out, what is your name?" He told me, and it turned out he was the "little boy" who grew up next door, moved away at about 10 and was now 17, driving and all grown up!! We hugged and I thanked him and dispatched him.

Otherwise its just a smile and reciprocal conversation.